July 30, 2010

What Is Your Editing Blind Spot?

Ughhhhh...

I'm bruised and broken. The revisions for my MG science fiction novel are kicking my trash. Hard.

"But I thought you loved editing!" my husband chirped to me a few days ago after I collapsed on the sofa, twitching.

"I do, but these edits are hard," I groaned back to him. "So hard!"

So yeah. This situation is kind of ironic. Usually, I look forward to the revision process and I simply love slashing through my manuscript with a bright red pen. But these revisions make me want to pull out my hair and chew off my fingernails. They make me want to chug a gallon of rocky road ice cream. And vomit. A little bit.

But why? Why are these edits kicking my trash when I used to love it so much before?

It took me awhile but I figured out why. Aha!

This is what I realized... When I self-edit my manuscript, I like to focus on certain things: smoothing out paragraphs, tightening sentences, and enrichening the setting. I tend to whittle away at the small stuff rather than pick apart the big picture things like character arcs and motivation.

Big Picture Stuff = My Editorial Blind Spot

And this is why I'm pulling my hair out! This current round of revisions makes me do all of the big picture stuff! Beefing up arcs! Infusing more motivations! Eeeeek! I'm so out of my element!

Still...it's a good growing experience--and I know my book will be much better because of it. But why, why is it so HARD?

(Sorry about the whiny voice!)

So what about you? What is your editing blind spot?

July 28, 2010

Back from the Dark Ages!

Oh, beloved internet! Finally, you have returned to my warm embrace!

On Sunday afternoon, my neighborhood was hit by a gigantic thunderstorm of epic proportions. Winds that blustered at 75MPH! A maelstrom of rain! Aieeee!

I usually love watching thunderstorms on my parent's front porch, but this one made me screech like a little girl and run inside lest the winds scoop me up and take me to Oz.

When the storm finally passed, our power was down and all internet access was lost. The entire county was hit pretty badly too. Over 150,000 homes lost electricity--and the power company says that some homes won't get power until tomorrow! Those poor people who must live without internet!

Fortunately, the internet came back on late last night and I've been catching up on my beloved blogs and writerly forums.

And yet... There was a little part of me that was sad when the internet came back. There's something nice about not being plugged into the World Wide Web for a few days. There's something nice about reading the paper in the morning instead of making a mad dash to check my email. There's something nice about talking to my family face-to-face instead of getting buried behind our computer screens.

I suppose the trick is to balance our time with the internet. Which is something I still need to figure out how to do!

July 22, 2010

The Lowest Point of My Move

In the midst of my crazed packing and cleaning, I threw out 98% of the contents in my fridge.

Out with you ketchup!
Out with you tomato sauce!
Out with you three-month-old chocolate pudding!

Hmm, on second thought, the pudding can stay...

Oh, it felt so nice to clean out my refrigerator! And yet, my frantic cleansing left me in a bit of a quandary.

A couple days before our big move, my stomach started to growl and I realized I hadn't eaten anything in hours. I wanted to drive over to Taco Bell or Wendy's or another artery-clogging institution, but my husband had the car and he wouldn't come home for awhile. Dejected, I rummaged through the near-empty fridge and scoured for something to eat. Dijon mustard? Ew. Raw garlic cloves? Ew. Bottle of curry paste? Has potential, but no thanks. (Yes, I was that hungry!)

And then I reached the lowest point of my move.

With a growling tummy, I grabbed the jar of cherry preserves and plopped myself down on the couch. Then, I proceeded to eat the jam with a spoon. Pathetic! Pitiful! And...so yummy.

Haha.

Fortunately, Justin and I have (mostly) settled into our new digs in Maryland and I no longer have to subsist on fruit preserves. I can eat real food now! Unfortunately, this also means that I have to delve back into editing full-time. Ugh. Sometimes I get into the groove and edit for hours while other times I have to force myself to do it. This is one of those times when I'm procrastinating my revisions like crazy...

July 15, 2010

What Makes You Put a Book Down?

Whew! All of the plates and cups have been swaddled in bubble wrap and tucked into their boxes. Next up: finding a place to put my crock pot!

In between my hours of packing, I perused the blogosphere this afternoon and happened upon a blog post about what makes you put a book down. In this particular post, the writer talked about gratuitous sex scenes and how they make her eyes roll and shake her head. Which many commenters agreed with. And this got me thinking...what makes me put a book down?

When it comes to my own reading, I sort of have an iron stomach. Throw some sex scenes in my face! Add some violence! Sprinkle in some f-bombs and murderous rampages and beheadings! It doesn't really bother me.

But what does bother me? What makes me roll my own eyes and toss a book into the incinerator? A few things actually...

1.) Boring/Bad/Bland writing. The three B's! Enough said!

