Another award!

Today I got another Liebster Award from Jess over at Write. Skate. Dream.

The basic idea of the Liebster Blog Award is to showcase bloggers with less than 200 followers. When you get the award, you keep the love going and give it to 5 other bloggers who have less than 200 followers. This is going to be difficult, since I've met so many awesome bloggers doing Rachael Harrie's Platform-Building Campaign.

1. Leign Ann Kopans over at The Naptime Novelist. Because she's A.) Awesome, B.) An amazing critique partner, C.) A wonderful writer, and D.) Generally just a nice, cool person.

2. Cherie Colyer 

3. Emy Shin

4. Eliza Tilton over at Girls PWN.

5. Sara Biren at Crow River Writer

Have a great day, everyone!

MUSIC & WRITING MONDAY #9: Writing on a Schedule

If the world were a perfect place, writers would be free to write all day long, and they'd never have problems thinking of what to write or how to write it or exactly what words to use.

So we all know why that doesn't work. 

Most of us write on schedules. We have things we have to do that (unfortunately) take precedence over writing. Y'know, things like making money. Eating. Furthering the human race. Writing gets shunted to the wayside, packed into all the little nooks and crannies in our schedules. 

Being back at school, I get to feel this more than ever! Oh, it's wonderful. Absolutely peachy.

Really, it's not so bad. I should have plenty of time for writing and all my other fun non-school-related activities. The problem is wanting to write when I can write. A lot of times I want to write in the middle of class, or while I'm doing homework, or when I should be sleeping or showering or some other so-called necessity. When I actually have time to write, I fill it doing things like playing Warcraft, or watching TV, or letting my mind veg out to music. 

Sometimes the only solution is to force yourself to write. You may not be writing anything good, but at least you're writing. Sort of like if you didn't have any inspiration--you just need to do it, and you'll get back into the swing of things.

Other things that help: Maybe don't work on your manuscript, but work on things related to your manuscript. For example, if you've been around my blog, you know I like to draw. Sometimes I'll pop in some music (Thanks to Florence & the Machine and "What the Water Gave Me" for that Monsters in the Sea picture I posted yesterday) and whip up a drawing in Photoshop. Sometimes I'll take an hour or so and just jot down some worldbuilding, plot, and characterization notes. Usually that's about all it takes to get my creative juices flowing.

What about you? How do you write on a schedule? Do you find time to write, or do you MAKE time to write? Or are you like me, and can't seem to sync when you WANT to write with when you CAN write?

And more art!

Space bird! Err, I mean... the Scarecrow! The Scarecrow's true form isn't really bird-like at all. I just thought it would look cool.

Yay artwork!

I was going to put a background to this, but then I realized that all the layers were on multiply....

This is Miles and the different forms he takes during Alexithymia. A note on the Nazi costume--Miles IS NOT a Nazi. He does not believe what Nazis believe and he does not support them. His grandfather was a Nazi against his will, and that's where he got the costume from. He wears it for a particular reason, and he doesn't wear it for long, I promise.

Oh. And Creepy Clown Miles also has a point. No, he doesn't actually dress up like that.

FUCKING AWESOME FRIDAY #10: Music, hear thee roar.

I don't even know what that title means.

But you know what's awesome? Music.

So, in case you didn't read my last blog post, I recently moved into college. They give us a lot of free stuff here, like food and yo-yos. Another free thing they gave us was a concert of two local bands. Those two bands turned out not to be the best thing that have ever happened to me, but that didn't mean they didn't make me think about the different ways we react to music.

Sometimes, like with those bands, music just sort of moves through you. You sit there, you listen to it, but it doesn't really do anything for you. It's like eating food after you're already full. 

But then you have bands and songs that make you want to run around and scream and sing and dance and jump up and down in excitement that you found something SO AWESOME. They're like inspirational gold mines for writers. You can think up whole scenes, whole characters, or even whole stories just from one song. 

Some awesome bands from my collection:

Pendulum. If you read some of my earliest posts, you already understand my love affair with this Australian drum n' bass band. Hold Your Colour, Propane Nightmares, The Other Side, The Tempest, Encoder, Witchcraft, The Island.... the list goes on and on. 

Coldplay. The other half of the fucking awesome duo. Pendulum and Coldplay juxtapose so nicely. I don't think Coldplay has ever come out with a song I don't like. Strawberry Swing, Swallowed in the Sea, Fix You.

Florence and the Machine. I've recently become addicted to this band. If you haven't already, go listen to Cosmic Love, Heavy In Your Arms, What the Water Gave Me, and Kiss With A Fist, and afterwards I dare you to tell me you didn't fall in love with Florence Welch's voice.

