My 2017 Reading List

I was inspired to make a post about what I read in 2017 after reading Marissa Meyer’s 2017 Reading List. I must say that 2017 was the best reading year I’ve had in a while, which is to say that according to Goodreads I by far surpassed my yearly reading total for the entire time I’ve been keeping track.

I’m excited to keep the trend going in 2018, and I’ll be posting my 2018 reading goals pretty soon. For now I’ll be sharing my 2017 reading stats broken down into category and genre, along with my favorite book I read in that genre this year. For the full list of what I read and what I’m currently reading, check out my Goodreads.

STATISTICS

Total Books Read: 47

The breakdown:

Young Adult: 20

Fantasy / Urban Fantasy: 13

By far my favorite YA books this year was the SOMETHING STRANGE & DEADLY series by Susan Dennard. I read this trilogy back in September and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Contemporary: 7

Three of these seven books were me rereading the ALL FOR THE GAME trilogy by Nora Sakavic, so out of the four I read for the first time in 2017 I’m going to have to go with ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN by Jenny Han.

Middle Grade: 6

Five of these six was the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series by Rick Riordan, and the other was THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING by Alexandra Bracken. I’m equally obsessed with both and am looking forward to continuing reading both authors in 2018.

Nonfiction: 5

Writing Craft: 3

I’m going to go with SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder as it was the most technically helpful of the three, though I enjoyed the storytelling and humor of all three.

Sports History: 1

The lone book in this category is THE MONTREAL CANADIENS by J. Alexander Poulton.

Crime/Science: 1

Another lonely category, this time consisting of THE SCIENCE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by E.J. Wagner.

Graphic Novels: 4

Another tie as this consists of two series I’m equally obsessed with. I read the first three volumes of LUMBERJANES and Vol. 1 of THE BACKSTAGERS.

Science Fiction: 3

I’m beginning to see a pattern. Once again there’s only two series in this category. I read the first two HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY books by Douglas Adams and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey.

Fantasy / Urban Fantasy: 3

This one is a tight race, but I’m going to go with a book I’ve wanted to read for years and finally got around to, which is GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Short Story Collections: 2

Since one of these was a reread of the all the Sherlock Holmes stories, I’ll stick with BECAUSE YOU LOVE TO HATE ME edited by Ameriie.

Fiction (mystery): 1

ARROWOOD by Mick Finlay.

Fiction (classic): 1

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

Poetry/Novels in Verse: 1

THINGS LEFT UNSAID by Stephanie Hemphill

Other: 1

CAT’S LETTERS TO SANTA by Bill Adler and Illustrated by Paul Bacon.

 

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Productivity vs. Productive Procrastination

This past week I had some pretty lofty writing goals. I accomplished about half of it. The week isn’t over yet (at the time of writing this it’s 6:30 on Sunday evening), but I won’t be finishing that goal.

I wanted to finish writing the new scenes I’d outlined for one of my POV characters. Next week I’m planning on writing the scenes for the other POV character. As it stands, I still have three and half chapters to write for POV 1. That’s about 7,500 words to try and write tonight, and I know it’s possible but unlikely.

Which brings me to this week’s blog topic; being productive versus procrastinating productively. I was off work Tuesday and Wednesday, still I spent a large chuck of Wednesday reworking character profiles and how I had them all formatted in Scrivener. It was something that only vaguely had to be done (which is another’s days topic, as I probably should utilize them more).

I was being “productive” by doing something so far down on the list of necessary tasks that even after completing it I’m no closer to achieving my writing goals for this week, or month, or any of the things I’d hoped to already have done this far into 2017.

There’s no use worrying about what I did four days ago, and in some regards even worrying about tonight. I’m going to attempt to write like crazy before I have to turn in tonight, but the real changes that need to be worried about are more far-reaching than this week. So, I’m making a promise/game plan right now for how the rest of 2017 is going to work.

Will I stick to the game plan? I really hope so, because I’ve got long-time goals for myself that will never come to fruition without a little more self-discipline and sacrifice. Sacrifice of time, sacrifice of some hobbies and TV programs. But it’ll be worth it, and they won’t be going away anyway.