2.) Too many flashbacks. I don't like it when writers rely too much on flashbacks to reveal the back-story. Why not weave it in through dialogue or hint at it in the descriptions? Why use a flashback that pulls me out of the story and makes me want to skip ahead?!

I once read a MG fantasy that relied heavily on flashbacks. Seriously, every other chapter was a flashback! It annoyed me to tears because I wanted to see what happened to the progatonist--not what he did two years ago or six months ago. Suffice to say, I did not finish the book.

3.) In-depth descriptions of gross bodily functions like boils and rashes and diseases. Ewwww.

A few years ago, I started reading Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders because I'm rather fond of historical fiction. I figured the book would be an interesting and informative read!

Oh my goodness...I could hardly get through the vomit-inducing passages about the Bubonic Plague--the black boils, the sickly liquids, and the putrid smells. (My stomach is turning as I type this.) My hats off to you Ms. Brooks. You surely know how to write gross stuff!

Surprisingly, I finished the book.

4.) Preachy-ness. Oh, I simply hate it when books try to cram a message down my throat. It makes me want to reach inside of the book and punch the author in the face.

Case in point: I once read a horribly dreadful Christian romance for my book club. *Shudder* The writing was pretty bad and the characterizations were horrid, but the overt message on abortion was simply the worst. Look, I don't mind if an author wants to tackle an issue like abortion because it's something that women face every day. But I totally get turned off once the characters turn into soapbox-type stereotypes who launch into preachy monologues about why abortion is good or evil. Don't preach to me!

Can you tell this one is a sore point for me? Heh.

Anyway, what makes you put a book down?

July 13, 2010

The Ironies of Packing

Many apologies for the lackluster blogger! I'm currently in the midst of packing for my move up to DC. Justin has bumped up our moving date by four days due to some family issues, which means my life has been consumed by boxes, window cleaner, and yards of packing tape. (And a little editing.)

You're so jealous of me, aren't you? Haha.

Do you know what's ironic about packing? My apartment has never been so clean before. In the hopes of receiving our security deposit in its entirety, I plan on scrubbing this place until it shines like Hilary Duff's teeth. (Have you seen her chompers? They're mighty white!)

I'm gonna smell like bleach and lemon-scented Clorox wipes.

Fabulous!

July 9, 2010

Asian People Do Not Look Like White People


When I was a wee little girl, I sort of idolized Connie Chung.

I know, I know. Connie Chung? Isn't that kind of random?

But I loved Connie--simply because she was the only Asian woman I ever saw on TV.

Fortunately, television and film have come a long way when it comes to casting Asian actors and actresses. Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu have become household names, and popular shows like Glee and CSI have regularly featured Asians (although never in leading roles).

And so, I'm baffled and frustrated and downright angry at the blatant whitewashing of the movie, The Last Airbender. My sister and I are big fans of the original series (we're nerds), and we're both pretty pissed off about the casting of this film. Why? Because Asian people do not look like white people! We have yellow skin! And black hair! And a completely different history and culture!

Seriously, M. Night Shyamalan. SHAME. SHAME! You should know better than this. You could have hired a variety of Asian actors (ie Jon Cho, Daniel Dae Kim, etc.) but you didn't. You should have fought against this shit-tastic casting. But you didn't.

What makes me even more angry is how some people have tried to pass off this whitewashing as no big deal.

Them: "Oh, Aang didn't really look Asian in the TV series. Look at his big eyes!"

Me: Gah! Just because he has large eyes doesn't mean he's white!

Them: "Why are you making such a ruckus? There are lots of Asians in the movie."

Me: Uh, in the background. As extras.

Them: "You shouldn't focus so much on racism. That makes you racist."

Me: Huh? Wha? Are you on drugs? (Someone really said this in a comment on EW.com.)

So yeah. I'm rather miffed over this movie, but I'll eventually get over it. What makes me sad is the message this movie sends to young Asian boys and girls. What does the casting say to them? That white actors are better than Asian ones? That Asian actors aren't good enough? That they aren't good enough?

Ugh.

I already dread some of the conversations I'm going to have with my future kids. They're only going to be half Asian, but still, that's enough.

July 8, 2010

It's homework! I promise!

It's been two weeks since Agent Jim sent his revision notes for my MG novel, but I still find myself mulling over some of his suggestions.

How do I beef up the character arcs?

How do I enrichen some of the worldbuilding, especially since my world takes place in outer space?

And how do I make my protagonist, Danny, more reflective?

Thinking...thinking...grabs chocolate...thinking...eyes bottle of cooking wine in the fridge...back to thinking...

Whenever I get stuck in my revisions, I flip through some of my favorite middle grade novels to learn how other writers get things done. Oftentimes, I find myself reaching for the same books over and over again.

Right now, I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because, well, I simply love this novel. It's actually the first HP novel that I read and I fell in love with it from its first page.