Wir Sind Helden. They're German. They're awesome. Listen to "Guten Tag". That is all.

I know a lot of people said music helps them overcome their writer's block, but what else does music help you do? Visualize things? Flesh out character? Just raise your spirits?

Road Trip Wednesday: There are too many people here, I cannot think.

Sooo the Road Trip Wednesday post over at YA Highway today is about writer's block and how we beat it.

Just crack a cinderblock over my head. It'd be better than writer's block. (Which I have a ton of right now, THANKS, COLLEGE, AND YOUR HORDES OF PEOPLE I DON'T KNOW. >.<)

Let's see. What do I do to beat writer's block.

Well. I write. Doesn't matter if it's crap, or if I don't want to. I just do it, and eventually the floodgates open and I get my inspiration back and I write like the wind.

The second way is that I find a 'groove'. Like, right now, my groove is unbelievably effed up because I just moved into college and everything is constantly changing and I don't have any time to myself. But when I can actually get into a groove, everything's great. I can do a chapter (maybe even two!) a day.

The third way: I go looking for inspiration. Usually in music, but it can be from anything.

The fourth way: I talk with my awesome critique partner, Leigh Ann, or meet with my critique group. You would not believe how much help someone else's input can be.

I need my groove back.

MUSIC & WRITING MONDAY #8: To Give Up, Or Not To Give Up

Okay, so WriteOnCon happened this past week. It was awesome, as I stated in last Friday's post. One of the features of WriteOnCon are the authors and agents that come together to give some great advice on writing and publishing and anything else you'd ever want to know about that sort of thing.

I was stalking around the site earlier when I ran across Beth Revis' vlog about never giving up. In it, she explains how she wrote several (ten, I believe?) manuscripts, thinking each would be THE ONE, before she finally got ACROSS THE UNIVERSE published. I like the message she sends with that vlog--just keep writing, just keep working at it, and every manuscript is a success to be celebrated, even if it doesn't end up being THE ONE.

And yet, something nagged at me. Something that my critique partner mentioned to me the other day.

There seems to be this idea going around that the first book you write will never be the one that gets you a book deal. I.... can't believe that. Okay, more than I can't, I just WON'T.

Not all the time, anyway. For some people, sure. But for me? I can't imagine THE NOCTURNIAN never being published. I cannot imagine that book getting pushed to the side and never worked on again. It was my first book--I started it when I was, oh, what? Eight years old?--and it's only gotten better over the years. Yeah, I would never--NEVER--show anyone the first draft of that book. Or the second, or the third, or the fourth, or the fifth. Maybe not even the sixth, now that I've got something so much better. But that doesn't mean I don't have absolute utter faith in this one.

I don't believe in giving up. I don't believe in moving on and forgetting. What Ms. Revis said has its merits--you should take pride in every manuscript and every draft of every manuscript you write. But at some point you have to grit your teeth and decide that this is the one. This is the one that means something. For me, that's The Nocturnian. I don't try to get published to be an author. I write to get The Nocturnian published. I can have a million story ideas in a week, but that's the one I want people to read.

(Now we're going to take a step back and imagine you have an agent who is telling you that this. Book. Will. Not. Sell. Then, for the future of your career and your bank account, MOVE ON. Christ. What are you listening to me for?)

I don't know, what do you guys think? Should you write manuscript after manuscript in the hopes that one will hit the target, or do you polish one manuscript, the one you really believe in, until it finally breaks the publishing barrier? (EVEN IF IT TAKES YOUR WHOLE GODDAMN LIFE.)

FUCKING AWESOME FRIDAY #9: WriteOnCon & Opinions

You know what's awesome? WriteOnCon!

(And, since I missed my Wednesday post BECAUSE of WriteOnCon, there's extra awesome in this post! Opinions!)

So. WriteOnCon. What is it? It's just what it says--it's a writing conference for writers. The beauty of it is that's it's all online. You don't have to go farther than your own computer! (And now I'll stop talking like an infomercial salesperson.)

Because I'm probably going to screw up the description of this place, here's the actual info from the website:

WriteOnCon is the brainchild of seven writers who wanted to “pay it forward” and give something back to the writing community. The Conference is designed to give attendees many of the features of a live writer’s conference, but in an online environment. Thanks to technologies like blogging, vlogging, livestreaming, and chats, WriteOnCon connects writers with both industry professionals and fellow peers from the convenience of their own homes. Critique forums allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work, and the entire program is designed to be both informative and entertaining.

The conference is scheduled for weekdays, so that attendees won’t have to set aside an entire weekend to be glued to their computers. To accommodate day jobs, the schedule features more static elements during working hours, and most live events are saved for the evenings. Transcripts/replays for live sessions are also available for those unable to attend and all of the conference content is archived on our website.