What I need is a schedule, one that allows for the most productivity, and the least room for excuses and “productive procrastination. Because yes, I do need to clean my room, and fold laundry, and read some more books, and FINALLY finish crocheting the blanket I started for my mom. But those things can have designated timeslots, and so should writing.

And that’s what I task anyone else dealing with the same productivity issues as I am to focus on. Make a realistic schedule you know you can keep, have designated times that you won’t feel guilty about doing chores, or hobbies, or any number of other things that are important to you. Balance is important in any aspect of life, and for me, it’s an aspect I’m nowhere near coming close to, but one I’m going to continue striving toward.

Fall Quarterly Goals

October is well underway (as in almost over), so I am definitely behind in making my quarterly goals for Fall. Better late than never, though. I’m keeping it simple for the coming months, with only two goals, though in some regards, both are pretty lofty.

  1. Finish revising my current WIP

I’ve been working on my current manuscript since I wrote draft one way back during Camp NanoWrimo April 2016. Over a year later I’m still self-revising. It feels never ending at times, I make a revision plan, then get halfway or even complete the revision, and I’ve already got a list of major plot changes I want to make.

It’s time to really and truly get my ish together. I’ve got a current revision plan, and I’m getting more in depth with not only my two POV characters, but also the main three ensemble characters involved in the story, and I’m going to get as in depth with any plans for a potential sequel, as I’m realizing one of the major issues with book one is an unclear idea of how it needs to end to propel the rest of the plot arc and character journeys. By the end of December (though hopefully much, much sooner) I will be ready for searching out a critique partner and making progress on the story.

  1. Read 10 Books

I’m actually hoping for more, but I’m only six shy of completing my Goodreads goal, and I currently have 44 books on my bookshelf that remain unread, so I’m aiming realistically, and hoping to make a real dent in that number before going into the new year. But with my main focus being writing, and other life things that inevitably get in the way, it’s a bit up in the air if I’ll hit more than ten. But that’s what makes it a goal, and I’ll be aiming high on this one.

All in all, I’ve got high hopes for the Fall quarter, in regards to goal one, it’s a last-ditch effort to go all in and finally get a draft that doesn’t feel like it still needs major overarching changes. On goal two, there’s the obvious that if I don’t read the books now, I’ll fail my Goodreads goal, and limit myself in the coming year. I’d really like to not be feeling the same constant shame of so many unread books on my shelf, just staring down at me all the time.

Post Grad Struggles

I always thought graduating college was going to be the beginning of my adult life. Technically it has been, but since graduating back in December, I feel like my life has actually taken a standstill.

I haven’t gotten a job yet, I don’t have my own car (I still share one with my sister, and it doesn’t even have a working speedometer so I drive it as infrequently as I can manage), and I’ve moved back in with my parents.

None of this is the ideal post college life, but it isn’t an uncommon situation either. I still have an apartment back in the town I went to school, but it’s a true college town and wouldn’t have done me any good to stay there looking for work. So while that lease is running out I’ve been back in Texas living at home. It’s crowded and I feel like I’m back in high school, or spending my summer break at home, not like a college graduate.

I’ll admit I’ve only applied to roughly 20 jobs since graduating, so I can’t really complain about how long it’s taking, or that I haven’t even gotten an interview anywhere. I’m not putting my all into it, and the current state I’m in reflects that. I’ve considered just applying to a graduate program or figuring something else out, but all of this lackluster energy stems from the fact that even with a degree under my belt I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life.

I want to ultimately be an author, but I know that won’t pay the bills anytime soon or in large enough amounts to be what I live on. Starting last week I have been making a little money, though it involves working at my mom’s preschool, which is what I did during summers in college and isn’t a long-term option.

Overall, I’m beginning to worry that my friends will be graduating in May and getting jobs before I do, and it doesn’t help that I have a friend with the same major who also graduated with me in December and had a job lined up and has been working since January.

