we made it through winter + plans for the springtime

Guys…it’s over. We did it. Hallelujah. (If you live in a northern area, you know what I’m talking about.) Now it’s time for allergy season! Yay!

We’ve nearly finished the first quarter of the year, and it’s time for me to set some seasonal goals. You know the drill. Let’s get right into embarrassing myself.

goals from winter

1. read more books about writing and apply the techniques to my own works

I will give myself half a checkmark on this one. I did receive K. M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel for Christmas and started it, but I still haven’t read through the whole thing yet. What I did read, I am applying, hence the half a checkmark.

2. finish Unwritten, or at least get to 50K words

Nope. Barely touched it. I’m sad about that, because I do love the story, but for some reason my main character is irrationally irritating me. I will finish the draft, I promise.

3. finish my first big-picture edit on Shadows of Dreams

I did this one! If you’re on my email list, you already know this. I finished my first alpha edit! It’s all in chapter format now, as opposed to the shorter snippets it used to be in. I closed up some gaps and filled in some missing scenes. It’s looking better by the day.

goals for spring

1. finish another edit of Shadows of Dreams

I really want to get this manuscript done. I have a couple of alphas looking over it now (thanks, guys!), and hopefully I’ll be able to make it even better with their input.

2. make significant progress on Unwritten

This is vague, I know, but it’s vague for a reason. Springtime is usually insanely busy, school-wise, so I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to spend on this. I’m aiming for at least another 10K words. It shouldn’t be that hard. (Famous last words, am I right?)

3. post more writing on the blog

I don’t think I’ve posted a short story or anything since last May, so I aim to get around to that a few times a month. Let me know what kind of stories you’d like to see!

4. learn how to improve productivity by getting distracted less

I’ve been struggling to focus and getting distracted more and more lately. It’s not great, to say the least. I want to research some tips and techniques to focus more and get more done. If you have any, please let me know.

That’s all for now! What are you guys planning to do this spring?

Until next time,

“Ordeal by Cheque” and other storytelling masterpieces

The other day, I was on a call with my friend, and she was telling me about a story she was reading in school–“Ordeal by Cheque” by Wuther Crue. If you haven’t already read it, you can check it out here. I highly recommend printing it out and annotating things you find interesting.

Please take a moment to read it, because the rest of this post will be full of spoilers. It’s meant to be read left column down, then right column, on every page. Go through it carefully–note things that seem out of place, read it a few times to let it sink in. Notice something new each time.

Ready? Okay. Here we go.

“Ordeal by Cheque” was written in 1932 by Wuther Crue (that’s unfortunate. Imagine going through life with a name like Wuther) and first published in the Vanity Fair magazine. The story is told entirely in the form of checks (or cheques, if you prefer). At first, it looks confusing, but as you go through it a few times, you start to notice things.

I’m giving you one last chance to go look at the story right now. What follows is entirely spoilers, and even if you just glance over the story and then read the summary, that’s better than nothing.

Here goes….

The first check is written in 1903 to “Goosie Gander Baby Shoppe” by a man named Lawrence Exeter. Two checks later, we see that “Sr.” is added to Exeter’s signature, telling us that he and his wife had a baby boy. Lawrence Exeter, Jr. grows up in luxury, attending a private school for boys and then later a military academy.

In 1923, a check is written to a Miss Daisy Windsor. Several consecutive checks for florists, jewellers, steamship companies, and other such luxurious matters follow. It’s unclear as to exactly who Miss Daisy Windsor is, but it is reasonable to assume that she is Exeter, Jr.’s fiancée. In late 1926, Lawrence Exeter, Sr. writes Lawrence Exeter, Jr. a large check for $200,000 USD (we can infer from the location printed on the checks that the Exeters live, unsurprisingly, in California). I did the math (well, I didn’t do the math, usinflationcalculator.com did it for me), and $200,000 in 1926 would be over $3,000,000 today.

That is the last check Exeter, Sr. writes (for now). The signature changes from then on to Lawrence Exeter, Jr. Over four years, he buys various luxuries for women–gowns, sweets, and the like. Then, on August 23, 1929, a check is written to an unfamiliar name: Tony Spagoni.