It’s important to note, however, that WriteOnCon is not designed to be a replacement for larger, live writer’s conferences. Regional, national, and international conferences are a staple of the publishing industry, and WriteOnCon has been designed simply to supplement that experience in a free, easily accessible format.

WriteOnCon is also not exclusive to kidlit writers. In order to stay organized, the curriculum is focused on picture book, middle grade, and young adult writers. However, much of the information provided applies to all writers, and many of the publishing professionals who participate cross over. And since the conference is absolutely, 100% free, any interested writer is encouraged to attend.

But I don't think this displays just how awesome WriteOnCon is. My favorite aspect of the whole thing is the forum; on the forum, you can post your query, synopsis, first 250 words, and first 5 pages for other attendees to critique. (Of course, you're expected to be polite and go critique some yourself!)

The exciting, lottery-type aspect of this year were the Ninja Agents. The Ninja Agents came onto the forums at random times of day to prowl around, leave comments and critiques, and maybe--just maybe!--request some pages from what they read. I somehow managed to get a full request just from my query letter, which, I'll admit, shot me over the moon. (Thanks, Leigh Ann! ^_^ ) From what I heard, lots of people got requests this year. It's all a matter of being in the right place at the right time when the Ninja Agents go on the prowl.

I can't talk about WriteOnCon enough, so I won't--I'll leave you to discover it.

Now, for the second part of the post--opinions. This was also spawned from WriteOnCon.

I love just how different two people's opinions can be regarding an idea. (Well, regarding anything, really, but story ideas for the purpose of this post.) For example, while one agent seemed very excited about my idea, another said she didn't understand it at all. (That's perfectly okay with me--honestly, it is a rather confusing idea. I'm glad that ANYONE gets it...)

I like that there are differences of opinion like this. Love it, in fact. I love the fact that different agents like different things, because if they didn't, where would we be? Where would we be if publishers all had the same opinions and tastes? Literature would be shot to hell because it'd all be the same.

I also love that what makes sense to someone doesn't make sense to someone else. Is it because of the way they look at it, or just the things they like? GAH. I love it.


You know what's fucking awesome? That today is my fucking birthday.

Okay, it's not that awesome, but it is true.

You know what else is awesome? CHARACTER BIRTHDAYS.

Okay, so I know that 90% of the time, character birthdays are pretty unimportant. Unless your character is, y'know, Harry Potter. Obviously everyone has a birthday, but no one goes around yelling about their birthday every day of the year unless they're arrogant douchebags. So, most of the time, mentioning a character's birthday isn't really important.

But we all still think about them, right? (...Right?)

I have a thing about giving my characters the birthdays of people I know. One of my characters has my birthday, and his brother has my brother's birthday. Another character has my sister's birthday, and two others have my mom and dad's. I based a character off my best friend, and--surprise!--he has my best friend's birthday. (And that character's little sister has my best friend's little sister's birthday.)

Now you may be sitting there, shaking your head and saying, "Chessie, that's going a bit too far, don't you think?" But goddammit, it got boring in Calculus class! Plus, sometimes you have to have a little bit of fun with your writing--you can't take it seriously all the time or you're going to burn yourself out. Giving 50+ characters birthdays was one of my ways of doing that. (Along with putting different characters to every line of "This is Halloween," creating an entire language from scratch, and orchestrating a musical concert featuring my MCs. HIGH SCHOOL WAS BORING. SHUT UP.)

So. What do you do to have fun with your writing? Character birthdays? Orchestrate musicals? Or do you drive yourself into the ground every day because you're a type-A sourpuss? (In most other aspects of life, I'm a type-A sourpuss. Don't worry about it.)

Road Trip Wednesday: Writers do it anywhere, anytime.

This week's Road Trip Wednesday post over at YA Highway is all about when you do your writing. They ask: What time do you prefer to do your writing? Early worm? Night owl? Any five minutes you can grab?

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure myself. I guess it depends on what level of inspiration I'm at.

Level 1: Eh, not really inspired, just need to write -- I can write what I need to write before I go to bed. It's not a big deal, and I probably won't be able to focus on it until then anyway.

Level 2: Hey, that sounds like a pretty good idea! -- I'll sit and write a bit before noon, maybe a little after noon, but most at night. I'm excited, but I don't want to burn myself out. I eventually have to finish this whole book, after all!


I had a bit of Level 3 inspiration the other day and turned it into the first 3 chapters of what is now Revision #7. Now I'm coasting on Level 2 inspiration and hoping it doesn't fade before I finish the rest of this book. (It probably will.)

