Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Above Average, baby!

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. 

What about you?

[This post is actually a tag I received on FaceBook.  If you'd like to play along and share your own list, you'll find full instructions here:

My FaceBook Note  (<-- I have this set for "everyone" to view, but if you aren't yet my Facebook friend, I'd love to connect over there.  Just send me a request and I'll happily add you!)

Here's the BBC's list.  All titles in boldface are ones I HAVE READ, and all titles in italics are ones I HAVE READ PART OF BUT NEVER FINISHED or READ AN EXCERPT:

1.  Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
 2.  The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
 3.  Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
 4.  Harry Potter series - JK Rowling   
 5.  To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
 6.  The Bible  
 7.  Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
 8.  Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
 9.  His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare 
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
 30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma -Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville 
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Inferno - Dante 
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguri
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

So I've read 36 out of the 100 books, and read some of 4 more.  Chew on that, BBC! LOL.

I'm packing today for our flight tonight to The Big Apple.  Thanksgiving in NYC, baby!  I hope those of  you who celebrate it have a blessed holiday and that everyone has a fantastic week!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Consequences Tend to Snowball

I've learned a lot the past two weeks.  Holding on to ideas that I once thought were brilliant can be counter-productive.   But in facing the fact that they weren't working in the project, I had to embrace all the consequences that come with story-altering decisions -- and consequences tend to snowball.

First, there was the extensive outline I'd prepared for my WiP "Overcome."  Some of you may remember the posts I wrote about the SnowFlake Method of outlining.  (Way down on the right sidebar are the labels, if you're interested in reading past posts.)  I still think it's a wonderful way to flesh out your characters and plot, but I now see the flip-side:  If you decide a major change is necessary, such as changing an important character (her personality, her inner conflicts, and her occupation), then the plot must also change to accompany the new character arc.  In my case, 80% of my outline is now in the "cut" folder.

Thankfully, Shannon Whitney Messenger was inspired (there are no coincidences...) to write a blog post yesterday about her outlining process, which was for me the answer I was seeking.  Her approach is just detailed enough to guide her, while allowing the creative magic to flow.  It's the perfect blend of plotting and pantsing.  If you missed it, here's the link:  Outlining: Shannon Style

As I reworked my skeletal outline and wove what I have already written about the antagonist with what I was learning about the new protagonist, I noticed a theme emerging that had me and my muse holding hands and jumping up and down.  How exciting!  And in the days that followed, I realized the working title "Overcome" was no longer the right name for the story.

I have a new working title for the novel.  And during a writing break last night, I played around with it and mocked up a (silly) book cover.  Just for fun.  Here it is:

And here is the new protagonist of "Safe in Captivity":

Samantha Stiles is a high energy, athletic and ambitious woman who is passionate about her work with large cats at a prestigious zoo.  Exotic animals are easier to "save" than people, in her opinion, though her instincts push her to try.  She has her sights set on a permanent Curator position...

Enter Adriane Conrad, the thorn in Sam's side:

Adriane is the daughter of the zoo's Board of Directors President and heiress to his shipping and transportation fortune.  She's used to the jet-set lifestyle and operates under the assumption that she's entitled to whatever life has to offer.  Daddy doesn't think so.  He thinks she needs a job...

I haven't decided what "Safe in Captivity" antagonist, Ray Manners looks like.  He's a tough one.  I see him clearly on the inside, but his appearance continues to evade me.  I can't even decide on his age.  The search is on, though.  When I have met him face-to-face, I'll introduce you to him :))

And one more thing I've learned this week; well, been reminded of, at least.  In an exchange with Wendy Ramer she reiterated something I've lost sight of lately:  Writing is fun.  Sure, putting together a logical, exciting, conflicted and resolvable plot is hard and even mind-boggling at times.  But it's fun.  Right?  Yes.

Hope you're enjoying it too!  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kill Your Darlings

William Faulkner's famous quote, "In writing, you must kill your darlings," is widely interpreted to mean an author has to be willing to cut out the brilliant, wise or lushly descriptive passages that aren't working for the paragraph (or manuscript) in which they appear.  But last week, this interpretation broadened for me.

Anyone who remembers visiting my blog during Jen Daiker's Guess That Character Blogfest may remember the girl in the above photo. It's Julie Knotts, the original main character and protagonist of my current WiP.  One of my darlings.

I had to let her go.  She just wasn't coming to life.  As a character-driven author, I've been increasingly frustrated by the disconnect between Julie's character arc and the plot.  I couldn't bridge the two together.  And after months and months of failed re-starts, I've come to the conclusion that Julie is the problem.

Since I fired her, I've been brainstorming replacement characters.  I think I've found one.  Her name is Samantha Stiles.  She's vibrant, strong, beautiful, successful, and INTERESTING.  I like her.

Of course, the entire plot is changing  to accommodate this new cast member.  But there's new energy in my writing with the project metamorphosis.  It almost feels like a new book, which is a good thing.  When too much time goes by between when the story idea comes to you and when you finish the draft, you risk losing precious energy-driven momentum.  The story becomes lackluster.  Getting back that energy is difficult and sometimes impossible.

When I get to know Samantha a little better, I'll post a picture of her.  Until then, happy writing and best of luck to you and all your darlings!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Awesome NEWS!!