Who is this Tony Spagoni? We’re not entirely sure, but the name led me and my friend to believe that he was definitely Italian and quite possibly a mobster. Exeter, Jr. writes him two checks in a row, then another few to more luxuries.

But then–and this is where it gets interesting–he writes a check for a considerable sum to a Miss Flossie Wentworth. Then there’s a smaller one to an attorney, and then another large sum to Mrs. Lawrence Exeter, Jr.–who we can assume is no longer Mrs.

From there, it all goes downhill. We can see that Lawrence Exeter, Jr.’s handwriting starts deteriorating, getting sloppier and shakier. He sends an enormous amount of money to a Marie Wharton Exeter, who could be his mother, then to two other law firms. There are two more checks to the mystery Tony Spagoni, each for the same amount of money, and one to a Peter Ventizzi, who’s never come up before but also has a strangely Italian-sounding name.

All of this–the supposed divorce, the law firms, the checks to Tony Spagoni–happens in a very short period of time, between November 14, 1930 and July 3, 1931. The last of Exeter, Jr.’s checks are written on three consecutive days–July first through third. And then, all of a sudden, the handwriting switches.

The last three checks are written in Exeter, Sr.’s neat cursive. One to the hospital where his son was born. One to the same doctor who was at the beginning of the story. And one to a mortuary.

The real kicker? In the penultimate check, the signature is “Lawrence Exeter, Sr.”–but the Sr. part is crossed out. In the last one, the Sr. is omitted entirely.

Something happened to Lawrence Exeter, Jr., but because of the unconventional narrative and the gaps in the timeline, we don’t know exactly what it is.

This story is a masterpiece. The first time my friend and I went through it together, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Who ever would have thought of telling a story entirely through checks? That’s genius! And the ways Crue told the story through the handwriting and the little nuances as well…it is just an amazing piece of literature.

I challenge you now, fellow writers, not to read this story and think, I could never write like this. I challenge you to instead look at it and ask yourself, “How can I write an unconventional story that will grip people a hundred years from now?” That is the lesson we should be taking away from real pieces of literature.

Until next time,

28 beautiful words

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

This week, I’ll be sharing some words I stumble across that I think are pretty. Honestly, there’s not much of a point to this post, but please, enjoy it anyway and share some more that you love. Maybe these words will spark something–a poem or song, perhaps.

  • crescendo–a musical term; increasing in volume
  • penumbra–a partially shadowed area
  • pulchritude–beauty
  • elixir–a potion
  • petrichor–the smell of rain
  • ineffable–inexpressible, indescribable
  • quintessential–a typical quality of a class
  • lithe–graceful, flexible
  • renaissance–a rebirth or revival; a historical period
  • sequoia–a type of tree
  • ethereal–delicate, otherworldly
  • eloquence–fluent in speaking or writing
  • chrysalis–an insect pupa; a symbol of rebirth
  • audacious–daring
  • caulk–a building material used to seal cracks
  • loquacious–talkative
  • denouement–the part of the story that draws together all the loose threads
  • cornucopia–horn of plenty
  • biblichor–the smell of books
  • myriad–countless
  • ubiquitous–omnipresence
  • juxtapose–to place side by side
  • aesthetic–appealing to the senses
  • zephyr–a light wind
  • ailurophile–a cat lover
  • cathartic–therapeutic
  • crepuscular–of or relating to twilight
  • enchant–to cast a spell

And just for fun, I’ll throw in my favourite German word as well: Kirche, a feminine noun meaning “church.” It’s pronounced like “KER-ke,” with the k’s pronounced in the back of your throat.

I hope you appreciate this list of words, and I’d be more than happy to hear of some of your favourites in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

things to expect when you become a writer

I posted something a while back called “So You Want to Be a Writer.” It was, I think, one of the best posts I’ve ever written, so I’m back with a couple more things I’ve gleaned from my years of writing. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. your characters will absolutely hate you.

They will do ANYTHING to derail the plot. And I mean ANYTHING. Your MC decides to develop a crush on the antagonist? The best side character decides to sacrifice herself for the MC? This is all proof of that. They have no regard for the fact that you literally gave them life.

2. you will respond to any sort of interesting information with “I can use that in a story.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve learned some sort of fun fact and immediately thought “OOH. That would be such a great story.” And then I never write it.

