Friday, June 25, 2010

Post from the past - Top 5 Influences

I wrote this blog update the other day when I didn't have internet.

My top 5 influences (in no particular order):

Harry Potter

Harry and I have been pals since third grade—before movie producers or toy tycoons found him (nothing against them of course, just saying). Literary snobs may turn their noses at someone as well known, successful, and commercialized as Rowling, but I have to applaud her story. Why? Because it’s just that: story. Pure, 100%, unfiltered, story. I grew up with Hogwarts’s students so it holds nostalgic value like those who discovered elves and orcs for the first time in Tolkien’s world. Harry Potter wasn’t where I first found a love for fantasy, or reading even, but the story and characters tugged me in a way no other tale had done before. And Harry tugged hard.

Lord of the Rings

The literary snob in me prides itself by saying I read the books before I even knew there would be movies made. And I adore the movies. But I remember a friend telling me about the cool battle scenes between dwarves and dragons. I had to read it. I devoured the Hobbit, entranced by the fantasy setting, and a little disappointed by the brevity of the battle of five armies. The Lord of the Rings fed me plenty of nice war scenes. Tolkien wove his magic on me, even though I had already been immersed in the fantasy genre he so heavily influenced (unbenownced to me during my junior high exploration of his world). That ability, I think, is what makes a classic a classic.

Mistborn

Brandon Sanderson is my contemporary idol. I was Wheel of Time fan, and told a friend how awful it would be if Mr. Jordan passed away before he finished the series. Tragedy struck, and just that happened. The same friend informed me that Sanderson, who lives in Utah, would be finishing the series. He referred me to Mistborn, which he said “blew my mind”. I read it, and it blew my mind too. Sanderson’s has talent for destroying clich├ęs and his endings are downright explosive. While reading the trilogy, it was actually the behind-the-scenes annotations on his website that inspired me to start writing. It’s a mixture of that inspiration and how the three books are so seamlessly woven together to create the perfect ending that makes me love Mistborn so much.

Miyazaki / Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle by the fantasy guru, Diana Wynne Jones, is fantastic. But I must confess, I saw the movie first, and that’s influenced me more than the novel. Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese equivalent of Disney, is a master storyteller. His films have a charm, genius, and magic you find more often in a memorable novel than a Hollywood blockbuster. They’ll whisk you away. If you’re not an anime fan, don’t worry. It’s not what you’d think. His story-telling is so powerful you’ll forget you’re watching an animated, Japanese movie. I’ve got a list of once-skeptical friends who will vouch for that. The book’s great too, by the way.

Stardust / The Graveyard Book / Neverwhere

Okay, okay, I saw Stardust, the movie first too. I’m a terrible literary snob. I loved the movie. I love movies in general. More specifically, I love a good story. I don’t think books are so superior that movies are worthless (again, terrible snob)—I just love books differently. Anyways, Mr. Gaimon knows how to write a good story. He’s got his own trademark charm/genius/magic. Stardust the book deserved a good film. The story was pure magic. To those turned off by the Tolkien/Harry Potter stereotypes of fantasy—I say, try Gaimon’s stuff. Try Neverwhere first. You’ll be surprised.

James update

My short story is ahead of schedule. The first draft should be finished today. That gives me a handful of days to mull over and revise. I'm forgoing my 1000 word/day rule until July 1st because I'll be spending all that time editing and rewriting. I think it's turning out better than I though. The ending for sure is better than planned.

Progress:
James James James and the Ice-tree Charcoal - 4,845 words (it's shorter than I planned, but it works better shorter--it should end up around 5.5k, I think).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tight words and an ending

James James James & the Ice-tree Charcoal is coming along nicely. A rough skeleton of the ending is forming in my mind, but it's faint still. The plan is to discovery write as much as I can in the next few days. Then with the last three or four days of June I can rewrite a few times to get everything right.

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is fantastic. Reading just the introduction inspired me to write tighter. It will take time.