Have you heard??  Jessica Bell at The Alliterative Allomorph has landed a publishing contract!  Lucky Press LLC is publishing her debut novel, whose working title is Dead in the Corner of my Bedroom.  Way to go, Jess!!!

Click here to congratulate her! --> JESSICA

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Celebrate With Jessica Bell!

Okay, I know I said yesterday my blog posts would be more scarce in November, and here I am posting outside my regular MWF schedule on a Thursday...

(Crazy, right-brained creative -- see why it's so hard for me to focus on schedules??)

This isn't actually a blog post, you see.  It's more of an announcement.

Jessica Bell at The Alliterative Allomorph is nearing the 400 followers milestone, and she wants to celebrate with you!  Just click HERE to visit her blog and see why it's one of the best in all of Blogland.

To enter for a chance to win one of several Amazon gift cards, be a follower and comment on her contest post.  (Commenting here won't enter you in the contest...but I'd love to hear from you :D)  That's it!  Easy-peesy.  And the best part is everyone is a winner, 'cause Jessica's blog is one you'll want to read every day!

Okay, we now return to the regularly scheduled mini-blog hiatus.  And I'm off to close the door and write.

See you on the flip-side!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All Aboard! (*cue maniacal laughter and intro music*)

November is here, and even though I'm not a ticketed passenger aboard the NaNo Crazy Train, I am inspired to set challenging goals for myself.  I have Stephen King to thank, as absurd as that sounds.  His book On Writing has lit a bonfire under my writer's ass.  (Seriously, if you haven't read that book, you're missing out.  Here's the Amazon link: To The Best Writing Book on the Craft...EVAH.)

King isn't the only successful writer to advocate a daily writing schedule, and I adopted the practice over a year ago.  My problem has been considering blog post writing part of that goal.  Some days, if I'm being completely honest, the only writing I accomplish is on my blog.  That will change this month.

Starting this past Monday, I no longer consider writing on my blog part of my daily writing practice.  Per Mr. King's advice, I pledge to write between 1000 and 2000 words a day OF MY MANUSCRIPT.  In On Writing, King talks about two catagories of daily writing: "With the Door Closed" and "With the Door Open."

In November, I'll be writing with the door closed.

What he refers to by "writing with the door closed" is how (he suggests) a writer should pen the first draft.  The door to your writing space is closed; the phone is unplugged/off; the Internet is closed -- no Blogger/Twitter/FaceBook/email/Writing.com.  No matter what, you sit down to write and you don't stop before you've met your word count goal.

Now, some may not agree with this method.  We all work differently, and there's no right or wrong way to approach your craft.  But my goal for the month of November is to re-establish productive daily writing habits, and I'm riding my tidal wave of On Writing inspiration.  So far, I've had success.  On Monday I wrote 1467 words, and yesterday I wrote 2150.  Today, I'm shooting for 2000.

Incidentally, "writing with the door open" refers to the revision/edit phase of a MS when, according to Stephen King, it's time to show some of your work to a small group of beta readers.  I part company with King's philosophy on this point.  (He's probably right, mind you.  But I have my reasons...)  I plan to continue sharing my rough, first draft work with Jessica, my awesome critique partner.  At least for this, my first novel, I appreciate the feedback she gives me and the "deadlines" we stick to in exchanging our work.  That, too, is keeping me on track.

I still plan to write occasional blog posts, but I won't be sticking to my regular MWF schedule.  I probably won't be able to comment on your posts as often, either.  I think November is the best month to relax the blog schedule, since so many of you purchased your NaNo tickets this year.  I think we'll all be ready to meet back here in December, right?

So, happy writing to all of you.  Best of luck meeting your daily work count goals, and remember to schedule in and enjoy your downtime with family and friends.  Drink water throughout the day, especially if you're like me and slug down more than your daily recommended dose of caffeinated coffee.  And write, write, write!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Show Your Space Blogfest!

Summer at ...and this time, concentrate! had a fantastic idea for a blogfest.  Today, we're showing each other our workspaces!  Fun, right?

Here's my workspace!

I'm always adding to the design wall -- any picture, magazine photo, or sketch that inspires me goes up.  I subscribe to Elle Decor magazine, which is an excellent source for setting details.  Pictures of house interiors, European architecture and restaurants, tropical homes and landscapes go on the wall, as well as close-up shots of chairs, tables, doors, floorings, stucco or tiled walls, and pictures of exotic or couture fabrics.  So much inspiration!

Also on my wall right now are maps to help me with the logistics of my current WiP:  road maps of the southern United States, a map of downtown Washington D.C., and one of its Metro system.  There are also pictures of celebrities that remind me, especially in the way they are dressed, of the characters in my story.

Other incidentals: my workspace is located in the upstairs "bonus room" of our house, where I can close the door and shut out the rest of the household (LOL).  I use the student version of Microsoft Word 2007, and all my reference books (dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedias, style guides) are all online.

Okay, I showed you mine, now you show me yours!  And whether you're playing along or not, visit the next stop on the blogfest list:  Sarah Ahiers at Falen Formulates Fiction.  And for the whole list of participating bloggers, go here -->  CLICK ME