3. you’re going to have a million unfinished WIPs.

The above one directly translates into this. You’re going to have at least four documents at a time, all in varying stages of doneness.

4. you’re going to go a little crazy.

Writer = slightly nuts. It’s okay. Everyone has their own little brand of insanity.

5. other writers will absolutely support you in this insanity.

Once you find some writery friends who are as invested in your WIP as you are, they’re going to try to tear the story from you bit by bit by bit, which will only speed up the rate at which you go crazy.

6. you’re going to stick your characters into situations you don’t know how to get them out of.

And then you’re going to swear never to do it again…and then you’re going to do it again. Like a lot. Like, your entire story is going to be this over and over again.

7. writing will be your worst enemy and best friend.

You’ll hate it, you’ll love it, but it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Becoming a writer and identifying myself as one has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve met so many people along the way who love it just as much as me, real and fictional. All of the things I just listed were satirical, maybe, but they were also true, and they are all beautiful things.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

The Importance of Humour

Did you hear about the cow that went to space? The steaks were pretty high.

Oh, you didn’t laugh? Sorry you weren’t amoosed.

Okay, okay, I’m done. Maybe.

One of the things I feel like fiction these days lacks is humour. Writers are entirely too serious, and it kind of throws me off the whole YA genre, especially YA fantasy. Novels tend to swing either to one side or the other: way too serious, or way too silly. It’s one of two extremes, and it kind of makes me go eeehhhhhhh nah.

I’ve been reading a lot of classic literature lately–Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, that sort of thing. One of my favourite things about these classics is how they tackle important, sensitive subjects of their time such as marriage, social standing, duty and desire, and so forth, yet they still manage to throw some little bits of everyday life in–and that includes humour. It’s like the bacon in a salad, if you will. (Sorry, vegetarians.)

Now, of course I appreciate the gravity with which the subjects have been handled, but you can’t have all lettuce and no bacon, can you?

We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Since we (well, most of us, at least) have a sense of humour, it stands to reason that God has a sense of humour as well. Do you think God never looks down from heaven and laughs at a cat running in circles around a house for no reason at 2:45 AM on a school morning, meowing at the door and causing a poor, unsuspecting teenager to have to unceremoniously toss him back in the basement so she can finish sleeping?

I’m still bitter about that.

If you’re writing something serious, pause for a second and reconsider. How can you make it a little more funny? Obviously, you don’t have to do it in outright ways, like making just one character be the comic relief. If your story is naturally serious, a good quip here and there can do the trick, especially during the heavier moments.

One of my favourite examples of this is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. My family is a huge fan of the MCU, and we watch Marvel movies often. In the movies, the agents will often make a joke in the middle of a fight scene or have some pithy comeback when someone asks them a question. (Of course, sometimes they involve swear words, but you don’t have to do that.)

Adding humour doesn’t have to be a drastic revamping of your whole novel. Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep it realistic. Your characters have to stay in character for the little things to work seamlessly.
  2. Keep it small. If you’re writing something that isn’t naturally funny, it’s okay to work in a few little bits and bobs here and there, just enough to make it seem realistic.
  3. Keep it simple. Seriously, your humour doesn’t have to be an elaborate scheme. Just do what feels right to you and don’t go overboard.

I hope that with this advice from your friendly walking comedy show you’ll be able to elevate the humour in your writing to the best level it can be.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

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Goodbye, Autumn; Hello, Winter

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

It’s time once again for a seasonal update. The autumn weather was wonderful, as it always is; however, it was accompanied by calamity after calamity, and as a result, I didn’t get much done. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the best autumn ever, but I still managed to hit some milestones.

Anyway, let’s get into the content!

Goals from Autumn

1. Win NaNoWriMo.

If you’ve been following along with my posts during the last three months, you’ll know all about my NaNo project, and you’ll also know that I didn’t quite finish it. I hit around 30K words, but not the full 50K, which was still amazing for me. I intend on finishing it and hitting 50K or even over, but it just didn’t happen during the month of November.

