#Writing Update

d7a3e-writingWord Count: 1,137 words

Nothing much to tell. Most of what I have written is redrafting of some writing I did last Sunday on the WAY On The Go app which failed to send to my e-mail address once more. I am starting to wonder if it just does not work on Kindle. So it’s only been my characters finally becoming a couple that has happened.

On the other hand, I have done some thinking and it is mostly surrounding a potential new idea for Camp in April and maybe some rewriting or the continuing of writing of other past NaNoWriMo stories. Camp is the place to do rewrites I think, at least for the first few drafts when it’s major changes being done. Of course, this is just my opinion.

The first story under consideration is my November 2014 hotel story with the witch and the werewolf. The direction of the story differed from my original thinking and I think that was the story’s undoing. I would like to go back and rewrite that story, if only to follow the original story idea.

The other is my July 2015 story about the witch from the dark family background. The only reason I stopped writing it is because I needed a break I think, along with the Post-NaNo Blues. I may completely rewrite the story as certain aspects kept changing and I never fully ironed out. Since I’ve had a break and whilst I was writing the story that took place years later, I realised that there was character stuff that needed changing and completely redoing.

Another reason I been thinking about it is because I have bought an etiquette book, reproduced from the 1800’s, for general research as I’ve noticed a lot of my writing lately has required me to think about or research etiquette and deportment among other things for stories. Having a go to guide on hand hopefully will help, especially with my July 2015 idea.

If course I still have nearly two months to think about and decide, as well as the fact I still have the new idea to flesh out and consider. In the meanwhile, I do have my current writing to be doing. Hopefully it will be a little more successful this next week. How’s your writing going? What do you think of the idea that Camp is a good place for rewriting or continuing old stories? Are you thinking about Camp yet or am I thinking too far ahead? Do comment below.

#NaNoWriMo November 2015: Days 14-19

Day 14: 10,222 words

Day 15: 10,669 words

Day 16: 10,669 words

Day 17: 12,348 words

Day 18: 12,348 words

Day 19: 12,643 words

Obviously from my word counts, I have had a couple of days where life had to take the priority and I was simply just too tired to even turn on my laptop. I know I am looking at similar state of affairs latest this month. That has led to my decision, not to drop out of NaNoWriMo, but rather to chase a lower target of 25,000 words. It is far more plausible.

In my NaNo then, my FMC has revealed herself to be a mage to her friend with benefits partner, fallen out with him, defended him from some processed preachers, became friends with him again, found out her father has died, talked with her partner which ended up with them in bed, before she travelled back to the island to discover her family are still very hostile to her.

So a fair amount has happened and it does mean I have a funeral scene and the fallout of her father’s death to play with as well as heading into the main plot. I might have written myself into a slight corner however with the romance sub plot. My FMC’s friend with benefits has basically announced it is purely the benefits part that interests him, in so far as romance is concerned. I may need to have a serious rethink about that. The changing of the word target does mean I will have to maybe bullet point at the end of the month as I am still working on the Camp story too. (The two stories do focus on common themes though so it is helpful in a way).

On top of all that, I have changed my FMC’s job, again, for plot reasons. She’s now a research assistant at the university college, perhaps working towards a Masters of Research or PhD. It does mean having to rethink the university college part. I mean, brand new universities would focus on teaching right, rather than research? If anyone could give any help or insight on this point, it would be greatly appreciated.

How’s your NaNoWriMo going? On target? Behind? Word count change? Don’t be afraid to comment below.

#Writing Update

3278e-writerWord Count: 3,324 words

Just under 2,000 of those words was in one day. In the story, still exposition, revealing the world, the most popular game for witches and a broomstick lesson but there are three things that have mainly dominated this week’s writing.

The first, looking back, is that my FMC is finding herself being questioned by others and questioning herself why she has chosen and begged for a place at a rival school to her family’s dark magic school. I’m not sure why she is doing that really as she knows why (wants to do something different to her family) but I can’t help feeling it is going to be important, especially after some rethinking and planning of the story and the character’s journey. It’s not a bad feeling. In fact, it is a very good feeling.

The second is the revelation of my MMC’s struggles in his classes. I haven’t really written much with him for a while, mostly because the school is split into boys and girls and I am having a go at using third person limited. The struggles revelation feels as if it is going to be vitally important. I am not sure why but again, it is a good feeling.

Ah, the wonders of pantsing and having an outline that is rather loose in my mind. Especially when that outline is limited to about one years worth in story time of plot. Who knows? It might become a little Malory Towers in its focus.

