Making Goals and Checking Them Twice

Thanks to a friend over at Writing.com (the same one who keeps me moving during October, leading up to NaNo, and during NaNo itself) I have started keeping a list of daily goals for the month. My goals fall into two categories: Writing and Promoting.

My writing goals all focus on finishing this year’s NaNo novel as well as last year’s. Because I just can’t seem to finish anything! I signed up for the website http://www.750words.com recently, and today I used it for the first time. The site is really cool because it allows you to store your words every day, shows you all kinds of graphs and charts about your writing, and keeps track of how many words you have written since you started using the site! My theory is, if I can write 750 words on one of my novels each and every day, then I will be done in no time! (I could do the math and pick a goal date for completion of each, but I am just not good at math so I am avoiding those calculations for the time being. ;-)) 

My promotion goals involve how I market myself as a writer and include things like blogging here, posting to my author Facebook page and Twitter, searching for agents and markets, etc. My specific goal is to engage in at least 10 minutes of these activities a day. That may not seem like a lot, but the idea is to just get myself in the habit of doing something every day. The time allotted can be increased later.

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember how important my writing and promoting are to me when other things like work get into the way, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction. I want to actually publish one of these novels someday! In the coming days, I hope to give you more specifics about my goals as I give myself deadlines to achieve them!

The NaNo Trap

Well, I did it! I wrote 50,416 words of a new novel during NaNoWriMo. This was my first time attempting to write a full length middle grade novel, and I’d like to think it was semi-successful. Of course, I suffered from Soggy Middle Syndrome, as usual, and now I’ve written myself into a place where I am not quite sure how to get out. I will have to stop and evaluate where I currently am in the manuscript and make a game plan for finishing it before I move forward.

Of course, last year’s manuscript has suffered a similar fate. It still sits, unfinished, on my computer, the exact opposite kind of novel as this year’s manuscript (dystopian! new adult!), and although I have pecked at it recently, it still needs a lot of work to get to the ending as well.

Am I the only one who feels super passionate about novels, storylines, and characters, writes up a storm until I am dizzy, and then gets stuck somewhere between the climax and the beginning?

I actually prep for NaNo pretty thoroughly, but for some reason I never seem to have the stamina to complete an entire novel in a month. I get to 50,000 words, whether that be on November 15th or November 30th, and maybe write a thousand words more before the month ends, but then I just . . . stop. December comes, and I lack the drive to keep going. It must be something psychological. I call it the NaNo Trap.

That’s why this year, I am formulating a plan to complete not only my 2013 novel, but also my 2012 novel, and I’m asking all of my readers and writer friends to hold me accountable! Stay tuned for more details of the Plan.

National Novel Writing Month!

I first participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as a college student. I would write in the computer lab on campus between composing 12 page papers analyzing British literature. One day, I left my flash drive in one of the computers, and when I went back for it, it was gone! This was before I even knew what “the cloud” was, so needless to say, I didn’t have an online backup anywhere, so I gave up and moved on.

In recent years, I have really started to have fun and success with NaNo. I have completed 50,000 words in one month for three years now. (WHAT happened in 2010?) I encourage anyone who hasn’t done it before to give it a try. However, I do have some tips to succeeding at that major word count goal!

  • Prep! Prep! Prep! This might be an unpopular method for NaNo, but it’s really served me well. I find that I can write a rough draft more easily when I at least know who my main character is and what her ultimate goal is. I follow a whole prep routine over at Writing.com every October. Find what kind of prep works for you and do it!
  • Go to write-ins. There are probably groups of writers near you who are equally as insane. There’s something special about sitting in a room with a group of people who have written thousands of words between them and just typing away while drinking coffee.
  • Be passionate about what you’re writing about. One of the reasons why I failed at NaNo in 2010 was because I wasn’t at all passionate about my story, and I didn’t know why I should root for my protagonist.

Even if you’ve never written a novel before, it is enough to WANT to write one. November is made just for you! I have written a handful of novels in my life, and three of them were during NaNo. The point of NaNoWriMo is to take the time to let out that novel that is within you. Once you get over that hurdle,  it’s easier to do again and again!

My Top 10 Book Pet Peeves

Thanks to Coranne over at The Best Books Ever for this idea! My list of pet peeves comes from the POV of both an avid reader and author.

My Top 10 Book Pet Peeves:

1. Overuse of pop references. Yes, it is important, especially in a YA novel, to establish the culture of the time. But using references to TV shows, movies, and pop stars can get really date your novel! If you’re writing a book now, it may not be published for a couple of years, and your references to Miley Cyrus may go over your readers’ heads by then.

2. Inaccurate descriptions of locations. I just added this one to my list because I started reading a middle grade novel that takes place in Pittsburgh. By page three, I could tell that the author had done his research about the area, but had clearly never been here. In short, an important landmark was described as being “on a hill” when it really isn’t. I’m seriously considering DNF-ing this one because it annoys me so much.

