Writing Wednesday – Character Names

Welcome back to Writing Wednesday! Every other Wednesday I’m checking in on progress with my manuscript, and setting new goals for the weeks ahead. 

Last Writing Wednesday, I set some fairly ambitious goals for myself. They may not have looked like much, but for me they were a challenge. Here’s how I did, and why I have a lot of work to do:

Process goal: Word searches, journaling, or listening to music – 10 minutes per day, 5 days per week

How I did: I didn’t track this quite as well as I should have, but I do think I managed to get in some word searches and music time at least 3 days each week. Honestly, this is the category I struggle with the most, because I do a lot of process-seeming things (like phone games) that allow me to turn my brain off, but I never know if they should count. 

Process time is supposed to get the brain flowing through an activity that frees up some creativity, if I understand it correctly. Personally, I do some of my best thinking through working with my hands, which is why historically I’ve tried to do coloring or things like that as process time. But I needed something more readily available, and I recently subscribed to a word search magazine, so I figured I’d give that a shot. I love drawing the lines and hunting for words – it’s soothing. 

So does that make it process time or self-care? I need to go back and re-read Around the Writer’s Block.

Self-care goal: Exercising 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week

How I did: Okay, time to pick a new self-care activity! I had the best of intentions, but it just didn’t happen. And now that I’m working on a massive tattoo on my left thigh, the next month is going to involve more healing than working out, so next time I need something else. EPIC FAIL.

Product Time goal: Writing or researching, 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week

  • Target tasks
    • Belle Epoque research
    • Update names
    • Get to end of Act I

How I did: I did fairly well, though not as much as I’d hoped last week. The first week I managed 3 days, and last week I did more thinking than dedicated writing. Which is fine, and I should probably give myself credit for that, so I’ll say one day. My critique group is back in full swing now, and I’m up for discussion this weekend, so I’m keeping my goal the same so I can continue making forward progress.

For my target tasks, I had to update my MS a bit with new character names. I finally decided to move my book out of Chicago, where I had originally set it, and into Paris during the Belle Epoque era. I just wasn’t excited about Chicago, and it never felt right. Paris is my favorite city in the world and having a setting I love will be much more fun to write. 

That meant I had to update some names. Minor characters all got new French first names, but I’m sticking with my main characters’ names for now. I’ve grown so attached to them, and since they are classic I hope they will work. If anything, I’ll just give them an interesting backstory to explain it. 

Goals for the next two weeks:

Process:

  • Word searches, journaling, or listening to music
    • 10 minutes per day, 5 days per week

Self-care:

  • Reading
    • 20 minutes in bed before lights-out, every night
  • Dancing
    • Shake my thang at Smart Bar one night this week

Product Time:

  • Writing or researching
    • 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week
    • Target tasks
      • Outline updated plot/beat sheet
      • Write 2 new scenes, minimum
      • Organize pages to send for critique

For any of my fellow writers out there, feel free to join me! Post your own goals below or on your blog, and check back in two weeks. I hope to cultivate this as a place of support and encouragement no matter what kind of writing you’re doing. Good luck!

 

Discussion: Struggling with Reviews

Let's Talk

I’ve been away from blogging for a little while, and at least partially because of my constant struggle to write what I deem to be adequate reviews. Does this sound familiar? You finish a book, and sit down to write a review, but you can’t think of anything to say. Maybe you beat your head against the wall, maybe you flip through the book again to see if anything comes to you, or maybe you just give up and don’t write anything. 

