Monthly Archives: December 2013

Resolutions – Looking back and ahead

It’s that time of year again. The time when you look back at what you’ve accomplished over the past year and set goals for yourself for the following year. Or at least it’s a time when many people do that, and I generally try to do it, too. I don’t always do what I say I’m going to do, but having goals still helps me feel like I’m working toward something, and it’s fun to be able to look back and see that I’ve actually done something over the past year, even if it wasn’t exactly what I meant to do.

So, first, the resolutions for 2013, and a look at how I did:

1: Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks – and update on the site.
I actually read 77 books this year (2 of which were textbooks, which totally count!), but I rarely ever linked my reviews to the “52 Books in 52 Weeks” website. So – partial success.

2. Read at least 10 New Adult books.
I read 12 that fall into that age group, so I’m counting them all. Success.

3. Finish editing the following novels:
For Real This Time // Tilt Your Head and Smile // Degeneration // Alone // Choices

Well, I finished editing TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE. And I wrote draft two of DEGENERATION. Didn’t do anything with the rest of them, though. So this one was mostly a fail.

4. Finish writing the following novels:
God’s Love // The Story of Em // Together // Better

Another mostly failed goal. I finally finished THE STORY OF EM, but I didn’t do anything with the rest of them. I did, however, write several different novels. So I was productive, but not in the way I intended.

5. Do something to advance my writing every day.
I spent a lot of time reading blogs that had to do with writing, which technically counts as part of my goal. Overall, though, this wasn’t the best year for my writing. So I’ll count this as a fail.

6. Participate in more challenges like Pitch Wars.
I participated in The Writer’s Voice. I wasn’t picked by a judge, and I never heard back from the agent who requested my manuscript, but it still counts! So – success!

7. Become more social…on the Internet.
I’m not sure if this counts as a win or not. I met a whole bunch of new people during NaNo that I chatted with. I’ve found more Twitter followers. So I didn’t become as social as I was probably hoping, but I’ve made progress since 2012, so I’ll count that as a win.

8. Find CPs/beta readers.
Did not happen.

9. Exercise regularly.
Also did not happen. I mean, I exercised, and I did so regularly for a little while, but then I would stop again. Although technically starting and stopping is still a pattern, so does that count as exercising regularly?

10. Continue to eat better.
I will consider this a mostly win. I’ve had some days (most of which have been in the last week or two) where I haven’t been eating like I know I should, but overall I’m still eating way better than I used to.


And now for my goals for 2014. I was originally going to do this as a separate post, but I waited too long to write this. I seem to be doing that a lot lately.

1. Learn Dvorak.
I’ve been saying I’m going to do this for years, but I only seem to remember right before NaNo, when it’s too late to change.

2. Read 50 books, including the following: 10 classics, 10 New Adult, 10 nonfiction.
I’ll be student teaching in the spring and (hopefully) starting my first year of teaching in the fall, so I won’t have as much time to read as I did this year, but I’m hoping I can still do this. And if I’m going to be an English teacher, I should probably start reading all of the books that people normally read in English classes that for some reason I never had to read.

3. Write 500 for WriYe.
I signed up for National Novel Writing Year again, even though I’m not completely certain I can write that much this year. Of course, I wrote that much in a month this year, so I’m hoping it’s not too ridiculous this year.

4. Edit/rewrite Degeneration, For Real This Time, Alone, and Choices.
These are the novels I was supposed to edit this year and didn’t.

5. Rewrite Trail Magic and The Story of Em.
I wrote both of these for NaNo this year. I don’t know that I’ll necessarily have to rewrite them completely, but I generally have to do that, so I’m assuming I will for these. If I don’t have to rewrite them, I should at least edit them.

6. Find a critique partner (or more).
TILT is the only novel that I have that’s ready for this stage. I’m really happy with it, actually. I just haven’t shared it with anyone yet, and if I’m serious about publication (which I am), I need help.

7. Win NaNo.
Since I’ve been writing way over 50k the past few years, this shouldn’t be difficult. However, this will be my first year doing NaNo as a teacher (hopefully, assuming I get a job), so it will be much harder to find time to write. I’m hoping I can still hit at least 100k while teaching, but we’ll see.

