Book Review – The Martian

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I read this back in March, but never put up a review??? Whaaaat???

It deserves a review.

When Mark Watney is stranded on Mars – alone – he will have to use every ounce of cunning to contact NASA and make it back home alive.

Here’s the mini-review I put on Goodreads right after I was finished:

“I’m speechless. This is a book that never got dull, never let me put it down. I stayed up past midnight TWICE to keep reading. Painfully wonderful. I loved Mark’s humor. I loved the other characters. Gah I just loved the whole thing.”

You know what?  I feel like that sums it up pretty well.  Amazing characters.  Fabulous humor.  Never a dull page.  Not a wasted sentence.  Cool sciency-things if you’re a science person, but not written in such a way as to confuse non-science people.  Space.  Mars.  Laughter.  Hope in the face of hopelessness.

GO READ IT.
EVEN IF YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN THE MOVIE.

Content advisory: quite a bit of language, but used in humor rather than to offend.

SERIOUSLY.  THIS IS A BRILLIANT BOOK.  GO NOW.

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Company, College, and “Cursed Child”

Hello my beautiful people!  My fellow writers!

I just wanted to write you guys a quick letter letting you know that I probably won’t be blogging a ton in the next few weeks.  I have out of town guests arriving soon, and life’s always hectic when we have company.

Then shortly after that, I leave for school!  I’M GOING TO UNIVERSITY!

Or as we lame Americans call it, “college.”  (University sounds way cooler, right?)

So with all this transition and stuff happening, I don’t foresee having a lot of time for writing or for creating blog posts.  I’ll miss you all in my time off, but hopefully I’ll be back some time in mid or late August.  Enjoy the last bits of summer, go easy on yourself, sleep in, enjoy cold coffee, and read a book you’ve been meaning to for a while.

And, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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It’s brilliant and wonderful and delightful.

So many feelings…

This story made me laugh and almost cry and laugh some more. It brought back old characters that I loved seeing again, and introduced new characters that were just as endearing.  I loved being back in the wonderful wizarding world.

It felt a little different from the 7-book series, but that was to be expected. So I wouldn’t consider this to be “Book 8,” but rather an extra addition of some other sort. The story-telling is very different from the rest of the books.

But it was really good. The play-format didn’t bother me at all; I got used to it after a couple scenes. The dialogue was witty and fun.  And sometimes the stage directions made me feel like I was actually watching the play unfold on a stage before my eyes.

Overall it was amazing and beautiful. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought!

Unstuck! (Some thoughts on Writer’s Block)

A short story, by me:

Today, after many, many days of not-writing, I made myself sit down and work on my WIP.  But like the last few times I’d done this, I had absolutely nothing to say.

Nothing to add.  No idea where to take this story.

ARRRG.

I tried to write.  Typed a few sentences, erased them, sighed deeply, figuratively banged my head against the wall, and then gave up.  It was like trying to start a car that’s out of gas.

So I gave up and pulled out my sketchbook.

Then I was struck with the impulse to try something new.  What if I drew this scene instead?  So, pretending that I was writing a graphic novel instead of a novel-novel, I sketched out the people, the place, the facial expressions.  My drawings were horrible, incomplete.  But you know what?

It worked.

My brain suddenly went what if —- ?

A new idea emerged.  A tiny alteration to a scene I’d been in stuck on for a week.  That led to something else; a new idea about how my characters relate to each other.  Soon I had a whole ‘nother scene spinning in my head, waiting to escape onto paper.

Very tentatively, I pulled out my laptop again and opened my WIP.  I lay my fingers softly on the keyboard.  I hit a few keys, holding my breath.

I typed one sentence, then another, picking up speed, and then the computer screen faded before my eyes and I found myself in a brand-new bookstore, staring into the faces of my characters, hearing them talk to each other and laugh and –

And 700 words later I’d written two scenes that I was really proud of.

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Anywho.

Writer’s Block comes in many shapes and sizes.

Sometimes it’s lack of motivation because you just don’t feel like writing.

Sometimes you want to write but just can’t because you’re stuck; your story literally will not go right no matter how hard you try.

Sometimes it’s a mix, one leads to the other which leads back to the first, a vicious cycle.

So here are four things to remember when you’re facing writer’s block:

  1. It’s okay to take a break.  Writer’s block happens to (pretty much) all writers, and it’s a natural part of the process.  Sometimes you need to take a break for half an hour and walk the dog; sometimes you need to take a break for two months and read a bunch of books and chill.  Here’s a great blog post that talks about this.
  2. Don’t give up; don’t let your “break” become a goodbye.  Sometimes you’ll sit down at your WIP and get nothing.  But the act of sitting down to try to write is good enough.  If you keep coming back, your subconscious will keep thinking about this story.  Be persistent, because determination and discipline are huge parts of beating writer’s block.
  3. I’ve found the best way to break free of writer’s block is to change things up.  Sometimes it’s writing in a different place, or at a different time, or on paper instead of on the computer.  Sometimes it’s writing something else for a while.  Sometimes it’s drawing a scene out instead of writing it.  Sometimes it’s just doing something new in your normal life that hits you with a moment of inspiration and suddenly you’re back to writing again.
  4. It will pass.  I was a bit concerned when I didn’t write much of anything for week after week after week.  But if your facing writer’s block, give yourself room to breathe.  Then once you’ve taken a breath, come back and try to write again.  It won’t last forever; it will get better.  I promise.