Here’s my process:

  1. Finish book, swim around in all the feels. Isn’t this glorious? Let’s just stay here forever, you and I, my little booky-wook.
  2. Jump on Goodreads, give it a snap judgment star rating. You’re welcome, book.
  3. Wait two weeks, so that you read at least a few more books that will muddle your memory of the book you need to review. Book cries a little.
  4. Get calendar reminder email that you need to post your review. Experience a bolt of fear normally reserved for seeing a spider in your bed. Book feels the residual shock and flips you the middle finger.
  5. Fire up the computer, crack knuckles, and enter all the book info. You’re on a roll! This is going to be a piece of cake! Book says it’s sorry and gives you a hug.
  6. Stare blankly at the screen, wondering where to start. The cursor blinks incessantly, and book just stares at you.
  7. Type a couple of lame sentences summarizing the plot. Hooray! We’re getting somewhere! 
  8. Decide you hate those sentences, since the plot is summarized already in the synopsis. Delete them and stare some more.
  9. Re-write the summary sentences, since people probably won’t read the synopsis anyway, or they already know what the book is about, in which case why would either of those groups of people want to read a review anyway? This is stupid. I hate you, book. Book sticks its tongue out at you.
  10. Think of the three nitpicky things you briefly thought of while reading the book and write those down, stringing it together with awkward transitions (making heavy use of headers), and getting frustrated with your stiff phrasing. Why can’t you loosen up already? It’s probably book’s fault. You give book the evil eye, and book collapses in a puddle of shame tears. 

And who wants that? Nobody, that’s who. Especially poor, sad book.

Of course if there was an easy answer for how to write reviews easily, there’d probably be an app for that. (And if I’m mistaken, and there is already an app for that, please point me to it immediately.) I realize that I have personal faults that directly contribute to some of the above teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing, like waiting too long before actually writing the review, and not taking notes. But I have a hard time taking notes while reading, and sometimes I like to let a book breathe after finishing, so I don’t jump to too many conclusions right away.

So what’s a girl to do?

Seriously. I’m asking.

Are notes and speedy reviews the only answers? What do you do when you struggle to write a review?

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Out With the Old…

It’s the last day of 2013, and I have never been more ready for a new year. 2013 had a lot of ups and downs for me, in so many ways. I am so happy to be perched on the edge of a new beginning.

Ruby over at Ruby’s Reads wrote a post yesterday about her long hiatus from blogging, and it really hit home for me. Life got hectic, I lost interest in a lot of things (including blogging), and when the time between posts kept stretching and stretching, I started to think maybe it was time to let it go.

Last year I started to feel the weight of keeping up with post after post after post, and this year, it was the tech side that got to me. I moved to a new hosting service, and it created a lot of weird characters through almost all of my blog entries. I couldn’t find a solution, and it quickly brought down the high I’d had from moving my entire site over to Bluehost all by myself. My fist pump of victory turned into a sad half-hearted junior high slow dance.

I am determined to move on, however. I’m fixing the problem as I go back to old entries, but I’m not going out of my way to search through hundreds of old posts just to delete out some oddities. It’s almost 2014! Time for a clean slate!

So where have I been? Goodreads, mostly. I’ve become crazy active on that site – joining groups and actively participating in them, doing buddy reads, and entering challenges and competitions that have pushed me to read more than any other year. In fact, I’m trying to wrap this up so I can go back to reading and hopefully knock a few more books off my list.

In 2014, I’ve decided to track all of my book challenges on Goodreads. I set up my own page (group, really) there to keep my lists organized, and I’ve found it much easier to check off my lists there instead of on the blog. I may do a post in the future on the different groups I’ve joined, but in the meantime, if you’re curious, here’s a list of where I’m a member. The Goodreads crowd is a lot of fun, and they are so creative with ways to keep reading fun.

Tomorrow I’ll have a post up summarizing my challenges in 2013, and I’ve updated my widgets and challenge page on the blog. Here’s hoping I can squeeze another one or two in before midnight!

Happy New Year to you all!

Logan signature

 

 

 

Book Blogger Confessions: Blog Evolution

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme run by Midnyte Reader and For What It’s Worth. Every first and third Monday participants post and discuss common frustrations to book bloggers. Link up your post on either blog and hop around to listen to and learn from your fellow bloggers!

This week’s question is:

How long do you see yourself blogging? Do you think it’s okay for a blog to evolve over time? For example: You may have started out as a book review blog but now your interest is in cooking as well. Do you incorporate that or start over?

