Category Archives: writing

Amazing News! (plus- I’m Back, I Promise.)

Today, my amazing friend, CP, and all around confidante Amy announced her book deal with Greenwillow/HarperCollins. I am SO EXCITED for her that it hurts, and I hope you guys are too. Amy is an extremely talented writer and I hope you all will hop over to her blog or Twitter and congratulate her!

Secondly, I’d like to say that I’m back. The last few months have been insane, but instead of giving you a list of reasons that I haven’t posted a book review (or heck, even READ a book) in who knows how long, I’m giving you a list of things that did not happen but that in an alternate universe could be the reason for my long separation from you, my beloved reader.

-I was hit by a meteorite.

-I was struck by lightning.

-My frenemy threw a paper airplane at my face and hit me in the eye, ruining my ability to read properly.

-While getting brain stimulation as part of a secret government experiment, they stimulated the wrong part of my brain, and I have spent the past months un-learning Finnish and re-learning English.

-I was kidnapped by aliens.

-While re-reading one of my favorite books ever, The Book Thief, I was sucked into the storyline and had to live in terrible Nazi-Germany where there was nothing to read that wasn’t bland propaganda.

-The television show NCIS has hypnotic powers and I have spent the last half a year glued to my television.

I can’t wait to get back to reading, reviewing, and making you all laugh half-heartedly at my terrible jokes.

Love,

Olivia

P.S.- in all honesty the last item on that list is more true than I’d like to admit.

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An Unashamed Tortoise: Why ‘Slow’ Doesn’t Equal Failure

I am pretty sure I haven’t mentioned this in recent posts, but I am attempting NaNoWriMo this month. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Each November a huge group of writers and hopeful-writers gather and rather crazily attempt to write 50,000 word novels in that month, or roughly 1,667 words a day. Despite being swamped as always, I wanted to tackle this this month. I planned to use this to finish my already in-progress novel.

Rewind to yesterday afternoon and picture me, staring at a blank Scrivener doc, feeling utterly useless. Why won’t the words come out? Why can’t I write a thousand words easily like ‘everyone else’? How will I ever be an author if I can’t write as fast I should? I stink.

At about 6 o’clock last night, after spending precious hours agonizing over the few hundred words I managed to write, I tweeted something along the lines of:
“This is ridiculous. I’m sorry, but I just can’t write this many words in a day. I don’t think I can do NaNo.”

In response, I got about 5 people telling me to keep trying, to let go of my Inner Editor, all that sort of stuff. The people who told me this stuff meant it in a great and encouraging way, and they’re lovely for helping me that way. But it seemed to drive a wedge between me and seemingly the rest of the writing world. On one side is me, clinging to my triple digit word counts, and on the other is all of the others, the ones who succeed, the ones who can sometimes write 12,000 freaking words in a day. It’s pretty hard not to feel like a failure thinking of someone writing thousands of words a day while you’re still struggling.

But after quite a bit of introspection, I discovered what I knew all along. I’m not like that. I can’t write 1,667 words a day. I can’t write 1,000 words in a day, either, unless I’m feeling particularly inspired. And why should I be expected to? Why does this feel wrong, my inability to write thousands of words on whim? It’s just me.

Part of the reason I love to write so much is because I believe communication is beautiful. That it’s one of the greatest gifts we have as humanity, and writing allows me to speak to people without ever meeting them or actually saying a word. I am like this in person, too. Words are so, so powerful, so I take extra care to make sure the ones I write and the ones I say are empowering. This means, sometimes, that I am slow to speak. It also means that I can’t sit down and write randomly. I can’t write the first words that pop into my head, I have to think them through. Call that my Inner Editor if you’d like, but I call it me. It’s just who I am, someone who contemplates things.

People who can write thousands of words in a day are amazing, and in no way do I mean that they aren’t as good as me. Oh gosh, no. I hope you don’t get that idea.  I admire those people from the bottom of my heart. Their devotion to their stories is unbelievable, and their energy is contagious.