8. Lose 50 pounds.
I don’t really like my generic “eat better and exercise more” goals of last year. I like to see numbers. Obviously this has nothing to do with writing, but I figured I’d mention it anyway.

9. Graduate and get my teaching certification.
Again, not writing related, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to do this unless something goes horribly wrong, but still. I like goals that I’m pretty much guaranteed to accomplish.

10. Find a job.
This one is way less certain. Still, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find a teaching job once I graduate.

So there are my goals. How’d you do on yours? Do you have any for the upcoming year?

Book Review: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the series. You can check out my reviews for those books here:
Book 1 (Across the Universe)
Book 2 (A Million Suns)

Title: (GoodReads) 
Author: Shades of Earth
Page Count: 369
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Goodreads Summary:
Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceship Godspeed behind. They’re ready to start life afresh–to build a home–on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience.

But this new Earth isn’t the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed’s former passengers aren’t alone on this planet. And if they’re going to stay, they’ll have to fight.

Amy and Elder must race to discover who–or what–else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed–friends, family, life on Earth–will have been for nothing.

First off, I have to complain about the cover. The first two book in the series had absolutely gorgeous covers. Why they decided to change everything for the last book, I have no idea. The current cover isn’t horrible, but it’s nowhere near as awesome as the covers for the first two. This has nothing really to do with the actual book, but it still bothered me.

Although, in hindsight, I guess the different cover of the book was sort of an omen that things were about to change. This whole book felt so different from the first two. And, really, it is different. They’re no longer in space. The frozens are about to wake up. They have this whole new planet to deal with. Everything is different. So I guess it makes sense for the cover to be different, too. And the fact that this cover is worse than the others sort of hints at something, too.

I don’t want this review to sound as though I hated this book. Because I didn’t. I quite enjoyed it for the most part. Or, rather, most of what I didn’t like wasn’t really a flaw. I don’t deal well with change. I don’t like to see people take over who I don’t feel deserve to be in charge. I don’t like feeling that Orion was right to kill off the frozens. But that’s how I felt for most of the book. I hated most of the frozens, and the other people on the ship already annoyed me from the second book, and Amy was acting strangely for part of it, and I just spent most of this book hating everyone.

Except that was also realistic. Because if you’re the head of the military personnel on a ship, and you find out that some sixteen year old is in charge of everyone, you would start to question things. I probably wouldn’t trust Elder, either, if I hadn’t already known what happened. So all of their reactions make sense, and I’m glad Revis wrote it like that because she didn’t take the easy way out. There was a real power struggle, and I liked that. It was realistic.

I also liked that there was some mystery. We don’t really know what’s with the aliens or whatever it is that’s trying to kill them. There’s more secrets about the ship that we don’t know. In a way, it was much more dramatic than the first two (or at least than the second one) because there’s more stuff going on. And more people keep dying. And you want to know why, and you keep thinking you have some idea, but there’s always more that you don’t quite know.

I could have dealt with that. And there was a lot that surprised me, and a lot of it was handled quite well. I still really enjoyed this book. But I couldn’t help feeling, once I got to the end, that so much of what happened could have been avoided very easily – so easily, in fact, that it sort of feels like that all happened for nothing, and it makes me question the whole book. There were so many great layers to this story, and I thought it would keep getting better, but it didn’t. It’s like she wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen, or she had a great start to an idea but needed to make it more dramatic so it would last for a whole book. I’m not sure.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe the events were realistic and I’m the unrealistic one to think that it could have happened a different way. I just found much of this book to be a bit, well, anticlimactic for me. I felt like there were so many more things to wrap up in the end, and maybe instead of writing a bunch of stuff that didn’t really need to happen, she could have focused on a different aspect of the new world instead. But that’s just me.

Overall, this was still a great book. I’m glad I read it, and this is still one of my favorite series that I’ve read this year. I still highly recommend this series to everyone. It’s not nearly as big of a letdown as the last Hunger Games book was. This book just wasn’t quite as good as the first two.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Okay, only one more book review after this one! Promise!