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Progress in Unexpected Sizes

Remember that post two weeks ago where I promised I was going to write faithfully for the rest of the summer?

Pretend it doesn’t exist.

You see, I’m finding it really hard to write this story.  Maybe it’s because it’s summer and my mind is elsewhere.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter and I care more about Rowling’s characters than my own right now .  Maybe it’s because I still don’t know what the main story arc is going to be in this novel.

I really like the character and the world I’ve developed, but I just don’t know what happens next.

It’s very frustrating, and I have a feeling I just need to write anyways to break through this block… but I don’t feel like writing.  Humph.

But writing is a tricky sport.

Pretend you play football and you want to improve.  Of course, to get better, you have to actually practice the game.  But in order to perform your best, you also need to sleep, and eat right, and do sit ups and push ups and go running and drink lots of Gatorade.

Writing is the same way.  Of course, you need to practice it to get better.  But you also need to get sleep, and go on walks, and get feedback, and eat right, and hang out with friends, and most importantly, read.

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And I have been reading a ton (blog post soon about summer reads).  So I’m going to choose to view these past few weeks not as a failure, but rather as a refresh.  I’ve been filling up my “words tank” so that I can empty it into my own novel.

The other thing I’ve been doing is working on my querying.  I’ve re-written chapter one.  (Okay, actually re-re-re-re-re-re-re-written, but same thing.)  I’ve re-written my query letter, too!  (Actually re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re written or something – I’m on version 24 right now.)

Annnnnnd I’ve sent these two new-and-improved things out to another handful of agents.

This sounds like nothing.  But it’s actually hours of typing and fine-tuning and checking websites and stalking agents on twitter and nervously hitting “send” on emails that are going to real live agents.

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And you know what?  Progress is progress.  Progress is progress is progress is progress.  I will choose to feel proud of myself for the things I have accomplished instead of beating myself up about the things I haven’t.

Tomorrow’s a new day, a new chance to jump back in and work harder and be the brilliant writer that I can be.  Today I’ll go to bed thankful for the work I’ve already put in.

MM6 – 500 Words

Today was the first day in a long time that I’ve actually glued myself to a chair for a writing session.  (That was a figure of speech, but if you find real glue to be helpful to your writing process, go for it!)

For the next 6 weeks, I’m forcing myself to write at least 500 words a day, 6 days a week.  That will be 3,000 words a week, and 18,000 words total.  (Whoever said homeschoolers weren’t good at math?)

Now, that’s not record-breaking at all.  Heck, that’s EASY compared to doing NaNoWriMo.  But there are two things I’m going for with this approach.

One is quality over quantity.  Yes, I learned a lot from doing NaNoWriMo last November.  But I wrote at such a breakneck speed that the quality of the story suffered greatly.  By allowing myself to write slowly, I will give myself the space required to create this story well as the plot unfolds before me.

Second, I’m hoping that this practice will help instill better writing habits in me.  At the Christian camp I just got back from, the pastor said something over and over to us: practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.

His point was that we should intentionally practice loving people so that it becomes a habit.  My point is that I want to intentionally practice writing for a long period of time so that it too becomes a habit.  (I want to practice loving well, too!)

Here’s the deal: the things you do are the things you’ll keep doing.  If you want writing to be part of your life for the rest of your life, you have to practice it.  And there’s no better day than today.

I’d love to have you join my 500word/ day challege.  500 words is enough to get you engaged with your story, to get your feet wet, to get the ball rolling.  It feels like an accomplishment when you’re done, and often times you want to keep writing even after you’ve hit that mark.

But even if that seems too hard, I’d love for you to write something – anything – today.

Practice Makes Permanent.  Start practicing.

I’m Back!

Hey guys!  I’m home now, so you can count on consistent Motivational Mondays for the rest of the summer.  (Probably.)

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I had a great time, traveling and then going to summer camp.

I especially enjoyed a re-read of Since You’ve Been Gone (review here), a very light and fun summer story.

And now that I’ve had my time away, I’m ready to hunker down and get going on this story that’s in my head.  I think it’s time to set some goals.

How about a minimum of 500 words a day, 6 days a week?  For the rest of July and the first week of August.

You’ll hear about my progress every Monday.

I’m writing my story.  Go write yours.  Set little goals.  Set big goals.  Have fun.  Read great books.  Go to summer camp.  Write your story.

I’ll see you folks on Monday!

Your Weekly Motivation – Arriving a Day Late

Hello fellow writers!

Sorry I’m a day late.  Hope your summer is going amazing.

Today’s piece of writerly wisdom: take your writing with you.

This email is a day late because I’m traveling internationally and I’ve been busy packing, flying, and buying overpriced airport food.

But in my little backpack that comes with me on the plane, there’s a notebook and gel pens.  Because even though I’m not bringing my laptop, I can’t go two weeks without writing.  So on the layovers and late nights, I’m going to be writing.

And planning.  And dreaming up this story in my head.

So look.  If I can write this blog post from my phone in an airport, you can write during your lunch break.  Or first thing in the morning.  Or you can plan story arcs in your head while you wait at a stop light.  You can work on characters as you take a shower.

Write whenever and wherever you can.  Your story will benefit, and so will you.