2. Go through some serious editing on Shadows of Dreams.

I believe I did do some editing on this earlier in the season! It wasn’t as “serious” as I thought it would be, but it did happen. The book is still nowhere close to being done, but it’s coming. Though, I have to admit, I haven’t thought about it much in the last few months, what with NaNo taking up much of my writing brainspace.

3. Read more books about writing and apply the techniques to my own works.

Honestly? I didn’t even try with this one. I don’t think we went to the library at all in the last couple of months, and I don’t want to spend money to actually buy books (I know, I know…but if I bought all the books I wanted, I’d be broke in ten minutes).

So my first goal for this winter is…

Goals for Winter

1. Read more books about writing and apply the techniques to my own works.

Yep. Round two. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. (If you have any good books about writing that you recommend, please let me know!)

2. Finish Unwritten, or at least get to 50K words.

This should be pretty doable. By “finish,” I just mean win NaNoWriMo with the 50K words, but it may go over. Heck, it probably will go over, but that’s all right. Hopefully, by taking a break, I’ll have recharged my batteries and be able to finish it.

3. Finish my first big-picture edit on Shadows of Dreams.

It just occurred to me–like literally just now–that I never actually finished the first round of editing on this one. Heh heh. Whoops. So I’m aiming to finish that this winter and hopefully, maybe start another round of edits. It’s not likely, but we shall see.

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That’s it for this post! What goals do you guys have for this winter? What are you most excited about?

I wish you a very merry Christmas and an amazing New Year!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

Until next time,

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Know the Novel – Part Three: Words Written

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I’m back this week with part three of Christine Smith’s NaNo linkup! Although I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year, I definitely made enormous leaps and bounds in my story and overall mentality. The lessons I learned during NaNo are helping me now, and I’m so glad I did it, even if I didn’t get the full 50K.

Anyway, more on that later. Let’s jump into the questions!

1. How did writing this novel go all around?

Surprisingly well! I did pretty well for the first three weeks or so, because I had a schedule and it worked for me, but then I went to Cincinnati for a weekend to visit my grandparents and it derailed. I tried my best to get back on track, but things just got crazy during the last week and a half of November. Honestly, if NaNo was in any other month (except maybe December) I would do so much better.

2. Did it turn out like you expected or completely different? And how do you feel about the outcome?

It turned out basically how I was expecting. There were a few things that I was totally surprised by (where the heck did the Romeo and Juliet names come from?), but for the most part, it was aligned with my intentions.

3. What aspect of the story did you love writing about the most?

I really liked writing Waverly’s internal monologue. She thought and reacted a lot like me, and I saw my own thought process coming out in her a lot. It was fun to see how I normally think there on the paper.

4. How about your least favorite part?

I’m not sure, honestly. I don’t think I even had a least favourite part! Maybe the fact that some scenes are really repetitive? That definitely annoyed me while I was writing, but I know I can fix it, so it’s not really a big deal.

5. What do you feel like needs the most work?

All of it. Literally–just–all of it.

I know, I know. You’re probably telling me not to be so down on myself, but seriously, it’s true. It’s bound to happen with NaNo in general, because you’re writing an entire novel in such little time. But it just needs some editing and plot-hole-filling and just general fixing up, and then it’ll be good to go. Maybe.

6. How do you feel about your characters now?

The same! My respect for them definitely grew throughout the novel, watching them develop. It was kind of like watching my children grow up. My favourite character is probably Juliet (don’t tell the others!). She’s very wise and kind, and I just like her a lot. (On an unrelated note, do you ever wish your characters were real…?)

7. What’s your next plan of action with this novel?

I just want to finish it. I’m hovering around 31K words right now. My plan was to get the full 50K words, but it just didn’t happen. So I want to get the full 50K like I intended, then maybe do some editing.

8. If you could have your greatest dream realized for this novel, what would it be?

For this novel, I’m really hoping I can just complete the process I would take to get it published without actually publishing it–finish it, edit it, get feedback on it. I will not be publishing this novel, but I just want to act like I am so I can get some practice.

9. Share some of your favorite snippets!

Do I have to?

Okay, okay. Here goes.

From Chapter Two:

I get in my car and peel out of the parking lot. I feel so claustrophobic here. The suffocating glances, the heavy blanket of whispers…I can’t. I can’t.