MUSIC & WRITING MONDAY #6: Paper or pla--er, word processor?

Okay, so here's a question: Do you prefer writing longhand or on a computer?

For me, I think it depends. Most of the time I write on my computer. It's faster, easier, and my hand doesn't cramp. I can get my thoughts out write when I have them instead of forcing them to queue in my head. Plus it's easier to edit on a computer. And it takes computers a hell of a lot longer to run out of space. (Unless you're like me and have the Adobe Suite, Sims 3, World of Warcraft, and a host of other large programs on your compy, in which case you probably have significantly less space than most people. At least Word and Scrivener docs don't take up much space.)

But paper. Paper. Paper is what I turn to when I can't think. When I'm attacked by the fabled "Writer's Block," as it were. Paper forces you to slow down and plan out what you're going to say. The whole reason writers are writers is because we have to think of the exact right words to use to explain what we want to explain. Writing longhand makes you do that. I also find writing longhand very helpful for first drafts and outlining; I tend to write less detail when I'm not typing, so the story moves much faster.

I like both methods. But I think I'd just shoot myself if I had to write a whole book by hand. 85,000 words with pen and paper? No thanks. I'll go chop my hand off and switch it for some fancy cybernetics first.

FUCKING AWESOME FRIDAY #7: The blowout plot.

You know what's awesome? Blowout plots. The kind of plots that climax with EVERYTHING, like the whole fucking story just comes down to this one ending, and it's so epic that you can't really wrap your mind around it.

And then when you finish the book/show you're just like, "THAT WAS AWESOME LET'S DO IT AGAIN!" except you can't do it again because you already experienced it and you can't forget it.

One example of this for me was the two-part second season finale of Doctor Who. YOU KNOW WHICH ONE I'M TALKING ABOUT. Doctor Who has a knack for insane and gigantic finales. They always have high stakes and they never disappoint. 

Now, on the flip side of this awesome blowout plot is the awesome-blowout-plot-that-never-was. Plots that you think are going to have blowout climaxes, that SHOULD have blowout climaxes, but don't. 

You want the best example of this I've ever seen in a long time? You should have seen this coming. 
Breaking Dawn. 

Holy. Shit. Never have I read a book with so much build-up and so little climax. I know Stephenie Meyer said she wanted a courtroom-style ending, where everything was resolved through clever negotiations instead of a bloodbath. 

My two problems with this: 

1.) (It wasn't exactly "clever" negotiations... mostly just "stupid.")

2.) There should have been a bloodbath. Obviously, this book had the highest stakes out of any of them. And with how little Bella had to sacrifice to get what she wanted, all the Cullens probably should have died at the end. They could have put up a valiant fight, and in the end Bella realizes what deep shit she's gotten herself into, and because of her everyone dies. And then she'll have to wander the Earth for the rest of eternity, cold, alone, and unwanted. 

It's not as happy as the real ending, but I don't think the real ending should have been happy. With a blowout plot like Meyer set up, you have to judge what the right ending should be. In some books, you need the light of hope at the end, and the characters need to live. In others, you need death and destruction as a result of consequences.

Blowout plots are finicky things. Harry Potter DEFINITELY had a blowout plot. I guess you could say the Hunger Games trilogy had a blowout plot, though I thought Mockingjay's pacing nearly murdered it. For the best blowout plot, you need three things:

1. High stakes
2. The right climax
And above all -- 3. Investment in characters.

If people don't care about your characters, they're not going to get the full effect of the blowout plot. If the stakes aren't believably high, the tension won't be there. And if you don't have the right climax, your readers are going to walk away rolling their eyes, wishing they hadn't wasted their time.

So I bought Adobe CS5 Design Premium the other day...

Yes, yes, it looks no better than any of my other art. BUT I'VE GOT PHOTOSHOP BACK, and that's the important thing. Expect more of this.

Road Trip Wednesday: No Sense, No Story

This week's topic over at YA Highway is the five senses and how they affect the way we write/how we read a story.

Personally, I think you don't have a story if you don't have at least a few of the senses in there. The senses are your description. They create the world your reader lives in. Too few and no one knows where they are and what's going on. Too many and the story gets bogged down and hard to read.

My stories always have a lot of colors and strange places, so sight is usually what I focus on. Our power of sight is our strongest sense. It's how we perceive 80% of the world. So a lot of my description is visual aspects of the world.

The others are more subtle. Your characters can hear other people give dialogue, can eavesdrop, can hear things coming for them. They can feel pain. They can taste food and blood and anything else. They can smell the best things in the world or the worst. Without all of this in the right dosage, there is no story.