Title: Stolen (GoodReads) 
Author: Lucy Christopher
Page Count: 301
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Literary YA

Goodreads Summary:
Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist – almost.

I really wanted to like this book. The summary sounded really interesting – in a sick sort of way – and I wanted to read it immediately. I wanted to see if she would end up falling in love with her captor. I mean, I’ve read enough YA and NA with unhealthy relationships that I figured it might be interesting to read one that was supposed to be an unhealthy relationship.

Except, this book really wasn’t all that interesting. Maybe I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading more lit fic-y type books. I don’t need car chases or anything, but I need something more than “I lay in bed. He tries to talk to me. I yell at him. He goes away.” A lot of people have commented on the beautiful descriptions of Australia, but since I hate scenery descriptions, all of that did nothing for me except drag the book out even more. I think I was expecting more suspense. There were some moments when I was scared for her, of course, but I ended up believing that Ty wouldn’t hurt her pretty early on, so it was just sort of annoying and boring to watch.

I’m not really sure what to make of the characters. On the one hand, I’m glad that Gemma didn’t just immediately give in to this guy. She notices that he’s attractive, and she hates herself for it, but she doesn’t let his good looks or the fact that he keeps talking about how he’s “saving” her make her forget that he also kidnapped her. She fought back. She didn’t fight back particularly well or anything, but she tried, so I’ll give her credit for that. But then there’s also a moment where she stops trying, and there’s a sudden character shift about halfway through the novel (maybe more), and it was just sort of sudden and unexpected. I was expecting a more gradual change.

I also don’t know what to make of Ty, her kidnapper. I don’t know if I find him believable. He has no family and spent some time living on the street, but he has enough money to build this house in the middle of nowhere and fill it with enough supplies to last them years. And he has expensive medical supplies. And he’s really strong and good looking and kidnaps a girl that he’s been stalking for quite some time, but he’s also really patient with her and never tries to hurt her. But he does put wire around the land so she can’t escape, and he lies to her. So he’s nice to her but also kidnaps her. But maybe that is realistic. People do horrible things because they get it in their mind that it’s the right thing to do.

Really, this book left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I felt sorry for Ty, and I hated when Gemma was mean to him. On the other hand, he freaking kidnapped her, so of course she was mean to him. But we also never really saw any reason for Gemma to want to go back other than that’s where she was used to being. It seems as though she never really got along with her parents, and she doesn’t really like her friends, and her ex-boyfriend was a jerk. So I guess I could sort of understand why Ty thought he was saving her from all of that, even though he still had no right to do that.

I’ve been struggling to figure out how to rate this one because I’ve been left with so many confliction emotions. I know I should hate Ty because he kidnapped Gemma and that is wrong, wrong, wrong – but I also feel a bit sorry for him, and part of me was hoping that she would end up feeling the same way. But then I hated myself for feeling that way because, again, he’s a creepy stalker/kidnapper.

But now I’m thinking that that’s what I was supposed to be feeling. This book deals with Stockholm Syndrome, and I would say Christopher did a good job of making me understand more of what those people feel like. So, I’m going to say that all of those confused feelings that made me question whether or not I liked the book – I’m going to say that was the point. So the author was definitely successful in that respect – I just wish the rest of the book hadn’t been so boring.

Rating: 7/10

Book Review: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Again, sorry for the multiple book reviews in one day. But this is the last day to share my book reviews if I’m also going to post my goals and wrap-ups for the year, so I figured I should go ahead and post them all today. Only two more after this!

Title: A Million Suns (GoodReads) 
Author: Beth Revis
Page Count: 386
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Goodreads Summary:
It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. Everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed.

But there may be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He’s finally free to act on his vision—no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a mystery that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Their success—or failure—will determine the fate of the 2,298 passengers aboard Godspeed. But with each step, the journey becomes more perilous, the ship more chaotic, and the love between them more impossible to fight.