I’m nothing but “the girl whose sister died.”

I can’t come back.

But I have to.

For you, Quinn, I think grimly. I’ll keep coming back…for you.

From Chapter Seven:

Juliet’s so easy to talk to. She’s funny and real, and we discover that we have a lot in common: we both have little brothers and love Harry Potter. I find myself connecting with her so easily in a way that I never have before, not even with London. When break is over, I’m almost sad that we have to stop talking. 

The rest of the day is much easier to bear now that I have someone I feel comfortable with by my side—if not literally then figuratively. She and I joke throughout the rest of the day, testing the waters to figure out each of our senses of humor. There’s a lot of laughing involved, and at the end of the day, we swap numbers, promising to text each other.

When I get in the car, I’m smiling bigger than I ever have. There’s something about Juliet. I feel like I’ve known her for years and years, and I feel like I should have known her years ago.

And from Chapter Ten:

It’s a pleasant evening. After we clean up the kitchen and have some ice cream, Mom puts Baxter to bed, and the three of us watch a movie together. Just like old times.

Except in old times, Quinn would be here too, remarking on witty dialogue and character arcs. She would love this movie—there are all these clever quips in here.

I look over at Mom. Her face is crumpled and her lip trembling. Evidently, she’s thinking the same thing.

It doesn’t take long before she bursts into tears and runs upstairs. Dad sighs, pausing the movie. “You okay, kiddo?”

“Yeah,” I lie. I’m not. I miss Quinn just as much as Mom does, but I can’t show it. I have to stay strong to counteract my mom’s emotions.

As I think that, I feel a twinge of guilt run through me. She’s not overreacting, is she? She’s just grieving.

Dad stares off into the distance. “It’s hard, isn’t it.” It’s not a question, not really. It’s more of a statement than anything.

“Yeah,” I say again, my voice barely audible. “Hey, I think I’m going to go to bed.”

He sighs again. “Okay. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.” I hug him, then all but run upstairs to get into my pajamas.

I can’t believe I’m going to put these on the Internet for anyone to read. First drafts are just…ugh. Well, don’t mock me too much. Please?

10. Did you glean any new writing and/or life lessons from writing this novel?

There were two very important lessons I learned this NaNo.

One: Schedules! I work very well with schedules. I had all my wordcounts planned out ahead of time and more or less stuck to them each day, and it worked great until I derailed. I think I need to put together a schedule so I have some accountability.

Two: I learned not to be so hard on myself when I didn’t write exactly what my schedule called for that day. A few days, I had planned to write two thousand words, but I only did maybe a thousand before I just felt like I couldn’t go on–and I didn’t beat myself up over it. (For context, 2020 NaNo Liesl would have dragged herself through a pit of guilt and broken glass.) I learned to listen to my brain and my body and figure out where to go from there, and I think that that’s a very valuable thing to learn.

That’s all for now! Thanks again, Christine, for this linkup! It was so much fun to participate.

If you did NaNo, how did it go? Let me know! I’d love to hear about it.

Know the Novel – Part Two: Within the WIP

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

This week we’re continuing Christine Smith’s linkup. I’m making great progress on my NaNo novel, and I’m excited to share it with you.

Without further ado, let’s go!

1. How’s the writing going overall?

Surprisingly well, actually. If you were around when I did this linkup last year, you probably remember me ranting on and on about how hard it was. Well, this year, I’m being smarter about it, and I’m actually getting it done! I’ve already surpassed my wordcount from last year, which is a big deal for me.

2. What’s been the most fun aspect about writing this novel so far?

Kittens. I randomly decided to give my main character two kittens, and oh my gosh they are adorable. Their names are Pearl and Nia, and they’re both brown tabbies. I love them. (I’m a huge cat person, in case you couldn’t tell.)

3. What do you think of your characters at this point? Who’s your favorite to write about?

At first, I didn’t like my main character–Waverly. She was whiny and kind of annoying. But now I’ve grown to like her a lot. She reminds me of me.

My favourite character to write about is her new best friend, Juliet. She’s kind and funny and passionate, and I love how she brings out the best in Waverly. Right now, in the story, their friendship is still develloping, but I think it’s going to be something beautiful by the end of the book.