The third thing that has happened is that my FMC’s potential love interest has revealed that they are gender fluid. To anyone who has never heard of the term, it describes someone who doesn’t feel like their assigned gender all the time. This is different to being transsexual. In this case, the love interest is male. They will have periods of time where they feel male so act male but will also have times where they feel female so will act and be female for that time. I have known this since I started writing the story pretty much however I have been nervous about doing it as it is the first time I have written a character like this. How successful it is so far and will be, I don’t know. All I know is that this is right for the character and will cause conflict between them and their family as well as at school, as it is segregated between male and female with normal expectations of those genders in place and reinforced by lessons such as etiquette. I am looking forward to seeing how this goes.

I have already mentioned some rethinking and replanning has happened. This is resulting from a realisation that I needed to age the characters up so a rethink of the structure of the school and the education system in place in this world became necessary. It took me a while to figure it out yesterday at a write in, where I ended up voicing stuff out loud as well as sketching and drawing things in mid-air to help me visualise it. This is part of the value of having writing friends and going to write in’s and maybe writing groups too. You can say and do things with fewer or no strange looks whatsoever. This restructuring will definitely work better I feel and allow me a bit more room to move when writing character’s actions and dialogue. Perhaps it also explains why my FMC has become so much more introverted than normal.

Aside from all this with my Camp story, I have begun the task of doing some research and planning for November. I suspect my time may become limited so I am trying to get a little ahead to compensate. This research has included the North Pole and the Arctic Circle.

Plans for next week? Write my Camp story, research for November and trying to remember to post my wc’s on Twitter. I keep forgetting!

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2015: Day 21

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Day 21: 12,446 words

Only thing that happened was that my FMC returned home and came face to face with her family again who were all put out that she had come home. They had thought they were rid of her forever. Ended up describing the house and the FMC’s bedroom for word count then the FMC started wondering what she should take with her to her new school. Since I never went to boarding school, I found myself wondering too. A quick Google search later unearthed a very helpful thread on popular parenting site Mumsnet answering all sorts of questions about boarding school. It is a goldmine of information. Definitely recommend it.

Now I have a rough idea of what she, the MMC and the other character should take, it should make writing easier.

Camp NaNoWriMo Planning

 

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Just a quick post about researching and planning for Camp NaNoWriMo.

So I have done something this week that I rarely do, especially for something like NaNoWriMo: I part planned my novel for next month. I do plan a little for ventures like NaNo but otherwise I let it run its course. The thing is, I do know that planning does help with NaNo and other creative ventures.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the necessary need for planning. When I do plan, I will plan the important moments, the turning points, when certain information is revealed but I also like keep things a little loose so if I have any flashes of inspiration or realise I could do something in a better way, the planning is not too restrictive for me not to explore the option. If it goes wrong, I can get rid of what I have written and go back to the original plan.

As well as planning, I have done a lot of research for the locations of my April novel which has sparked further ideas and helped me figure out other things about characters, etc. for the novel. Reading and research I find is great for helping a writer figure things out, providing the writer doesn’t get sidetracked and “researching” things that are of no help. Then it’s procrastination.

Research and planning are a good idea in conclusion. Especially if it helps to figure things out and keep the novel on track to get to the end and, in this case, finish the challenge that is Camp NaNoWriMo.

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Book Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I want to preface this review now with my opinion is purely that: my opinion!

Farfield is a town divided between the North and the South.

On North side is the American Ellis family. Daughter Brittany appears for all the world the perfect all-American girl. Blonde hair, designer clothes, head cheerleader and dating a footballer. But it is all a façade. At home, things are not perfect with a often absent father, a mother on the edge and an older disabled sister who uses a wheelchair.

On the South side is the Mexican Fuentes family. Alex lives with his hard-working mother and brothers Carlos and Luis. To the outside world, Alex is THE bad boy, playing up his Latino Blood gang membership however this is Alex’s own mask. He is intelligent and could go far, if he was able to get out of the gang and still protect his family.

When Brittany and Alex are put together for a Chemistry project, sparks fly and the appearances that each of them put on begin to slip…

I will say it now. This book is so bad it’s good. Before I go on to why it’s so bad, I want to point out the good elements that actually made me read this cover to cover.

Elkeles uses the first person narration of each character to give both sides of the story and show the world of Farfield through the characters eyes very vividly. She shows the extreme differences in the fictional town as well as the big differences in the  characters worlds. But within that is also the juxtaposition that actually the characters are very similar. They have their family troubles whether caused by internal or external forces and each character must put on an act.

Because of the first person perspective, the readers gain a real insight on the characters instead of having their views on characters heavily influenced by others. This book definitely would not have worked as well if the story had been told from the third person.