I have to remind myself, and others should remind themselves, too, that everyone operates at a different pace. Am I happy with my pace? No. Are my parents happy with it? Absolutely not. I have to navigate my mom’s frustrations with me and my dad’s complaining about three of his children still living at home when one is 27 and the other two are 21 with college degrees.

But I also understand the importance of not making a mistake with my life, of not pushing myself into a miserable career because I applied to every random job that popped up. My major was Strategic Communications, I have seen a lot of jobs and heard a lot of horror stories to know I don’t want to stumble into a “communications” job that is actually sales or telemarketing, I’d be miserable.

Another post grad limitation? The indecisiveness on whether to relocate or not. I’m terrified of living on my own nowhere near family or friends. That same fear affected by college decisions and it’s affecting my post college decisions, too. But even in a place like Dallas it’s limited on job opportunities, so I go back and forth on whether or not to apply to jobs in other states.

I just wanted to write this all out this week, not because it really makes a difference, but because writing it down helps eliminate some of the stress, and even though nothing I’ve written will help someone else deal with post grad struggles, hopefully it’ll help to know it’s not just one person’s experience.

Writing Resources

I love reading writing advice and processes from all sorts of sources, so this week I’m sharing those that I regularly return to. This mostly consists of Youtube channels and blogs, with a few more general writing resources.

There’s a lot of helpful writing resources out there, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just blogs I personally follow and refer to frequently.

Youtubers

Alice Oseman

Ava Jae

CoffeeReadingWriting

Gingerreadlainey

Jenna Moreci

Kim Chance

Kristen Martin

Vivien Reis

Marissa Meyer 

Blogs

Susan Dennard

Julie C. Dao

Pub(listing) Crawl

Writer’s Digest

Like I said, this is in no way an exhaustive list. It doesn’t include every writer I follow on Youtube or blogs, only those who regularly post advice and their writing process. I hope these resources are as helpful to any other writers as they are to me!

 

Revising Using the Three-Act Structure

unnamed-2            This past week I’ve gone back into the 4th draft of my manuscript and, using the notecard outline from that draft, plotted it onto the three-act structure.

I did this because I knew the plot was lacking, and going back to the basics of planning a novel was the only way I could see to figure out what still needed fixing. What I learned? My story was stopping before certain major plot points happened. Namely, I was essentially finishing the story at what would only be the end of Act Two.

Last week I mentioned how short I thought the word count for draft four was, and considering it was missing an entire act that makes much more sense now. It also explains why after draft three I realized I’d never written a climax scene into my novel and had to go back and build up to that in draft 4.

I’ve been writing the new scenes I mapped out suing the three-act structure, and I have a few tips that go along with this.

1)    It’s never too late to replot.

Whether you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser during the planning stage, no novel will be at its best until revisions include outlining. More than that, you’ll outline before, during, and after every single round you do. That’s just the way it is. Sound stressful? It can be, unless you consider that replotting gives you permission to never really stick to that plot. In the six scenes I’ve been writing this week, I’ve already deviated during the drafting.

The 2,000 words I wrote today I know involve a voice unlike what I’ve already used for that POV character in the chapters that I’ve already revised. Oh, well. I kind of like this new voice, at least elements of it. And I Know more revisions have to take place in the rest of the novel, as I’m far from done. So, better to realize where the plot holes are and replot than let it turn to trash.

2)    Don’t worry about the length of each act.

If you were using the three-act structure before the first draft, then I’d say make a word-count goal for each scene or chapter. But in the case of a manuscript already mostly drafted, just let it happen. In my first two acts, I have multiple chapters/scenes that belong to the same plot point. I also have scenes that I wrote because I like them in the story. These scenes build character, world build, or move along the plot in some way not directly explained by the plot points in the three-act structure.

On the opposite hand, the scenes I’ve plotted now that I realized they were missing? One scene per plot point, and often less than 2,000 words (I’m aiming for between 2000-3000 words per chapter). I think for the second half of the second and the third act this is okay because the action should be speeding up anyway.

3)    Understand that you will have to make major changes

If you feel the need to plot your already revised manuscript (or not revised if this is between the first and second drafts) then odds are you’re already aware it’s missing something. This means when you’re done plotting it out, you’re going to have to write scenes from scratch all over again, which for me is proving the hardest part.