4. Has your novel surprised you in any way?

There’s a lot of myself in this novel. I see a lot of my life coming out of it, from Waverly’s relationship to her parents to her internal dialogue. It’s subconscious. It’s also kind of creepy.

5. Have you come across any problem areas?

Yes, actually. I’ve been having a problem with repetitive scenes. Because the main plot is Waverly trying to finish Quinn’s book, I’ve run into a lot of scenes where it’s like, “Oh, Waverly’s working on her sister’s story. Oh, Waverly is having a problem.” And then two scenes later, it’s like, “Oh, look, Waverly’s writing again.”

I tell myself over and over that it’s just a first draft and I can fix it later (and I don’t even have to fix it at all after this if I don’t want to), and it’s helping, but I still find myself falling into those scenes. I need ways to change it up.

6. What’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?

My immediate response to this question was, “The fact that I’m actually getting it done.” I was about to write about how I never finish any novels, et cetera, et cetera, blah blah blah.

But I realise now that that’s not actually true. I finished an entire draft a few months ago. I think I need to stop thinking about myself like that now.

But my answer is along those lines. The fact that I’m getting it done, but in a way that’s forgiving to myself and my abilities. At the beginning of the month, I planned out a calendar of how many words I plan to write per day, but lately, a bunch of stuff has been popping up that’s making it really hard to get it done, and I’m a few days behind. I’ve been needing to prioritise other things over writing, but the great thing is, I’m not beating myself up on it.

Right now, I’m actually taking a break from working on my NaNo project to write this. If I was Old Liesl from last year, I would probably be freaking out about how I need to get it done in as little time as possible. But Present Liesl isn’t freaking out, and honestly? I’m a little surprised at and proud of myself for that.

7. If you were transported into your novel and became any one of the characters, which one do you think you’d be? Would you take any different actions than they have?

I would definitely be Waverly, and no, not just because she’s the main character, but because she is literally based off of me. And because she’s based off of me, I’m pretty sure that her actions are mirroring what mine would be if I was in her shoes, and I probably wouldn’t do anything differently.

8. Give us the first sentence or paragraph then 2 (or 3!) more favorite snippets!

Ooh. I’m very proud of my first sentence.

I hate funerals.

Yep. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

Want more? Okay, here’s the first few paragraphs.

I hate funerals.

Honestly, I always have. 

I was born and raised in the church, and I remember going to my first funeral–a family friend–when I was five. The preacher droned on and on about the life of the person and how now they were in Heaven, and a few people sobbed into handkerchiefs. But afterwards, the congregation swarmed the lobby, eyes suddenly dry, eating and drinking and chatting just like it was any other church service, except this time, there was a casket involved. I remember thinking, Why on earth are they so chatty? Someone just died!

As I grew older, I came to understand that it really is a celebration. While the person in question has departed from their earthly body, they rose in their heavenly body to be with Jesus, and that really is something to celebrate.

But I still hate them.

Especially when it’s my sister they’re “celebrating.”

Here’s another snippet from Chapter Three:

I force myself back to the present. She’s not here. She’s not here and she’s not coming back.

I’m aware now that I’ve been standing on the ice, motionless, for a few moments. Skaters swish around me in a multicolored blur of scarves and hats. London is watching me closely, a mixture of pity, anxiety, and regret on her face. “Are…are you all right?” she asks hesitantly.

“Fine–I just–just remembered–my mom said–I have homework,” I blurt, eager to do anything I can to get out of here. “Igottagobye.” My words blend together in one big rush of breath as I skate off the ice, tripping over the rail that separates the rink from the rest of the world.

London knows better than to follow me. She just watches sadly as I hurriedly unlace my skates, hand them to the mean lady at the front, and head in the direction of school as quickly as humanly possible. I turn my face away. I don’t want her to see my tears.

And another from Chapter Eight (this is probably my favourite part of the whole thing):

When I walk in, embracing the warmth after the chilly air outside, the first thing I see is London, Amy, and Emilie in our old corner booth. I freeze in the middle of the floor, accidentally making direct eye contact with them. They stare back at me, three pairs of eyes meeting my own. 