Beth Revis catapulted readers into the far reaches of space with her New York Times bestselling debut, Across the Universe. In A Million Suns, Beth deepens the mystery with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

I’m always a bit worried going into sequels when I’ve absolutely loved the first book. It’s really hard to live up to those sorts of expectations. This book, however, did a pretty decent job of that. I didn’t love this book as much as the first one, but I still really enjoyed it. I thought that we had gotten all of the lies out of the way in the first book, but it turns out Amy and Elder have a lot more to figure out before their story is done. They still have more lies to uncover, plus they have to deal with all the people on the ship.

I have to say that I really felt for Elder in this one. He has so much that he has to do, but he was never really prepared for any of it. He wants to be a good leader, but he doesn’t want to use Phydus. I can understand that, but I still spent most of this book shouting “Oh, just drug them all!” in my head. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not in charge of a large group of people.

A lot of people saw the ending in the first book coming, and I probably would have, too, had I not been hoping for something else. This book I found slightly more predictable. I nailed one aspect of it, but the I was still surprised by part of it, which is good. I did feel like a bunch of stuff got resolved a bit too quickly, but overall I still really enjoyed this book. I read it quickly, and I had to start reading the next book immediately after I finished this one, so I would say job well done.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: The Silent Takeover

Title: The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy (GoodReads)
Author: Noreena Hertz
Page Count: 304
F/NF: Nonfiction
Genre: Politics/economics

Goodreads Summary:
Of the world’s 100 largest economies, 51 are now corporations, only 49 are nation-states. The sales of General Motors and Ford are greater than the gross domestic product of the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, and Wal-Mart now has a turnover higher than the revenues of most of the states of Eastern Europe. Yet few of us understand fully the growing dominance of big business.

Widely acclaimed economist Noreena Hertz brilliantly reveals how corporations across the world manipulate and pressure governments by means both legal and illegal; how protest is becoming a more effective political weapon than the ballot-box; and how corporations are taking over from the state responsibility for everything from providing technology for schools to healthcare for the community.

The Silent Takeover asks us to recognize the growing contradictions of a world divided between haves and have-nots, of gated communities next to ghettos, of extreme poverty and unbelievable wealth. In the face of these unacceptable extremes, Noreena Hertz outlines a new agenda to revitalize politics and renew democracy.

I loved the idea behind this book. Given our current economic state and my distrust of corporations, I figured this book would be right up my alley. And it was, for the most part. It provided some great information about what got us here. It showed both the positive and negative aspects of business, which I wasn’t expecting but appreciated. This isn’t a book that just blindly attacks corporations. It definitely shares its reasons and lists examples of times when corporations actually do good things – even if those good things are usually in their own best interest.

I wish I had read this book when it first came out, though. This book came out in 2003, and a lot has changed in the past ten years. Ten years ago, we were still in first term of Bush’s presidency, and we were coming off of the surplus years of Clinton. The country (and probably the world) is in much worse shape now than it was ten years ago. We’ve had the Occupy Wall Street protests that have called our attention to the income disparity in this country. None of this is the fault of the book or the author, but it does mean that this book doesn’t do well with age.

This book was also a bit wordy at times. She could have gotten to her point a lot quicker than she did, and there were times when what she was arguing didn’t really seem to fit with her overall thesis. There was a lot of good information, but it wasn’t really presented in the best way all of the time. And as much as I liked that she showed both sides of corporations, the way she presented that information at first made it sound like she was changing her argument halfway through the book. Of course, it’s also possible that I just got distracted while reading and missed a transition or something.

Overall, this was a good book. It provided a lot of great information that is still relevant today. That said, this book is ten years old, and I spent half of the book wondering “I wonder how this is different today.”

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: The Distance Between Us


Sorry for posting multiple book reviews in one day. I just realized that I was running out of time to post them before the end of th year, so I figured I’d go ahead and do this now.