 I have had an online blog or journal in some format for 12 years. I’m not sure that this blog, in this format, will exist in decades to come, but I’d like to think that I’ll always have an online presence. 

I think a blog can evolve as long as the author is okay with a changing audience. This blog was created for readers, and mostly YA readers at that, so if I decide to start focusing more on running, say, or even on my writing, I have no doubt that my audience would change and likely grow smaller. And that doesn’t bother me. I want readers who connect with my content, pure and simple.

Where I get a little confused is whether a blog can have more than one focus. For now, I’m keeping my other interests confined to my weekly recaps. I’m afraid if I do book reviews, and a weekly post on writing, and a weekly post on running/training, and so on, that I’ll end up attracting no audience at all because there is no common theme. At that point it starts to feel like a journal/diary, and there are better (and more private) venues for that on the interwebs.

At the very least, I see this blog continuing on for a few more years. Let’s hope! 🙂

 

 

Book Blogger Confessions: Blog/Life Balance

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme run by Midnyte Reader and For What It’s Worth. Every first and third Monday participants post and discuss common frustrations to book bloggers. Link up your post on either blog and hop around to listen to and learn from your fellow bloggers!

This week’s question is:

How does blogging affect your *real* life? Are friends and family supportive? Do you find that blogging cuts into family time? How do you strike a balance between the two?

I generally don’t talk about my blog with people in my life. My family and husband and a few friends know it exists, and some of them follow my posts and even comment from time to time (mostly my fellow voracious readers: Mom and my sister). But generally, its content doesn’t apply to or interest most of my regular peeps.

That said, they’re very supportive, and my husband usually just lets me go about my business. He did object to the alarming increase of books that started to pile up, but I’m doing better about that these days. And while in the beginning (and during design changes) I was devoting hours every day to blog setup and upkeep, I’ve gotten better at managing my time and not doing blog stuff when we’re supposed to be doing things together.

 

 

Book Blogger Confessions: Reading Genres

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme run by Midnyte Reader and For What It’s Worth. Every first and third Monday participants post and discuss common frustrations to book bloggers. Link up your post on either blog and hop around to listen to and learn from your fellow bloggers!

This week’s question is:

How has blogging and reviewing changed your reading habits? Do you read a genre now that you wouldn’t have tried prior? Or have you been turned off by a genre you used to love?

I read a lot more romance/erotica novels because of blogging. I think there can be a stigma toward the genre, and seeing how many people in the blogosphere enthusiastically discussed it made me feel like I was missing out on something or not giving it a fair chance. I mean, anyone who likes Outlander as much as I do should feel fairly confident they’ll like romance stories! 

I think I read more epic fantasy these days too. Book bloggers have exposed me to so many different types of genres and different recommendations within those genres that I’m giving more fantasy a chance where I wasn’t as into it before. Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind is not something I would have considered until I saw so many bloggers raving about it. I’m so glad I listened to them, since I loved that book!

I do find that focusing too much of my reading based on genre can lead to slumps, and blogging plays a role in that. Because my blog focuses mostly on YA books, I feel pressured to read more of them, and sometimes I just want to read a spy thriller. I’ve gotten better about reading in different genres to mix it up a bit more, and even joined some challenges this year to that end.

 

 

Book Blogger Confessions: Blogging Slumps

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme run by Midnyte Reader and For What It’s Worth. Every first and third Monday participants post and discuss common frustrations to book bloggers. Link up your post on either blog and hop around to listen to and learn from your fellow bloggers!

This week’s question is:

We’ve discussed blogging slumps before but have you ever seriously considered throwing in the towel and quitting blogging? If so, what changed your mind? Did you discuss it with other bloggers?

Last year, and particularly in the latter half of the year, I wanted to quit. For all intents and purposes, given the amount of time I spent posting or commenting, I had quit. At the very least, I had mentally checked out from everything. I didn’t read as many books, I certainly didn’t review as many books, and mostly ignored the blog. 