But I thought it would be nice to write a post about the other people, the ones who agonize over every word and come out immensely proud of that paragraph or even page. Remember that race between the super slow tortoise and the sprinting hare? The tortoise won. Why? Because the hare (NaNo-er)  got tired and had to take a nap (really long revisions) while the tortoise continued slowly walking by (with his measly word counts but very limited revisions) and won. But ‘winning’ isn’t really the point here. Both finish eventually, because each are totally legitamate ‘competitors’. To me, finishing in a month isn’t as important as finishing with a good product.

I’m still registered with NaNo, but I’m shrugging off the pressure. My daily goal is now 833 words a day, half of the NaNo goal, which is good for me. And I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise. We *technically* aren’t supposed to worry about word counts, anyway.

So there you have it, all. Remember that slow writing is never unequal to fast writing. Just write, okay? We shouldn’t really care that some people write slower than others. That’s all.

Love and writing luck to everyone!

Olivia

“After that, Hare always reminded himself, “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”

~Aesop’s Fables, The Tortoise and the Hare

**EDIT: Thanks SO much to WordPress for making this a Featured Post, and to everyone finding my blog through that. I am appreciative of every single one of you- thank you for the encouragement, the stories, the NaNo discussion, everything! You make this even more joyful than it usually is. It’s a beautiful thing, when I write something I’m passionate about and people feel better about themselves after reading! I’m trying to respond to every comment, so keep ’em coming! 😉 Much love to all of you, Olivia.**

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Finding Balance

Something I perpetually struggle with: balance.
How do I balance reading and writing? Schoolwork and blogging? Studying and getting the right amount of sleep?

And the thing on my mind most lately, how do I balance worrying about how my writing is turning out and letting it go completely?

This story really begins on Friday. I was straightening my hair (as anyone with curly hair knows, this is no joke) and wanted something to do while I worked away. I don’t know how many of you know about Ted Talks, but basically they are 20 minute long educational lectures. Except they are very, very interesting. On a whim, I searched for Ted Talks on writing and clicked on one by Elizabeth Gilbert. Some of y’all that have been here since this blog began might remember my review of Eat, Pray, Love by her. I hated it. But as it turns out, she is a charasmatic public speaker and has some really interesting points to bring up in this particular talk. Here‘s the talk. I highly recommend you watch it, even if you aren’t a writer or creative-oriented person.

If you don’t have time, Elizabeth basically talks about writing and creativity. Why is it that writers in particular have a history of being mentally unstable? So many writers in history were undone by their gifts. Why is this? Why do writers feel so much crushing pressure that sometimes they will put writing away forever? What is it about creative people that gives us that reputation?

Elizabeth looks back in history to the Ancient Greece and Rome, where some of history’s greatest philosophers, artists, and writers came from. Back then, the view of the arts was much different. People believed that everyone creative had a genius, who lived in their studio wherever they worked and helped them with their work. They were separate from the human, and it was very freeing to be creative during this time period. If you failed, it wasn’t entirely your fault. If you succeeded, it wasn’t entirely your doing, either. And then along came the Renaissance, which was the beginning of people calling a person a genius instead of having a genius. That was the beginning of the end, you could say. After that, it was even harder than it would be in the first place to be creative. Being called a genius puts an enormous amount of pressure on a single person.

The point is, balance is hard to achieve. We have to remember that, as writers, it’s completely normal for us to doubt ourselves and feel like we’ll never find the words for the story that’s in our heads. We all feel this way, the paranoia of having characters’ entire existence in your hands and wanting to do justice to their story. You aren’t alone in this. Just try to let it out of your hands.

Try thinking about each writer as a pen. (haha nice analogy, right?) A pen has extraordinary possibilities, you can write or draw almost anything with it. But only so much ink can flow out of the tiny nib at a time. You can press down on paper really hard, but that isn’t going to make the ink flow any faster.

As Elizabeth suggests, let us celebrate those who have the guts to write, paint, draw, sculpt, film, and every other thing of beauty. It takes as much determination as it does talent to be successful creatively. And let’s remember that success is self-defined: no one can tell you that you aren’t successful if you’ve passed your own goals.

Fight that voice in your head that says you aren’t good enough. Kick and scratch and whatever you do, don’t give up. If you need to trunk one project or a dozen, that’s ok. But don’t ever stop completely.