3. Poor plot pacing. I’ve been noticing this more and more lately. I’ll be reading a 300 page novel where literally nothing happens for 150 pages, and then all of a sudden WHAM! something comes out of nowhere, and then EVERYTHING happens all at once in such a frenzy that I can hardly keep up. I’m not just talking about a climax or plot twist. I’m talking about almost giving up on a novel because it’s so boring, only to be hit over the head with a ton of action late in the novel.

4. Sex for the sake of sex. A couple of YA novels that I have recently read seem to use sex scenes because the author thinks it’s required of a YA novel. Or, worse yet, the sex scenes go over the tasteful line into the “eww.” I just don’t think it’s always necessary to go into detail, especially if it’s not essential to the plot.

5. What genre is this again? Call me crazy, but I like to know if I’m reading a horror novel when I start it. If a novel suddenly switches genres in the middle, it’s a big turn-off.

6. It’s clearly every single genre all mixed together. I just started reading a YA novel about a teenage girl who is being sent away because she is gay. I clearly didn’t read the summary closely enough before I started, because I missed the trippy part about dinosaurs. Um, ok. Sometimes less is more.

7. Teenage stereotypes. YA novels seem to thrive off stereotypes. The hunky, brainless football player. The ditzy cheerleader. The geek who can’t get the girl. It’s like an episode of Saved by the Bell every time I open a novel.

8. The guy who is clearly more well-spoken, smarter, and sophisticated than everyone else. It was cool in the first five John Green novels, but now it seems to be the norm. Not all high school guys are jocks, and not all high school guys are geniuses. Where are the in-betweeners?

9.  Too many POV shifts. I try to stay away from novels that switch POV frequently, because my brain just cannot keep up. Especially when there’s no clear indication of who is talking. Alternating chapters between two characters is fine, but any more than that and I’m lost. I also think this trend of alternating POV’s gives beginning writers the (wrong) idea that they can shift POV whenever they want. I’ve read novels in progress where the reader goes from inside one character’s head to inside another’s within two sentences. No, no, no.

10. Vampires and such. I’ve said it before (and have had people yell at me!) and I’ll say it again: I just don’t like vampires. I’m all for the fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal genres, but I find they are saturated with the same types of characters. I don’t like Twilight and I don’t want to read your copycat novel. And if you’re going to write a novel about vampires, it had better be unique enough that it doesn’t sound like a Twilight copycat.

What do you think? What are your book pet peeves?

My Review of The Weight of Water by Sarah Crosson

The Weight of Water

By Sarah Crosson

Published on April 9, 2013

Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books

Source: Publisher through NetGalley

Summary:

A poetic, gifty offering that combines first love, friendship, and persistent courage in this lyrical immigration story told in verse.

Carrying just a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother are immigrating to England from Poland. Kasienka isn’t the happiest girl in the world. At home, her mother is suffering from a broken heart as she searches for Kasienka’s father. And at school, Kasienka is having trouble being the new girl and making friends. The only time she feels comforted is when she’s swimming at the pool. But she can’t quite shake the feeling that she’s sinking. Until a new boy swims into her life, and she learns that there might be more than one way to stay afloat.

The Weight of Water is a coming-of-age story that deftly handles issues of immigration, alienation, and first love. Moving and poetically rendered, this novel-in-verse is the story of a young girl whose determination to find out who she is prevails.

 

I first started reading novels in verse when I was about to write my thesis for my MFA in Creative Writing. I had been in the poetry track before I discovered writing for children, and by time I graduated I had enough credits for a dual emphasis in both genres. So, when my advisor suggested that I combine my two passions by writing a novel in verse for my thesis, I jumped on the chance.

Novels in verse are usually written in simple free verse, but tell complex storylines. The Weight of Water is no exception. Although written for a middle grade-aged audience, the story of immigrant Kasienka is full of resentment, love, hatred, and a whole range of emotions associated with adults. The reader follows Kasienka and her mother to England, where search for Kasienka’s father,  who abandoned them in Poland. She is made fun of by the other girls at school, misunderstood by her teacher, and ignored by boys, until she discovers swimming and her first love. 

The power of this novel is that, although Kasienka is an immigrant and faces discrimination because she is Polish, teens need not be immigrants to understand her story. Her struggles at school are the same struggles that all pre-teens in America face. This novel could have been set in the United States. However, as an adult reader I couldn’t ignore the significance of her journey as an immigrant and compare it to that of the immigrant and refugee populations in the US.

I have seen other reviewers criticize this novel for skipping from subject to subject in its poems, but I feel that is common for novels of this nature. It helps to think of each poem as a puzzle piece that works to create a coherent storyline. Yes, that does means that the reader needs to fill in the gaps sometimes, but overall, the impact of the story is not lessened because of that. 

This novel was a quick read and appropriate for pre-teens.

About the Author:

Sarah Crossan teaches English at a small private school near New York City and has her Masters in creative writing. In 2010, she received an Edward Albee fellowship for writing. She lives in New Jersey. This is her debut novel. Visit her online at http://www.sarahcrossan.com