I think I reached a point where the stress of juggling too many things all at once meant something had to give. As we all know, blogs are incredibly time-consuming. The more time I spent doing my many other activities, the less time I had to write up reviews, post blog entries, and even read. 

A lot of it had to do with second year blogging blahs. The high of creating it and push-push-pushing to get my name out there and draw in readers in that first year was novel and exciting. Last year I just didn’t have the energy to devote to it. Blogging lost its novelty and didn’t seem so fun and shiny. The pressure of watching all of the won, borrowed, toured, and bought books pile up in a never ending stream in my living room got to me. I would scan my list of NetGalley titles and feel nothing but overwhelming pressure – to read, review, post, cross-post, and submit back to the authors and publishers. 

I freaked out. Finally, after several months of doing nothing but feel guilty and sad about the whole sorry situation, I deleted all of my review titles, had NetGalley deactivate my account, and stopped signing up for tours and giveaways. Snip. Gone. Cut-off.

What finally forced my hand in whether to officially retire the blog was that my domain came up for renewal. I had to choose – if I renewed, it would be money poorly spent if this site sat here with no entries. If I didn’t renew, it meant deleting forever the entries, comments, and memories from my little corner of the web. It also meant that I may never get this domain back. The finality of that decision was too much for me. Luckily the New Year’s holiday was right around the corner, and as I fired up my Reader again, I noticed it was reading challenge sign-up time, and darn it, I wanted in on the action.

Challenge accepted. Once I started writing up challenge posts, my passion came flowing back to me. I loved putting up all my new widgets and the challenge page. I loved visiting everyone’s sites and participating in events. That’s when I finally realized how much I had missed this.

In some ways, I wish I had reached out more to my fellow bloggers during my slump, but I didn’t think they could give me any advice I didn’t already know. I knew I needed to better manage my time, get back in touch with why I started this blog in the first place, and take whatever steps necessary to make it fun again. I hope that as I begin my third year of blogging, I can stay more connected and less pressured. Without accepting review titles, I guarantee that I will only ever have to read what I want, when I want, with no pressure to finish a certain book by a certain date. This helps me feel the joy of reading again, and that joy translates into happier posts and comments.

I want to thank everyone who has welcomed me back to the book blogger community with such enthusiasm. I came back because I missed all of you and it feels great to reconnect. Now let’s go read some awesome books!

 

 

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Book: Persuasion (A Modern Library E-Book)
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Random House
Originally published: 1818
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
 
Summary from Goodreads: Called a ‘perfect novel’ by Harold Bloom, Persuasion was written while Jane Austen was in failing health. She died soon after its completion, and it was published in an edition with Northanger Abbey in 1818. 

In the novel, Anne Elliot, the heroine Austen called ‘almost too good for me,’ has let herself be persuaded not to marry Frederick Wentworth, a fine and attractive man without means. Eight years later, Captain Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars with a triumphant naval career behind him, a substantial fortune to his name, and an eagerness to wed. Austen explores the complexities of human relationships as they change over time. ‘She is a prose Shakespeare,’ Thomas Macaulay wrote of Austen in 1842. ‘She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.’

Persuasion is the last work of one of the greatest of novelists, the end of a quiet career pursued in anonymity in rural England that produced novels which continue to give pleasure to millions of readers throughout the world.

I think this is my first official, completed Austen book. I’ve seen my fair share of the movies, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one from start to finish until now. Tragic, no? I remedied this thanks to the Austen in August event hosted by Roof Beam Reader. It’s always difficult for me to read classics unless I have a good reason to do so, and blog events are a great motivator. 

I knew nothing about Persuasion prior to this event, but all of the participants and other bloggers (Ruby!) commenting that it was their favorite Austen made me wonder what all of the fuss was about. I mean…beating the alliterative P and S titles? It must be pretty good. I had it loaded on my Kindle before August even started.

