Tabs and Follow Me

December 14, 2017

Dubious Creatures, Episode 5: Chaos

The Twenty Percent True Podcast

Season 2: Dubious Creatures

Episode 5: Chaos

December 7, 2017

Dubious Creatures, Episode 4: The Jackalopes

The Twenty Percent True Podcast

Season 2: Dubious Creatures

Episode 4: The Jackalopes

December 5, 2017

A Spark Unseen Review

This week's novel is A Spark Unseen, YA historical fiction with some steam punk by Sharon Cameron.  It's the sequel to The Dark Unwinding, which I talked about a few weeks ago.  I actually listened to the audio book of this one, because I just now realized I could do that.

Katherine has been running her uncle's estate for a few years when men sneak into the house in the night to kidnap her uncle, who is wanted by both the British and French governments because he knows how to build a torpedo that could give whoever controls it a dominant navy.  Her uncle's delicate constitution means Katherine refuses to hand him over to anyone, so they fake her uncle's death and escape to Paris to hide and search for Lane, Katherine's main squeeze who ran off to be a spy at the end of the last book.  Of course, it turns out that running off to France when the French are after them doesn't make them any more safe.

The change in setting means this novel is a lot less Gothic than its predecessor.  That's a bummer, because it was very well done in the last novel.  I suspect that this one might fit into a different genre like "Political Intrigue in Paris Novels", but if that's a thing, then I'm not familiar with it.  It's kind of a spy novel, but instead of Katherine being a spy, everyone around her might be and everyone's a suspect. 

It still has great characters.  I especially liked Henri, the wealthy French guy who sees right through everything Katherine does and acts as her interpreter for most of her search for Lane, helping her find her boyfriend while flirting up a storm at the same time.  There's also Mrs. Hardcastle, the busybody English neighbor, who used to be besties with Katherine's evil aunt.  The supporting characters are all given moments of surprising depth that are just as great as the first novel.  They were almost all new characters, and I still loved all of them.


Next week: Mr. Fox, literary fairy tales by Helen Oyeyemi.

December 3, 2017

NaNo Post Mortem

At the start of this NaNo season, my friends over at NaNoWriPod threw in the towel.  Most of them haven't succeeded at NaNo since I've known them, so having a podcast about it was getting too strange.  But they ended on the note that NaNo is kind of useless, since after a month, even if you win, you have a heaping pile of garbage that doesn't have an ending.

My reaction to this is OF COURSE YOU DO.

First drafts are heaping piles of garbage, especially first drafts of novels, where you had an idea half way through and NaNo wouldn't let you go back to edit, so you just kept going with it from the middle as if it had been there all along, leaving yourself nothing but a cryptic note in the margins for you to find in a month and puzzle over.

NaNo is for writing horrible first drafts, and the rest of the year is for editing.  If you only write during November and you only write a first draft, then, yeah, you're not going to get much done and you might not enjoy it.

The problem I ran into this year was that I was not in the right place in my writing cycle to write a first draft.  I had the second season of the podcast launch on November 16th, and I had a book proposal due to my agent at the end of the month.  That means I spent a lot of time editing and polishing rather than regurgitating first draft nonsense.  For the first half of the month, it looks like I participated in NaNo every three days, and that's basically what I did: writing a draft of an episode and then editing the next two days to get it ready.  The second half of the month, I would update my word count and the apparently not hit enter or something and I'd log back in the next day to see that they hadn't been counted, and then I was too lazy to go back and spend the time to figure out how many words I'd done.  Since I wasn't going to win anyway, it seemed kind of useless to even log in.

I really like NaNo.  I like the community.  I like the emphasis on vomiting out a first draft so you have something to work with later.  I like the emphasis on letting it be awful.  But I think that as you move forward in your writing cycle, it gets harder to set aside projects in progress to do NaNo in November and easier to cough up a rough draft without all the scaffolding that NaNo provides.

You know I'll sign up again next year.

November 30, 2017

Dubious Creatures, Episode 3: The Weird Raccoon

The Twenty Percent True Podcast

Season 2: Dubious Creatures

Episode 3: The Weird Raccoon

November 28, 2017

Brooding YA Hero Review

This week's book is Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio.

This is the book version of the Brooding YA Hero twitter account.  Broody, the brooding YA hero, sets out to write a how-to book to explain how supporting characters can become main characters.  These how-to sections are interspersed with narrative interludes where his evil ex-girlfriend, Blondie, drags him around to meet various supporting characters in an attempt to get him to show some empathy.

A lot of what Broody says is repetitive, but that's the joke.  He also never answers the question or gives any actionable advice on how to become a main character, but this is directly addressed and is also kind of the point: he has no idea what he's talking about.

There is some pretty good stuff in here about how toxic the typical brooding YA hero is, how "not like other girls" is problematic, and how female characters who are assertive and know how to wear makeup are always antagonists.  IT doesn't go very deep, but it's based on a twitter account.

November 26, 2017

Power Writing

My friend Dani recently introduced me to power writing, which she learned from her professor, Goldberry Long.  Dani introduced it by saying that it sounds juvenile, but it's the most useful thing she picked up in grad school, so give it a try before judging it.

The rules go like this:
  1. Write by hand.  You're not going to get the same flow, and you're going to back track too much if you're typing.
  2. Set a timer.  I do 5 minutes. Dani does 16 minutes.  It doesn't really matter as long as it's not too long for you to keep it up and long enough for you to get something out of it.
  3. You can't use periods.  A period ends a thought and you don't want to end a thought.  You want to keep going, just spewing ideas.  Instead of a period, you can use a comma and the word "and".
  4. You cannot stop
    1. You can write slow
    2. No crossing things out, fixing, or editing.  You can say "That last bit should be crossed out" or "that's not the right word" or "No, no, I don't like that because..."
    3. If you get stuck, you can repeat the last word or the last phrase until you know what to say next.
Power writing is not meant as a way to write your story fast.  Instead, it's an idea generator.  It's good to start with a kind of prompt.  So for example, the other day I power wrote on what my main character's job would be.  I rambled off options and wrote about the pros and cons, and by the end of five minutes, I had stumbled upon something that would work.  The next day I rambled about things that would change from one verse of a story to the next, and stumbled upon some things that were going to happen that I hadn't anticipated. 

The power write is pretty much unreadable when you're done, but there will probably be one good thing in there that's going to make it into a story.  Dani suggests chaining your power writes, so the one jewel you got out of the first one becomes the prompt that you can use for a second power write.  I've found that after a power write, I can make an action plan, or an outline of what I'm going to actually write, so I spend a few minutes doing that.  Then I'm ready to go and make the most of the time that I have.

It's pretty cool, and you might want to check it out.