Progress:
James James James short story 1,744 words and a hint of an ending in my head

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Long Title

I'm taking a short vacation from Impowria (working title for my novel - I don't like the name, I need a new one). Not because I'm stuck - quite the opposite. It's rolling quite nicely. I'm switching gears becaaaause, the Writers of the Future short story contest (http://www.writersofthefuture.com/) starts July 1st.

In other words, I need to write a short story in nine days. I've never written a short story before, but I wrote a prologue for another novel (my first novel, actually - I only made it three chapters in) that I think works as a good premise. As of right now, I have no idea what the plot will be. That didn't stop me from writing the first 690 words. I figure I'll find the ending as I write. I've got a feeling I'll find a good one. So anyways, I'm going to post it here on this blog as I write it. It's raw and unedited, but it's here (link of the left-hand side).

I thought of the title today (this one I do like, quite a bit actually): James James James & the Ice-tree Charcoal. It's a little longish but I'm hoping the catchiness and what-the-heck-kind-of-title-is-that?!-ness make up for that. I like the contrast between 'ice' and 'charcoal' and I think it suggests it's a fantasy book without a boring, generic name like 'The Dragon Quest' or 'The Sword of Flames'. To explain, James James James is the protagonist. He comes from a long line of James James James's. Anyways, just read it and it will make more sense.

(I realized that I used a lot of ()'s in this post)
(another note: I bought Elements of Style today. I've never been excited to read a grammar book before. Weird feeling.)

Progress:
Impowria 21,848 words (goal: 75k)
James James James and the Ice-tree Charcoal 690 words (goal: 7k)

Weeklyish and Dailyish Reminders

Two tools that have been great for inspiration, motivation, and instruction are:
1) Writing Excuses, a podcast by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler.
Excellent, excellent podcast. Their tagline is "fifteen minutes, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart." It's quick, and they offer very practical advice. It doesn't hurt that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors. I just finished Dan Well's 'I Am NOT a Serial Killer' which was a gripping read. Here's the website: http://www.writingexcuses.com, or you can just snag the podcast through iTunes.
2) Daily Kick in the Pants, a daily(ish) email on writing by David Farland (who writes Sci-Fi as David Wolverton). He's a best selling author, and even better, a passionate teacher. He's the type of successful author that finds satisfaction in helping others get to his level. You'll need to register for his website to get the emails: http://www.runelords.com/about. You can read past emails here: http://www.modernmythtools.com/showcase/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=25&Itemid=27

Word progress: 21,525 words. (Random note: when I finish writing for the day I like to change the font from the normal serif font like Times New Roman to Courier. It ups your page count by 20%. 107 pages makes me feel a lot better than a mere 83).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Teeth and Gold (But not gold teeth...)

This post is actually a report for the 17th. I'm just a night owl, that's all. I've been fighting for my 1000 words each day. Sometimes each word is like pulling out a tooth. Sometimes it's like liquid gold is dropping from my fingers into the keyboard. I don't know why it works that way, but it is. That makes it hard to budget time for writing because I never know easy those 1000 words will come.

Progress: 20,454 words

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Firsts

This morning I've been madly writing a synopsis for my untitled YA fantasy novel. It's my first synopsis for my first novel for my first contest. The deadline for the League of Utah Writer's Diamond in the Rough contest is today. Thus, the written-in-one-hour-for-the-first-time synopsis. My mom helped with the formatting. Considering the circumstances, I think I did a good job with it. If you're curious what I'm writing about, I've posted it under pages.

Now I'm off to revise the first three chapters, drop it off at the post office, then take a well-deserved nap.

[late night edit: mission completed. Book progress: 18,599 words.]

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stories and Goals

I'm reading On Writing by Stephen King. I'll admit it. This is the first Stephen King book I've ever read. One thing that stuck out was his challenge to write at least 1,000 words a day. That's what I'm going to do. A typical novel is about 70-150,000 words, and I'm about 17,000 words in on mine. I'm shooting for a smaller novel, so that means I'm about two months away. I think the first novel is the biggest hurdle. It will be like finishing a marathon for the first time. When I finish it, I'll be able to say "Hey, I can really do this. I've already written a novel. No big deal."