The reason I always reach for this book is pretty simple: J.K. Rowling does a superb job of entwining meaty character arcs with vivid worldbuilding and with a fast-paced plot. The magic formula! Now I just have to figure out a way to infuse my own novel with this...

I completely disagree with most of Mr. Card's political views, but I must admit that Ender's Game is one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. And the book's ending... Oh my goodness. It's such a haunting and hopeful and surprising ending. I just love it!

When I re-read Ender's Game, I try to focus on how Card reveals Ender's character arc because he does such a wonderful job of making Ender feel real. Oh, and I also love reading the battle scenes. My novel has a lot of intergalactic space fights and it's fun to see how other writers tackle this.

So what about you guys? What sort of books do you read to inspire your own novels? What sort of books do you re-read just because you love them so much?

July 6, 2010

July 4th Update

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Yeah, yeah, I know July 4th was two days ago, but I hope y'all had a nice holiday with plenty of hot dogs, hamburgers, and fireworks!

My brain isn't functioning properly today, which means I don't have anything meaningful/funny/useful to blog about. So here's just a quick update on what's going on in my life:

1.) Justin and I are leaving Fayetteville forever on July 22nd! Haha! Goodbye ugly military town! Hello DC!

2.) Which means we're packing. Ugh. And cleaning. Ughhhhhh.

3.) Do books secretly copulate at night? I mean, seriously. I didn't think I would need to buy more boxes after our last move, but I keep finding books all over our apartment--in my closet, buried underneath my clothes, under the sofa, etc. My books must be shagging at night and creating little book babies! Yes, that must be it.

4.) I'm sort of re-writing my MG novel. Shh! Don't tell Jim... I can't help myself though. I keep re-reading the chapters and thinking to myself, "Gah! This is so poorly written! Must fix! Delete, delete!"

BALEETED!

Heh, I just had to throw in a little Homestar Runner reference...

5.) Planning trips! Man, oh man, I'm so excited! After three years of marriage, Justin and I are finally taking our honeymoon in September. We're going to St. Lucia! And we were able to find a package at an all-inclusive hotel for 55% off the regular price! Ahh!

6.) Scuba lessons. Gulp. In preparation for our St. Lucia vacation, Justin wants us to get SCUBA-certified so we can swim through cool reefs and shipwrecks during our stay. I'll be honest, I'm kind of freaked out about this. What if my oxygen tank goes kaput? What if I swim to the surface too fast? What if a shark bites me and I DIE? Hmm...I might be the most risk-averse person on the planet.

7.) Speaking of trips, Justin and I are planning a jaunt up to New York for a long weekend in August. Can you believe that he's never been to New York before? The horror! I'd like to drag him to the Met and the MoMa and maybe even the Cloisters, but I think he'd rather watch "American Idiot" and hang out with his friends. Ah well.

Well, back to packing and editing!

July 1, 2010

Adventures in Twilight-land

WARNING: A couple spoilers ahead!


My friend and I caught the 7:00PM showing of "Eclipse" last night.

At 6:20, we arrived at the theater.

At 6:30, we staked claim to our seats.

And at 6:45, we groaned VERY LOUDLY when a woman plopped down right next to us—with a two-month-old baby wriggling in her arms.

My friend and I exchanged glances. And we exchanged a few more groans. It was too late to find new seats—the theater was full and we had nowhere else to move. So we prepared ourselves for a terrible viewing experience.

But little did I know...

To my utter amazement, the baby didn't let out one peep during the movie. She didn't cry. She didn't yell. She didn't scream.

But do you know who did cry and yell and scream during the film?

The forty-something lady sitting in back of me.

Oh my goodness. The crying! The yelling! The screaming! I think she might have been watching a screening of "The Exorcist."

Every time Jacob appeared in the movie, she went "WHOOOO! OH YEAH!"

Every time Bella kissed Edwared, she shouted "UH HUH! THAT'S RIGHT!"

Every time Edward mentioned marriage, she shouted "NOT UNTIL YOU HAVE SEX FIRST!"

The woman also loved to clap. She clapped for kisses, she clapped for fight scenes, and she clapped when the movie theater was totally silent. And then she'd kick the back of my friend's seat with her overflowing excitement.

Holy cow.

So I definitely learned my lesson. When it comes to Twilight screenings, a little tiny baby is absolutely nothin' compared to a crazed, hormone-driven middle-aged woman.

*Note: I'm actually not a big Twilight fan. I prefer my female protagonists to be kickass like Katniss from THE HUNGER GAMES rather than angsty and flimsy like Bella. But the movie was pretty good! It was entertaining and sometimes even funny.

**Another note: I sort of cringed when Edward proposed to Bella and all of the young girls in the audience absolutely swooned over it. I wanted to shake all of them and say, "Getting engaged in high school is NOT a good idea! And neither is marrying a dude who loves the scent of your blood!"