Title: The Distance Between Us (GoodReads)
Author: Kasie West
Page Count: 312
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Contemporary

Goodreads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

I liked Caymen from the very beginning. She’s super sarcastic, so much so that most people don’t realize that she’s joking most of the time. She lives with her mom above their doll store, and she does what she has to do to help her mom – even though that’s not really what she wants to do with her life. But she knows that she has to be there for her mom, and it was interesting to read about their relationship. Usually in these situations we have a character who either loves doing whatever she can for her family or else we have a character who ends up resenting her family. I loved Caymen’s relationship with her mom, though, because it felt very real. She loves her mom and enjoys spending time with her, and she wants to do what she can for her mom – but she also wants a life of her own, and her struggle seemed very realistic.

I also liked her relationship with her friend. They clearly wanted the best for each other, and they could talk to each other about most of the things that were troubling them (well, that were troubling Caymen), which was nice. Hell, I even liked her friend’s boyfriend and the guy she tried to hook Caymen up with. Both had their flaws but were rather realistic and amusing.

Xander was a bit harder to figure out. Really, he’s realistic, too. He does and says stupid things, but he’s also kind of adorable at times. I could see why he and Caymen were so drawn to each other for the most part, though I didn’t trust him the whole time. I really wanted to like him, though, as it was clear how much Caymen liked him, even if she didn’t want to admit it to herself. Really, I couldn’t put the book down because I had to find out what was going to happen with these two. I was just going to read part of it, and I ended up reading all of it. I just could not put it down.

The only thing that kept me from loving this book completely – and what’s lowering the rating – was the ending. Everything happens too fast, and it all just gets sorted out a bit too neatly. I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to give anything away, but it was not at all what I was expecting. It sort of makes sense, but I didn’t like it. I feel like I was cheated out of a real ending.

That said, it was still a highly enjoyable book overall, and the ending wasn’t bad enough to ruin the whole book.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

This book does not come out until February 2014. I won an advanced copy of this book in Marissa Meyer’s “Write Like Crazy” Challenge for NaNoWriMo. (You can also check out an interview by me and the other winners here.)

Warning: The summary and review that follow DO contain spoilers for books 1 and 2 of the series. You can find my reviews of the first two books here:
Cinder (Book #1)
Scarlet (Book #2)

Title: Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3)  (GoodReads)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Page Count: 560
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Science fiction

Goodreads Summary:
In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Words can’t even begin to explain how much I adored this book. I’ve been hooked on this series since I first picked up Cinder last summer, and each book in the series is so much better than the last, which I didn’t think was possible. Each novel is just so much more complex. We meet new characters and learn more information about old ones.

Cress was a great addition to the series. She’s so cute, but at the same time she slowly gains confidence in herself, which is really important. She reacts in believable ways to the situations she’s faced with. And I absolutely love her obsession with Thorne. Thorne was my favorite addition in book 2, and he just keeps getting better. I have a bit of a crush on him myself, so I could definitely relate to Cress in that sense.

Admittedly, not a ton happens in this book, at least looking back. If I remember correctly, Scarlet covered just a few days after the events of Cinder, and Cress doesn’t cover much more time. But it’s still amazing how much drama you can get out of just a couple of weeks. Plus, this book is a lot darker than previous books, or at least some scenes were. I’m curious to see what will happen next, though I’m also a bit afraid for the characters.

I enjoyed watching the characters grow in this novel. We learned more about all of them, and I have so much respect for Marissa Meyer. There are at seven different point of view characters, and she manages to keep all of the stories flowing. I read on her blog that the next book will have eleven point of view characters – that’s ridiculous, and yet I have full confidence that she will be able to handle it.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this book. Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down – I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next. I meant to read just a few chapters at a time, as I had other things I was supposed to be doing, but I pretty much dropped everything else and focused solely on finishing this book. Who has time for editing when the characters are getting into all sorts of trouble?

If you haven’t started reading this series yet, you really should. I’ve never read such in original retelling before. She takes these characters and makes them her own, and I love them so much. These books are officially my second favorite series of all time – second only to Harry Potter. And, really, I can’t think of any higher praise than that.

Rating: 10/10

My editing process

As most of you probably know, I’ve been editing lately. This novel is the one that’s the closest to being finished (or at least as finished as it can get when no one but me has seen it), so I figured I would take this time to share what I have learned about editing.