Touch, smell, and taste should be used more sparingly than sight and hearing, because they're more powerful. Did you know that scent is the strongest memory motivator? You're more likely to remember a smell than a sound or a sight. And touch is something we don't often think about--you know you're wearing shoes, but you probably won't be aware of the feeling of the shoes until you get a rock wedged in there. And taste--who wants to hear the taste of everything ALL THE TIME? You don't. But if it's specific, then describe it!


MUSIC & WRITING MONDAY #5: Ideas inside of Ideas inside of Ideas.

So I got the idea for my blog post today from Lydia Sharp over at The Sharp Angle, and a post she did about the challenges of writing contemporary YA. I'll be branching off from her idea since I plan to incorporate music into this, but, for the first time, I'm going to share one of my stories with you all! Whooooo *fake applause*

'Kay. Lydia brought up some good points about writing contemporary YA.

  • It can be interesting without resorting to sensational (read: unrealistic) plot events, but many authors try to make it sensational anyway. (Guilty party, right here.)
  • If you get published on a YA contemporary, you better damn well write another YA contemp, because that's what your fans want and you need that fanbase. It doesn't matter if your entire series hinges on the next book being set a thousand years in the future, YOU CAN'T LOSE THAT FANBASE. (Guilty party, again.)
  • The way you present your book can add this extra layer of detail and entertainment without resorting to the sensational. With a lot of paranormal/dystopian/fantasy/sci-fi stories nowadays, they can get away with simple one-word titles. (And it seems to be preferred, because it makes them eye-catching.) That's not saying you can't do contemporary YA with a single-word title (GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY) but make it something meaningful.

Alrighty. Now, with these things in mind, I present to you....

Alexithymia. Ahh, my contemporary baby. How I love you so. We've been through so many transformations, you and I. 

(I should probably mention that Alexithymia is also where the lobster tank metaphor comes in, hence the name of my blog.)

Here's the thing about Alexithymia: It does rely on sensationalistic plot points, a one-word title, and a series following it that is not contemporary in the slightest. Focusing on the cover, (which is totally fake, by the way, I waste plenty of time doing nothing but making fake covers for my stories--who doesn't?) we've got several layers of depth here. 

Let's start with the line up at the top, so I can explain a bit of the story. "There's a fine line between genius and insanity." This works A.) because it's true and B.) because my two main characters are a genius and a schizophrenic. (Miles and Alex, unsurprisingly.) If you've seen any of their pictures up in my art, you know that Alex has very, very red hair (sensationalist? Yes), coincidentally about the same color as the floor and walls of this picture. A lot of the book revolves around the color red. Miles has a penchant for scientific classification and big words, which is where I get the title, Alexithymia. (If you didn't know, "alexithymia" means you have difficulty experiencing, expressing, and describing emotional responses. As an added bonus: Alex. Alexithymia. Yesssss.) Both Alex and Miles have a rampant problem with describing their emotions (at least the ones that aren't related to getting angry at each other.) 

Alex spends the story not knowing Miles at all, and slowly zeroing in on him, and Miles tries to distance himself from her but realizes in the end that emotionally, he's pretty much painted himself into a corner.

If there's one thing you can say about this story, it's "sensationalistic". At one point students get attacked by a fucking Burmese python, for Christsakes'. But you know what? That's the way the story was supposed to go. Plus, Alex is a schizophrenic, and one of the things she obsesses over is the way everything is so much more vibrant in her delusions, very much like her hair. The whole point of the story is that she doesn't know what's real and what's not, so if everything's sensationalistic, it's going to be pretty damn hard to pick out the real from the unreal.

I feel like I'm rambling now.... wasn't I going to say something about music? 
Ah, yes.

So. The music for Alexithymia.

It's a weird mix of Indie, 90's pop, and German pop. A few of the more notable songs are Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard, Inside Out by Eve 6, Alles and Guten Tag by Wir Sind Helden, and Looking Glass by Hypnogaja. And also Alexithymia, by Anberlin, but I had the title before I found the song. See, music for my science fiction is usually contained to one or two artists (Revision #6, for instance, focuses on Pendulum and Coldplay.) but this contemporary branches out all over the place. 

I feel like it's always a good idea to have a mix of atmosphere, setting, and character in these songs. For example: Guten Tag by Wir Sind Helden has A.) German, which is distinctly related to Miles, B.) the strange, quirky sound that goes well with most of the book, and C.) Certain lyrics (not all of them, unfortunately) that describe a piece of Miles. Namely: Ich will mien Leben zuruck, which means "I want my life back." (There's an umlaut over the u, I know...)

Yeeugh. What a long post. Okay. 


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