The beginning was a bit slow. I confess to re-reading large chunks of the first chapters while getting lulled to sleep by my morning commute. Jane is not the person to get me fired up in the morning, I guess. I did very much like Anne, however, and as long as she wasn’t spending time with her horrible father and older sister, things perked up.

Mrs. Charles Musgrove…

Anne’s younger sister, Mary, is a total gas. Can I say that? Is “hoot” better? No? Okay, well, she’s hilarious then. Obnoxious and insufferable, but still fun because for the most part she’s harmless. She has an ego the size of Jupiter and feels entitled to more than she is probably due. Anne manages her fairly well, and Mary’s poor husband Charles certainly tries, but I love Mary’s histrionic style and need to be in the middle of everything.

Anne spends a large portion of the beginning of this tale at Mary’s house, where she gets pulled into the extended Musgrove family (Mary’s in-laws). Anne is a welcome addition, and much preferred over Mary to Charles’ sisters, Louisa and Henrietta, as well as pretty much anyone who has ever met Mary. Poor Mary. For those that don’t know, Anne’s family is living beyond their means, so they set off to Bath and rent their house to the Crofts.

Oh Captain, my Captain…

The important part of this is that Mrs. Croft’s brother is the good Captain Wentworth, Anne’s heartbroken former love. They were set to be married until Anne’s good family friend (and stand-in for her deceased mother) Lady Russell persuaded her that it was a poor match. Then Wentworth goes off to the navy and makes a bazillion dollars and shows up to visit his sister eight years later. You can practically see him and Anne awkwardly shuffling their feet while being forced into the same rooms again after all this time.

Over the course of the book, Wentworth tries to find a new bride out of one of the Musgrove girls, Anne joins her father and sister in Bath, and Wentworth keeps popping up on the scene because of their many mutual friends. He does incredibly nice things and is generally thoughtful and kind and still a big dreamboat as far as Anne is concerned. She starts to think that maybe she should follow her heart after all.

True love at last…

I flew through the last half of this book. I was dying to know when they would get together (because they have to get together!!) and how. There are all of these obstacles (Mr. Elliot, Louisa, different locations) and Anne seems uncertain about the Captain’s feelings, so you’re never really sure if they’ll work things out. By the time Wentworth finally slips Anne a secret love note, my heart was pounding in my chest and upon reading his sweet and poetic words I promptly shed a tear. 

SWOON!

Wentworth does such a good job hiding his feelings that I felt immense relief when Anne gets that letter. It’s the final confirmation after an entire novel of events that he does, in fact, love her despite everything. Up until that point, we see him courting Louisa and avoiding Anne and we’re stuck wondering “Does he or doesn’t he?” But he DOES! Yes! The romance between these two sells the story alone, but the funny social antics on display and the surprising twists and turns of the plot make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I loved it. 

Have you read Persuasion? What did you think of Mary Musgrove? Were you convinced Wentworth was in love with Anne all along? 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Discussion: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Book: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: April 24, 2012
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
 
Summary from Goodreads: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I’m trying something different today. Instead of straight-up reviewing this book, I want to open it up for discussion. I’d like to try focusing less on dissecting a book and more on analyzing my experience of reading it. Please join me in the comments!

**As this is a discussion, please be aware that there will be some slight spoilers!**

Let me start by saying this – I liked this book. But I recognize that this book has a capital-H-History, particularly on Goodreads. I was not expecting to like this one because of some of the reviews I read by people who I find to be trustworthy.

Yet. It’s YA! It’s dystopian! It has a Bachelor-like competition! What could there possibly be not to like? So when I saw it available through the library, I figured I’d go for it.

And I liked it. Really liked it, in fact. The writing was breezy, the characters were interesting, the competition was heating up…so I started to wonder what the big deal was with this book. I texted my sister, who also loves a good YA dystopian, and asked if she could read it if I bought her a copy. She could, and she did. Hooray for discussion! We texted about it for a while (much like we had with Divergent), and I started to realize that though I recognized many of the book’s flaws, I still liked the book. Thus the need for a discussion post.