This should go without saying, but just to make sure everyone’s clear about this: THIS IS JUST MY EDITING PROCESS! What works for me might not work for you. And that’s fine. This is not THE way to edit; it’s just MY way. All that matters is that you find a method that works for you. I’m sharing my process because I’ve found it can be helpful to see how other people edit. I like reading about other people’s editing processes to get ideas for how to improve my own and to help get me in the editing mood. As such, I’ve also added a list at the end of this post featuring the editing posts that I’ve found most helpful.

I should also mention that I am a planner, and some of what follows presupposes that you have gone into writing the first draft with some sort of plan. If you didn’t, that’s fine – you might just find that some of the specifics don’t apply to you.

Step 1: Figure out whatstory you wanted to tell.
The first thing I do, before I even look back at what I’ve written, is figure out what I hoped the novel would look like. I write a brief summary of what the overall plotline is, and then I jot down the main threads (plots and subplots) that appear and where I wanted those to go.

So with TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE, the novel I’m editing now, I basically had the following plots/subplots:
○ College/career (main plot)
○ Romance
○ Parental pride
○ Sibling rivalry
○ Friendship

I’m not going to share my summaries because that would give things away. But I would just write down what’s happening in each thread at the beginning, middle, and end of the novel – or at least what I wanted to have happen. If I added a new subplot while writing, I will go ahead and add it to this list. Once I have a clear understanding of all of the plots and subplots that I wanted to include, I am ready to move on to the next step.

• Step 2: Read the manuscript.
As some of you might know, I have a habit of throwing out my first drafts. That’s part of why I write them so fast – the first draft is just a practice round for me to figure out how my original outline works. Occasionally I’ll write a first draft I like, but more often than not I’ll end up throwing it out and writing a second draft, and then it’s that second draft that I’ll end up editing. But before I can do that, I have to determine if the draft is worth saving.

That’s what this reading is for. I never print out my work until it’s gone through the first few rounds of editing (because I’ve learned that I waste way too much paper if I print out the first draft), so I just read it on my Nook. But you can read it however works best for you. I like to try to read as much of it at one time as I can so it’s all fresh in my mind. I also generally have a notebook next to me so I can jot down any notes I have about big picture problems – mostly thinks dealing with the plots/subplots listed above.

When I’m done reading, I look over my notes and think about what I read and decide if it can be fixed or if it needs to be completely rewritten. If it needs to be rewritten (as most of mine do), I’ll start back at the planning phase and then write a new draft and then start back over at step 1. If it doesn’t need to be completely rewritten, then I move on to the next step.

For TILT, I had already rewritten it several times, and I had reread it back in September, so I knew that I didn’t have to start all over again. So when I started editing it again this month, I started on Step 3.

• Step 3: Make the spreadsheet.
In the past I’ve written this down on notebook paper, but I started using Excel this time because it was easier to go back and add things. I figure the first two scenes won’t really give much away, so I’ve included a sample picture:

editing chart

As you can see, I start with the chapter and scene. I keep a running total of all scenes (1-92), but you could also do it by chapter (Ch. 1, Scenes 1-3; Ch. 2, Scenes 1-2). I include a summary of what happens – just enough to help me remember the key parts of the scene – and then a justification of why that scene is important. Sometimes it’s not the whole scene that matters but rather a bit of information that we learn in this chapter. I’ve found this is helpful for deciding when to cut a scene. If it’s only important because it contains the same information as something else – or if I could just as easily share that information a different way, I know I can cut the scene.

Next I list all the characters present and then use parentheses to list characters that are mentioned even if they aren’t physically there – though if someone’s communicating via phone or computer, I consider that present. I used to only list main characters, but then I started including all characters, which was helpful when trying to decide if I had too many characters who only showed up for one scene.

For the thread column, I list the main threads that appear in the scene and then use the parentheses to show threads that appear but aren’t the main focus. For instance, the first scene in TILT is mostly about how she’s about to graduate college, and we just see a small hint about the romance plot, so the romance thread is mentioned in parentheses. For the second scene, on the other hand, all three threads are of equal importance, so none of them go in parentheses.