In the beautiful words of Tahereh Mafi:

“we write every day, we fight every day, we think and scheme and dream a little dream every day. manuscripts pile up in the kitchen sink, run-on sentences dangle around our necks. we plant purple prose in our gardens and snip the adverbs only to thread them in our hair. we write with no guarantees, no certainties, no promises of what might come and we do it anyway. this is who we are.”

Olivia

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I Capture the Castle

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

She was a sporadic reader, usually coming back to the same 10 or so classic books. She loved the familiarity of the words, her old friends. It seemed like all of the new books she tried ended with sadness. Sadness made her not want to read, to go back to the old comforting, predictable books.

One day, the girl’s teacher handed her I Capture the Castle and said “Please read it. I know you’ll love it.”

The girl did so.

She was captured by the candid descriptions of the English countryside. By the shaby castle. By Cassandra, her literary kindred spirit, stole her heart from the first line- “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

She finally found a happily-ever-after book, but not the fake kind. One that, after much love and writing and hardships, the main character turns out all right. It taught her life that life is moments of extreme happiness and sadness, and that you need both to appreciate the magnitude of it all. That laughter really is the best medicine, besides writing.

The girl wondered where she could find some friends to talk about this book with, the book that started it all. Her teacher was great, but the girl wanted some others too. So she started a blog, and began to read everything in sight.This book made her step out of her comfort zone, and she hadn’t gone back since. She made lots and lots of friends, and felt like she found a purpose.

A few months later, on her second read of this book, the girl thought about writing. She thought about an idea that had been in the back of her head for a while. She decided to take a chance, found a kitchen sink of her own, and started to write.

Several ideas later, the girl is still going. She doubts she’ll ever stop.

****

This was just my little thank you letter to the book that started it all. Highly recommended! 😀

Olivia

P.S. Thanks to my friend Alice and her lovely Girl Series posts that gave me the idea to write this subjectively! ❤

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Filed under Classic, Fiction, Modern Fiction, Romance, writing

TCWT September!

The prompt this month is:

“How much does setting affect your novels and stories? What are some of your favorite ways to portray setting?”

Oh, LOVE this prompt! Setting is great, and very important to me. Sure, I write a lot of YA Contemp, set in average high schools. But I also love writing short stories set in places I’ve never been to. These stories will probably never be read by anyone other than me because, like I said, I’ve never actually been to these places. I haven’t seen most of the US, I’ve never been out of the country. And yet, thanks to books, I’m in love with Prague and Paris and London and New York. Daughter of Smoke and Bone put Prague on my bucket list. Up to date travel guides help me create realistic descriptions of places I’ve never been to.

My favorite ways to portray setting, hmm. I’m not too sure what this means, but I’ll do my best! I love setting with beautiful, harsh words that paint new worlds with broad strokes. I love a world that isn’t fuzzy, but clear and above all real. If a setting involves recalling not only the slow beauty of the Seine, but the trash littered along the gutters as well, I’m quite alright with that. It just makes it more real.

No matter how hard life gets, being a writer allows me to create a place all my own. When I’m busy, I don’t even have to write to do it. I just imagine the words I’d use.

I love writing as much as I love reading, and to be able to create worlds from nothing seems to me an incredible gift that I appreciate every day.

“Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ~Virginia Woolf

 

Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:

September 5–http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com–Musings From Neville’s Navel

September 6–https://oliviasopinions.wordpress.com–Olivia’s Opinions

September 7–http://miriamjoywrites.wordpress.com–Miriam Joy Writes

September 8–http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com–Kirsten Writes!

September 9–http://writingbeyondthemoon.blogspot.com–Beyond the Moon

September 10–http://crazyredpen.blogspot.com–Crazy Red Pen

September 11–http://ebonquill.wordpress.com–The Ebony Quill

September 12–http://realityisimaginary.blogspot.com–Reality Is Imaginary

September 13–http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com–This Page Intentionally Left Blank

September 14–http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com–The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

September 15–http://allegradavis.wordpress.com–All I Need Is A Keyboard

September 16–http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com–Teens Can Write, Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain.)