Oh. My. Gosh. This is the most awkward thing that’s ever happened to me. At least they have the decency to look somewhat ashamed and abashed, although Emilie just kind of looks angry. My feet feel glued to the ground, and I kind of wish I could just sink through the floor and let it swallow me whole right now.

Think, I command myself, grasping for something, anything.

Then it comes to me in a flash of brilliance. What would Isona do? 

If my fearless protagonist found herself confronted with her former friends all hanging out together without her, she would probably lift her head higher, toss her hair, straighten her back, and stride on fearlessly. She wouldn’t care. She’d just continue on being her awesome self.

So that’s just what I do. Breaking eye contact, I lift my chin, toss my hair, straighten my back, and walk, no, sashay up to the counter to order a drink from Crystal, grinning from ear to ear. 

I did it!

These are all unedited, so they’re a little rough at the moment. But hey, at least it’s something!

9. Share an interesting tidbit about the writing process so far!

When I was first planning this novel, I wasn’t planning on showing much of Quinn’s story at all. I was just going to describe it and make little allusions to the characters and events here and there, maybe elaborating on Waverly’s progress every so often, but that was about it.

But now I’m actually weaving little snippets of Quinn’s story into the main narrative, also. It’s kind of fun! It’s like I’m writing a novel within a novel. And while my main motivation for doing that was to sort of pad the word count a little bit (heh heh…don’t judge), it’s been fun to watch the characters in Quinn’s novel shape Waverly as well, as in the last snippet above.

10. Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looks like.

My schedule is pretty much the same each day, with slight variations depending on if it’s a weekend or weekday. If it’s a weekday, I’ll finish up my schoolwork, alert my family that I’ll be disappearing for hours on end, then cozy up on my room and write my brains out. If it’s a weekend, I usually don’t get started writing until around noon or one o’clock-ish, after lunch. I hate to be interrupted, so I try to get all my tasks done before sitting down to write. That way, no one bugs me.

Most days, before writing, I’ll pick up and organise my room and my desk and make my bed if I haven’t already. Sometimes I’ll turn on music, sometimes I won’t, but if I do, it’s usually either soft piano, classical, or lofi hip-hop. Then I’ll, ahem, procrastinate for a few minutes. Then I’ll feel guilty and actually start writing.

Hey, if I gotta guilt myself into writing to be productive, then that’s what I’ll do.

Well, that’s all for now! Thank you again to Christine Smith for hosting this linkup.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next week!

Until next time,

3 Fiction Books that Shaped My Writing

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

Today I wanted to share with you three books that helped me find my voice in the writing world. They aren’t books that will help you learn about writing, per se, but they struck a chord with me and influenced the way I write.

Let’s go!

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

I’ve probably talked about this book way too much on this blog, but you know what? I don’t care. I will continue praising its name to the skies.

Stargirl is probably one of my most favourite books, and it inspired me because of the vivid characters. One of the main characters, Stargirl, is so real and raw she almost feels fake. And Leo, the other main character, is so three-dimensional in his fears and flaws and faults that I can relate to him in a way I never have.

I want my writing to emulate these characters. I want my characters to feel as real and relatable as Spinelli’s do. If even one reader can relate to one character in my story on such a deep level, that’s a win for me.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

I just read this book for the first time recently, and the entire time I was reading it I was blown away by how good it was.

Not only was it a good, touching, heartfelt story, it was also a YA book that was actually clean. The plot was similar to the plot of the novel I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, and I want to emulate this book because it’s everything I want my book to be: enjoyable, clean YA fiction.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I have also talked about this book way too often on this blog, but I also do not care, because it is amazing.

The one thing in The Book Thief I want to emulate in my own stories is the prose. The descriptions in this book are so beautiful, so carefully crafted, and it seems like Zusak put so much love into each sentence. I want to put as much love and care into my prose and descriptions as he did.

That’s it for now! What other books have you read and enjoyed that influenced your life?

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

Until next time,

Know the Novel – Part One: Introducing Unwritten

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

As you probably know, I’m so excited for National Novel Writing Month this year. I learned a lot from last year, and I think I have a much better grasp on what works best for me now.

This year, I’m once again participating in Christine Smith’s NaNo linkup! I had a ton of fun with it last year, and I think this year is going to be even better. Thank you again, Christine, for hosting this!