On the subject of worlds, Elkeles  has really shown a strong and colourful understanding of Mexican culture, the protective nature of families and the close-knit community, minus the gang part. The research she put into the book really shows and something to be praised. (I don’t know if all the Spanish is correct as my own is very limited so I can’t really say if it is right).

The book also shows a real, positive representation of a person with disability. The sisterly bond between Brittany and Shelley, her sister, is touching and lovingly portrayed. The book also shows the struggles of a modern family with a disabled child. The act put on by Brittany’s parents to hide Shelley as well as the pressure they place on Brittany to do the same is very interesting and really makes the reader invest in this characters, wanting to see the sisters triumph against their parents’ act and no longer have to hide from the world.

Elkeles could have portrayed the character in a very dim light, showing the character as stupid and being completely unable to understand anything but instead it is a bright light that is put on Shelley, showing her as intelligent and perfectly able to make her own informed choices on matters about her.  The only other positive representation of disability I have seen lately, that also shows these traits in such characters, has been in Episode 5 of Call the Midwife.

Sadly, these are the only real positives I have found in the book.

The good writing and character portrayals is seriously hampered by the seriously clichéd characters and story.

Let’s start with the characters.

Of course the boy is in a minority group (Mexican) and is a gangbanger. He is also mixed up with the rougher people in society and gets into trouble with drugs and the police. He’s only dating her for a bet but oh, he really loves her so changes himself enough to be with her.

Of course the girl is the typical blonde, smart cheerleader who’s dating the football star. She breaks up with him for the boy from across the tracks who she must hide from her family, friends and society. Eventually, when he changes, she is able to go out with him freely in public!

I also have an issue with Brittany’s name. Why is the stereotypical blonde, cheerleading captain called Brittany? Why? It just feels so overused that the character has become almost the symbol of the American school system and must be used when a writer writes a story set in the classic American high school setting.

Plus, why do they meet in a Chemistry class? Why do the characters have to meet like that? I was having serious Twilight flashbacks at that point.

Really? Does the world really need this story AGAIN?! I realise that it is said there are only 7 stories in the world and it is how we dress them up that we create a new twist on that story but it feels like Elkeles tried in some areas of the book but not in others. Unfortunately, it is in arguably the two most important areas of a book that got neglected badly: the story and the characters.

I feel she had a real chance to do a great twist on the genre, challenging the stereotypes and the traditional codes and conventions that have come to epitomise the teen romance genre.

The only way the story could have been improved is if she had scrapped it completely and done something else by allowing the characters to lead. Why not have the girl as the Mexican or another minority and the boy as maybe an invisible geek who sits in the back of the class? What would happen when these two came together?

Having spoken to a friend of mine in the USA about the chemistry class plot point, they told me that joint assignments take place in other classes, like English. Providing it wasn’t a clichéd romance book or even Shakespeare play, maybe the characters could have met there or another class or maybe even outside of school! Do American teenagers lives really completely revolve around high school?

Whilst I had Twilight flashbacks during the chemistry class scenes, throughout much of the book, I also couldn’t help thinking of the Bring It On: All Or Nothing film. The film and this book were almost identical in the main staples of the story and characters.

I also feel that the epilogue was completely unnecessary. There was enough closure in the ending of the previous chapter but open-ended enough that it left the readers able to make up their own ideas of what happened next. The epilogue robs the readers of that and seems to be restarting the story again unneeded.

Problem is, Elkeles is a good writer. She chose the right point of view for the book, creates a town that feels so real, the reader could go there, gives an excellent portrayal of the Mexican people, culture and community and represents disability in such a brilliant way and positive light. It’s with these elements of the book that she manages to hook her audience, makes the readers become emotionally invested in the characters so that, despite all the horrible clichés, the reader keeps on reading to the last page.

It’s because of this that I feel the book is annoyingly addictive and I hope vindicates my view that the book is so bad, it’s good! I’m not sure I would recommend this book necessarily to someone who is experienced with the genre but as a starting point, I think it is a good introduction for new readers to the genre. It has all the stereotypes, the codes and conventions and every last little thing someone would expect from a Young Adult Romance book. For a writer, I think it’s a good book to look at to learn those very same things and to get a grounding in the genre before they start writing their own stories.

The Writers Forensics Blog: 100 Top Websites to Bookmark

Need some help with forensic science for your work?

The Crime Fiction Writer's Forensics Blog

The crew over at FornesicScienceDegrees.org have listed The Writers Forensics Blog as one of their Top 100 Websites to Bookmark, which they describe as a “list of great sites to present practical, real-world information on the subject.” Many great sources here.

Thanks. I’m flattered.

 

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