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The Teenage Stereotype

This post has a bit to do with a certain tweet by a certain person-on-Twitter-who-shall-remain-nameless tweeting and asking during a chat yesterday if they should ‘dumb things down’ for teen readers. I’m going to try hard not to make this post directly about that tweet, as angry as that made me. It’s more about how so many have this misconception that teenaged brains are entirely different.

We’re teenagers, folks. We are a varying small number of years away from being legal adults. Does this mean we’re entirely mature and able to make well rounded decisions? No. In fact, adults are right (for the most part) to assume that we’re unpredictable and frankly, quite hormonal. Does this mean that you have to ‘dumb things down’ for us to understand your big words and huge concepts? Absolutely not. There is a difference between changing you subject matter to something teens will like more than adults, and only using one syllable words.

We might not have gone to college yet. We might not have lived as long as you have, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of the world. We are more mature than you give us credit for, really. I actually did some research on the psychology point of view of adolescence. In case you needed proof that my opinions were factual. 😉 A quick google search brought up this great article (ironically titled “Trashing Teens” )in Psycology Today, which made some good points.

The tagline of the article: ” Psychologist Robert Epstein argues in a provocative book, “The Case Against Adolescence,” that teens are far more competent than we assume, and most of their problems stem from restrictions placed on them.”

“….Imagine what it would feel like—or think back to what it felt like—when your body and mind are telling you you’re an adult while the adults around you keep insisting you’re a child.”

Well, there you go.

Every teen writer and reader I’ve talked to on the matter agrees; teenagers are really good at decifering what they read. If you ‘dumb it down’ for us, we will know. Don’t even try that. Please. Spare yourself.  Great YA books are written by people of all ages, but the one thing they have in common is their grasp on how we feel. Teenagers want a good story. We usually don’t want to be taught a lesson. You really shouldn’t pretend we don’t know what happens in the world around us. We can, and will, see right through it. Thankfully, editors and agents and the like do a great job filtering these people and their books out. And for that, I can’t thank them enough. But every once in a while a book gets through that, and it stinks.

Teenagers HATE being looked down upon. As a reviewer, if I read a book with a terrible teen voice, I struggle to finish. If I wasn’t going to review it, I would quit reading. Teens love books that they connect with. We love that unbelievable moment when you find the perfect book for you, and all of a sudden you feel less hormonal and realize that you aren’t alone. Some magical adult out there actually gets it! If you get the chance to meet that author, we might babble something like :

“OMG I’M A HUGE FAN AND I JUST…. WHEN SHE— AND THEN HE….. AND THEY… GAHHHH JNCSKFLJW”

And then we’ll probably start crying. Because we are teenagers after all, and our emotions are hard to verbalize.

There is so much good that comes from books. YA can help teens get throught really, really rough times in their lives. Condescention in YA just makes teens not want to read. Seriously. Even I, loving books as much as I do, get a bit fed up with reading YA after reading one of those books.

My point is, if you have questions about if your YA is true to life, there are ways around it. I suggest Teens Can Write, Too! even if you aren’t a teen. My friend Mark also posted about this from a teen writer’s standpoint. My friend John has a great feature on his blog where you can send him a page of your MS to check for realism in teen voice. (if you’d prefer a female perspective, feel free to email me) By all means, talk to some teens! Work out something with your local library’s teen program to chat there once a week, if you have to.  A great friend of the teen writing community on Twitter, Leigh Ann Kopans, is  one of the few adults I feel really understands. She and a couple others have organized the #YAWritersAAT chat on Twitter every Sunday at 9PM. It’s where YA Writers can Ask A Teen about high school, friends, and pretty much every other teen issue. I’m there every week, and there are plenty of other teens to give you various opinions. The writers and adults from the chat are really, really great. And honestly, most YA authors are fabulous and really get teens. We appreciate that.

Overall: Teenagers are not another species. Get to know them, understand them, love them, and you can write YA. If you think you need to dumb it down, meet some teens. Or write adult fiction. Love your genre before you write it. Love the people you write for.

We might be a bit hormonal, but we definitely aren’t dumb.

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