After almost a year on this project, (and a failed Nano project in November) it’s been a while since I’ve gotten into writing from scratch. I’ve been revising several drafts and can get pretty creative doing that. But staring at a blank page? It’s like I’ve forgotten how to write altogether. I’ve been combatting this with writing sprints on MyWriteClub.

If you, like me, wish you could just be done with revisions and letting someone else read it, take a deep breath and remember why it matters to you that this story be amazing. It’s tempting to send your MS off to a critique partner, beta reader or even start querying, in the hope your revisions will become easier and clearer with someone else’s feedback.

But like I said, if you’re reading this post or you’ve already been thinking about replotting your project in any capacity, then you know something’s missing. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by sending something off that you already know isn’t complete. Sit down, breath, and make the changes. It’ll be worth it when the next time you look at it you can see how much better that draft is.

            This is technically the fourth tip, but important enough that I want to wrap up with it rather than include it in that chunky text above.

Don’t get discouraged. I’m facing this issue myself, where all the revisions and feeling of incompleteness that surrounds my MS makes me just want to move on to the next project. It’s extra tempting because starting March 1st I’ll be beginning to research and outline a different book for camp nanowrimo in April. But even if this MS never sees the light of day, going through every step of revisions until I’m absolutely positive it’s the best it will ever be, is a learning experience I can’t pass up.

When you’re looking at your MS and only seeing it’s problems, consider the passion and idea that originally sparked you to write that first draft. Don’t give up on the experience that seeing this project through will give you, even if when you finally reach that summit you just put the project in a drawer and move on.

Revising by Hand

unnamedFor the last several weeks I’ve been revising the fourth draft of my manuscript by hand. It’s a method I’m familiar with in theory, but one I’ve never done this extensively.

After obsessively reading through author blogs and advice I realized I needed to try something new. I’d already done roughly two and a half rounds of revision and still felt I wasn’t diving deep enough.

So, I read through Susan Dennard’s revision process and decided to print out the entire manuscript for the second time (the first being the rough draft). A few things came from this, 1) I was reminded how immensely proud I am of myself for writing that many words, even if they’re bad ones. And 2) my usual routine of becoming distracted by the internet was taken out of play.

I worked by hand with my laptop far away and my phone on do not disturb. Then in the last week I typed in all those changes. My third draft word count was close to 75,000 and by the end of deleting, adding and more deleting, the finished fourth draft came out to barely 66,000. That’s a lot shorter than what I want it to be, but those are 66k words that (hopefully) all add something to the story.

It was easier to cut the fluff and realize what wasn’t working when I couldn’t see the word count shrinking. Doing it by hand made it a million times easier to cut through those words without trying to maintain a specific word count. With this in mind, I hid the word count feature as I typed in the changes.

Now I’ve got the first 12 chapters in someone else’s hands for the first time. I only handed off the first 12 instead of all 38 because of another Susan Dennard tip. Why give someone more of the same problems? When I have feedback from the first 12, I’ll use it to adjust the next 13, and so on, before getting feedback on it. This’ll make sure each part is tighter than the last, ideally forcing the person reading it to go deeper.

I’ll be spending the time now that it’s out of my hands focused on doing some general brainstorming and outlining for what I want to happen in the rest of the series. I won’t be writing any sequels for a long time, (more writerly advice, this time an overlap from both Susan Dennard and Ava Jae). But when I make the next round of revisions, I want to be working not just with feedback from my reader but also a better understanding of the story’s long term goals.

Overall, I’m glad I revised by hand, and I feel so much more connected to my story, especially since over the last few drafts it’s drastically changed from what I initially planned and wrote almost a year ago. I suggest, whether it’s the first or thousandth round of revisions, that you try hand revising at least once for your manuscript. You’d be surprised the things you notice.

For comparison, here’s the visual of tracked changes after I typed in all the revisions I’d marked by hand. It’s a lot of red, and to be honest, it’s pretty fun to see.

screen-shot-reaper-edits