Notes and word count are, I think, pretty obvious. While I do not yet care about the length of each chapter, I like having that information there because it will be useful later.

• Step 4: Read and highlight – and fill in the spreadsheet.
Now I go through the novel again, filling in the spreadsheet as I go. I also highlight the text and write notes about things to fix. If there’s a paragraph I’m thinking about deleting, I’ll highlight it orange. If it’s a paragraph I want to rewrite later, I’ll highlight it yellow. If I need to add more description or setting information, I’ll highlight it green. If there’s something that doesn’t work with the plot, or something that I feel should be expanded, I’ll highlight it blue. Character problems are highlighted pink. Then I fill out the “notes” column on the spreadsheet to remind myself of what needs to be fixed, or possible scenes to add or delete.

If this were my first time reaching this stage with a manuscript, I would try not to make any changes until I had gone through the whole thing. Since this is draft 5.2, though, I felt safe making some changes as I went. So I went ahead and wrote in a couple of scenes and deleted a few that I knew for a fact were not adding anything to the novel. Although it should be noted that these “deleted scenes” went into a special Scrivener folder – just in case I later changed my mind and wanted to bring them back. I also fixed typos and awkward sentences as I went – for the most part. Anything that required serious thought, though, I made a note to fix later.

Step 5: Examine notes and make changes.
Depending on how detailed my notes were in previous steps, this could be a simple matter of just making a checklist for each scene, or I could have to write a whole new outline. If there’s a weak thread, I have to figure out how to make it better. Then, once I have a game plan for what I need to fix, I start making the changes. I have to rewrite scenes and add new ones. If I’ve deleted something, I have to make sure that the story still flows. If there was important information there, I have to find a way to include it elsewhere. If this is my first time through the novel, this takes a lot of time.

For this particular novel, I made most of the changes as I went because, like I said, this is draft 5. I was pretty sure I had most of the novel in order, and I got impatient and went ahead and made most of the changes as I went. But often this is the stage where I get stuck. I start making changes and then get overwhelmed and stop and then never come back.

• Step 6: Rest and (possibly) reread.
Once I’ve made all the changes I planned on making, I let the manuscript rest a while. At least a week. Maybe longer. Depends on what else is going on. If I’ve made a bunch of changes in the last round of edits, I’ll reread it – once again without taking too many notes. The goal is just to see if I’m done with the big picture edits. Do I have all the scenes I wanted? Are there any scenes to get rid of? Are all the characters developed? Are the plot lines as developed as I wanted?

If there are still big-picture issues to sort through, I’ll go back and work on those, following the same steps as outlined above. If I’m happy with it, though, I’ll move on to the next step. Note: “happy with it” doesn’t necessarily mean I think it’s as good as it can get. It just means that I’m happy with the order of all the scenes and that I don’t wish to add or delete any.

• Step 7: Print out the manuscript and reread and take notes.
When the big-picture edits are done, I feel comfortable printing out my novel. I’ve tried to print my novels out before this part, and I always end up hating myself for wasting the paper and ink when I inevitably throw the whole thing out and start over. Now I wait until I’m reasonably sure I’m not going to make any more big changes, and then I print it out. Now I make sure that there are no grammar or punctuation mistakes. I fix oddly worded sentences. Basically, all the line and copy edits occur now. I should probably separate this phase, but I just can’t do it. Really, I probably will have been fixing problems as I’ve seen them, but I try to hold off until this point.

• Step 8: Make changes, rest, and reread (again).
Hopefully this time the changes are easier to make than in step 5 because these shouldn’t be major changes at this point. It should really just be a matter of typing up the changes that I wrote on the paper copy. Then I’ll let it sit for a little while longer (again, depends on what else I’m doing), and I’ll read it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. This is my final draft before I show it to anyone else.

• Step 9: Get outside opinions.
This is the point where I would share it with beta readers or critique partners or whatever. Or, as is the case with me, this is when I try to find a critique partner for the novel.