This year’s novel is called (drumroll please)…Unwritten! The title is still a work-in-progress, but this will do for now.

Without further ado…let’s go!

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

Actually, it was a prompt I found on the Young Writer’s Workshop. It went something like this:

Your sister, an avid writer, just died with multiple unfinished projects. While going through documents on her computer, you find a note written by her that begs whoever finds it to finish her stories. Knowing how much those stories meant to her, you decide to try and finish them. You soon find yourself in over your head in random notes about unexpected plot twists, characters that you don’t understand, and a story that you’d never seen before but quickly fall in love with. But before long, you’re at the end of her notes and the story is only halfway finished. What do you do?

So that basically spoils the next question…but here you go anyway.

2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

Waverly is grieving. Her teenage sister, an avid writer, has passed away suddenly, leaving everyone in the Pembrooke family utterly stunned. No one was expecting anything like this.

No one, it seems, except her sister. While Waverly is sorting through Quinn’s documents on her computer, she finds a note addressed to her. It begs her to use the pages of notes left behind to finish the abandoned manuscripts. Though she has never written anything outside of school before, she decides to give it a try, hoping it’ll help her bring her closer to her sister.

Now Waverly is in for the ride of her life through her sister’s stories as she tries to fulfill Quinn’s wishes. But her writing is nowhere near as good as her sister’s, and to her dismay, the notes Quinn left to guide her through the story begin to run out. Now what?

In this heartwarming tale of sisterly love and sudden loss, Liesl Brunner spins the story of a girl struggling to cope.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

My story takes place in a town called Belden in southeastern Michigan–where I live. I figured I could take some amount of pressure off of myself if I set the story where I wouldn’t have to be googling weather patterns every five seconds. My favourite aspect about the setting is probably Waverly’s best friend’s house, which is one of those old Victorian homes. You know, the ones with the turrets and the big sloping roofs and the beautiful porches? Those. I’ve always wanted to live in one, so I decided to put it in my story.

See, isn’t that gorgeous?

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

My main character is Waverly Jean Pembrooke. In a nutshell, she’s a 16-year-old middle child who has suddenly been thrust into the role of oldest child. She was never really outgoing in the first place, but after Quinn died, she withdrew into her shell even more. She’s an INFJ, loves gardening, and sometimes dips her fries in mayonnaise.

I love Waverly like she’s my own child. She is sort of me, in a way–I gave her a lot of the same traits and personality as myself. I feel like I’m going to learn a lot about myself through her. I’m very excited to see how she unfolds during the month of November.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

Waverly’s struggle is mostly going to be against herself, her own doubts and anxiety. There are probably going to be some external conflicts, too (it’s high school), but most of the story is going to revolve around Waverly’s inner monologue.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Honestly…the prospect of actually finishing it is pretty exciting. Not gonna lie. This will be my first full-length novel, if I manage to complete it.

But other than that, I’m just super excited to see how the characters grow and unfold. I’m also excited to see how I myself grow through my characters. I think it’s going to be an amazing story, and I’m so glad I get to share it with you guys.

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

Probably a standalone, though I am toying with the idea of a companion. It’s too early to tell, though.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

Hmm…I’d probably define this as plantsing. I have a rough outline in my notebook with things I want to happen and the order in which I want them to happen, but it is very, very broad and subject to change. I learned last year that not having an outline is the same thing as not having a story, so I’m hoping even a broad outline is going to help a lot more.

9. Name a few unique elements about this story.

Well, for one, it’s going to be a YA contemporary novel that isn’t totally profane and inappropriate. That in and of itself is pretty unique. But it’s also going to be a story that features a portrayal of depression, anxiety, and grief that’s accurate and relatable and says to the reader, “I understand, and I love you.”

At least I hope it is.

10. Share some fun “extras” of the story.

My friend on YWW made me a beautiful cover!

I’m also working on making a playlist (what a shock, right?). It doesn’t have a lot of songs on it yet, but I’ll probably be adding to it throughout NaNo, as I get to know the story better.

That’s all for now! Thank you again, Christine, for hosting this. And if you are doing NaNo, tell me about it! I love hearing about others’ WIPs.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

Until next time,