The love story

Putting aside the bad names, I found America and Maxon to have good chemistry. A good love interest will carry me pretty far through a series (Twilight, I’m looking at you, kid), and I found the scenes with America and Prince Maxon to be delightful and full of the intense awkwardness of teen love. It’s that kind of realism that I connect with as an avid YA reader, and it took me back to thoughts of my own first kisses and first dates.

My sister didn’t find the America and Maxon love story believable, however. It irritated her that America could act like the horrible wench that undoubtedly makes it on The Bachelor every year, and yet we (and Maxon) were expected to not want her to get kicked off. She treats Maxon like dirt, is still in love with Aspen back home, and is staying in the competition for the food and money. She’s in it for all the wrong reasons, but Maxon agrees to keep her around. In my sister’s view, this makes America unlikeable and Maxon a fool.

I, however, appreciated that America was up front with Maxon. On The Bachelor, we only ever despise the girls keeping secrets about former boyfriends or illicit affairs with producers or who are in it for the wrong reasons but keep playing the game. America’s not hiding anything – she admits she has feelings for an old boyfriend at home, and that she needs to stay to help out her starving family. That Maxon lets her stay, while also hoping to win her heart anyway, is a nice gesture. America is more real with him than any of the other contestants, so why not let her stay? In my view, Maxon was simply grasping at anything that had substance over superficiality. Does that really make him a fool?

Root, root, root for the…

My two major complaints with the book were that A) the world history didn’t make a lot of sense and was thrown in without much context; and B) that there was no conclusion to the story. I would have liked more information on the growing conflict outside the palace walls (and sometimes within the palace walls). What do the rebels want? Who do we, as readers, want to win? I needed a cause to root for, other than just hoping that the poorer castes get a better life. I also really, really wanted to see the competition through to the end. I felt the ending of this book did not have a natural or satisfying conclusion.

So yes, there were some problems, but I still found America and her situation to be a cool way to explore young love. It’s fun to watch these strangers try to navigate their forced camaraderie, and discover that they both care about their country and doing what’s right. I want to see what happens next, and how America deals with her feelings for Aspen and her growing feelings for Maxon.

Have you read this book? Did you find the love story believable? If you haven’t read it, do you plan to? Let’s talk!

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Cheater!

Last month, when I participated in Bloggiesta, I had a couple of comments from people wondering about my task to update my cheat sheet.

“Cheat sheet?” they said. “What the heck is that, and where can I get one?”

Fear not, dear friends. I am happy to pass along the wisdom that has helped me out immensely. (Click any of the photos to enlarge them for a closer look.)

When I joined my first Bloggiesta in 2011, I was very new to blogging. I did tons of the mini-challenges, hopped around, and soaked up some really valuable advice. One of the links I stumbled across was for a mini-challenge on creating a cheat sheet. At this point my memory fails as to whether this was the original post I found, but There’s A Book has a great post on how to make a cheat sheet. She even has a mock-up you can use for reference!

There’s no need for me to recap all of her terrific explanations, but essentially the cheat sheet is an easily accessible document you create to store links, codes, and other info you want to keep handy while blogging. I have mine stored in a Google Doc, and it has html codes I copied from how-to posts on other blogs, a list of my page links and social media links for quick copying, and sidebar/design codes that I know look nice on my blog. Since I always compose my posts in HTML view, having these codes handy is a big time saver.

The sheet keeps me from having to reinvent the wheel every time I want to do some editing. Although my primary default these days is to just copy from old posts and sidebars, I’m trying to train myself to get in the habit of using the cheat sheet so I’m not constantly mucking around in my blog. It’s also nice to know I’ve got most of the codes I need in a separate place from my blog, in case something happens and it goes down.

So there you have it. I’m a cheater. Maybe now you can be one too.

Do you already use a cheat sheet? Do you find it helpful?