So that’s my editing process. As promised, here are the links to some of my favorite posts on editing:
Tackling Revisions by Susan Dennard @ Publishing Crawl
Marissa Meyer’s “Process for Major Revisions”
Jody Hedlund’s “Self-Editing Checklist”
Holly Lisle’s “One-Pass Manuscript Revision”

Book review backlog

As I’ve mentioned previously, I had to read 24 books for my YA Literature class. I read all of these in August and September, and then I spent October planning for NaNoWriMo and then November writing for NaNoWriMo, and I never got around to writing all of the reviews for those books. Instead of flooding my blog with book reviews in the last two weeks of the year, I’ve decided to post them all on GoodReads and then just link the reviews here. Once I finish with all the reviews that I’ve neglected to do the past few months, I’ll get back to posting actual reviews on here.

The Iron King by Julie Kigawa – 7/10 (YA fantasy)
Speechless by Hannah Harrington – 9/10 (YA contemporary)
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – 10/10 (YA humor/adventure/satire)
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith – 7/10 (YA contemporary)
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sales – 7/10 (YA contemporary)
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti – 6/10 (YA contemporary)
45 Pounds by KA Barson – 8/10 (YA contemporary)
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales – 9/10 (YA contemporary)
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – 9/10 (YA contemporary)
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – 7/10 (YA contemporary)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell -9 /10 (NA contemporary)
Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi – 9/10 (NA historical/autobiography – graphic novel)
Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande – 8/10 (YA contemporary)
Finding It by Cora Carmack – 8/10 (NA contemporary romance)
Looking for Alaska by John Green – 7/10 (YA contemporary)
The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti – 9/10 (Nonfiction)

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors that are new to me

Top Ten Tuesday is a cool meme created by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten New to Me Authors.

top ten tuesday

Most of these authors probably aren’t new to anyone but me, but that’s okay. At least I found them eventually, right? If you also haven’t read anything by any of these people, I highly recommend giving it a shot! Since I couldn’t decide how I would rank these, I’ve decided to post them in the order that I discovered them.

1. J. Elizabeth Hill I’ve followed her blog for a couple of years, and I was super excited to get to read both Bound and Possession this year. If you like fantasy, you should check out this series. I can’t wait to read more of her work!

2. Jennifer E. Smith I absolutely adored The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. This is What Happy Looks Like wasn’t quite as good, but it was still an enjoyable read. She also has some other books out, which I’m looking forward to reading!

3. E. Lockhart Words can’t describe how much I loved the Ruby Oliver series. Each one was better than the last. She has two other books out and one more that either just came out or is coming out soon, and I look forward to reading them.

4. Kody Keplinger If you like contemporary young adult books with a dash of feminism, you’ll probably enjoy these books by Keplinger as much as I did. The DUFF was probably my favorite, but A Midsummer’s Nightmare and Shut Out, which is a modern-day Lysistrata, were both really good, too.

5. Marjane Satrapi Persepolis was the first graphic novel I’ve ever read, and I could not have enjoyed it more. This book and the sequel show Satrapi’s life growing up in Iran after the revolution of 1979. She also has at least two other books out I’ve just learned, so I look forward to reading them.

6. Cora Carmack I kept wanting to like New Adult books, but I didn’t really until I read Losing It. The plot was a bit predictable, but I really enjoyed it. And then I read Faking It, and I loved that one even more. Finding It wasn’t quite as good as the first two, but I still liked it, and I look forward to reading her next set of books.

7. Gayle Forman I only read one of her books this year – If I Stay – but I absolutely loved it, and I really have to get around to reading the sequel, as well as the other books Forman has out, as this is definitely one talented writer.

8. Beth Revis I’ve been hearing about the Across the Universe series for a while, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read the first one. I have the second two on my shelf right now, and I will have finished the series by the end of the year. I don’t normally care about stories set in space, but this book is making me reconsider that.

9. Libba Bray Beauty Queens is one of the funniest, most thought-provoking books I’ve read this year. If you like satire, I highly suggest you pick up this book!

10. Rainbow Rowell I didn’t love Eleanor & Park as much as everyone else seems to have, but I adored Fangirl, which reminded me so much of my younger, fan fiction loving self.

What about you? What are some of your favorite authors that you’ve discovered this year?