Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A letter to NaNoWriMo

Dear NaNoWriMo 2013,

--I'm scared.

I think the writing life constantly cycles between various stages of fear and excitement. Each year I do NaNoWriMo, it gets increasingly harder--as I'm getting older and moving into higher levels of education, schoolwork gets intense, life builds up, and right after I scale a mountain an even bigger one is there for me to climb.

And it's three days 'till NaNo and I am so, so scared.

I have barely any plot. I know my story very, very well, but only on the most instinctive level. This is the story I have been getting the first seeds of since I was in eighth grade, the story based on the things I loved most, a dream of two lands; one frozen with ice and one glittering gold with power. There will be a brutal, ancient war and otherworldly, violent, savage creatures. It all sounds very lovely in my head right now.

But ultimately, I know it might splat. My friends and family think I'm possibly crazy for even attempting. On the outside, I wear my bravado--because what else do I have? How do I rightly justify myself in the eyes of society, a girl who weaves dreams and lies for fun and stays home, eyes worryingly intent on a manmade glowing contraption, fingers clacking out her childish fantasies instead of oh, I don't know, STUDYING, maybe? How many hours of time and energy will I have to forgo to make it through another season? Might I turn into a zombie? Very valid questions, but I have no idea.

But then people say, "You can totally, like not do this." And that's possible, easy even, but

No way.

I will not quit. Not doing NaNoWriMo has never been on my mind (Ask me again in two weeks, please.) I gripe and moan and complain, but in the end, I love NaNo with all my heart because it made this girl write. It made this girl believe that she COULD write a novel in a month if she wanted to. It made her believe she could write a novel. And it DID make her write novels.

I will always be eternally grateful to NaNoWriMo. Because last year, when I suddenly decided that I wanted to do NaNoWriMo, three days before the event, it made me scramble for a plot and think...and think...

And I came upon a story that I absolutely, absolutely loved. And I'm going to start querying it, this January.

I love NaNoWriMo because of its go-go-go mentality, its encouragement to chuck caution to the wind and just create something, anything. I love it because it calls for exuberance and wild chaos, beautiful crap-dumping that would later be polished to stunning prose. It allows you to make mistakes, and not give a damn about it.

And I may question myself constantly, asking myself why I'm being a nutball and deciding to do this every year, but I will never quit because I love making stories, and the idea of not participating in this when I could have will hurt me 10x more than plugging through this month-long purgatory.

And I know that in a month, I'll be so, so glad I did this.

As I stand on the bleak shore, staring out at the choppy, formidable waves, I pray to the NaNo gods for another successful season, and I hope my stubbornness can brave me through the rough tides.

This is it. Here we go.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

And then I don't feel alone.

Another post for today.

So a few weeks ago, I posted about meeting up with Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series (No, like seriously. Read it. READ IT.) I talked about how I was so awed and humbled by her, because she worked on the story for a freakin' TEN years and now she has tons of amazing fans and she made it on the NY Times bestseller lists.

Her books are amazing. But look carefully on her blog, dear reader. There, she has the most honest, beautiful, inspiring posts.

I go on her blog often when I'm down, because she doesn't have technical posts, such as how to worldbuild or how to submit to publishers. She tells us a story, a long, winding tale of her road to publication.

It starts in 2007/2008, when she first starts blogging. And as I read her posts, going back all the way to when she first graduated out of college, revising Throne of Glass (it was Queen of Glass at the time) .

She talks about her rejections, about life, about how to reach for your dreams. And she posts this: http://sjmaas.livejournal.com/382573.html

I read that today...and I teared up.

Because she works so hard, and she shows it. She doesn't hide her troubles, but she doesn't complain. Sarah is honest, thoughtful. She tells her story like no one else.

She works. Hard. She wrote the book through high school and college. Through vacations, cutting classes. She rewrote and edited it until it was better, many times over. She is the only one who even dared to kick Celaena's ass--her amazing, steelhearted, stubborn main character.

She writes; "If writing had things like boot camp or practice or tryouts, I would have been the first one on the field and the last one to leave. I would have been the one running so hard they puked." 

"But I’d go to sleep at night, unable to stop dreaming about this one book, which had gobbled up so many years of my life, for which I’d honestly walk through hell to get published. 

That's what you do, though--when you want it badly enough, you start to realize that the only limitations are the ones you set for yourself. And once you realize there are no limits--THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO WHAT YOU CAN DO--nobody and nothing can ever hold you back." 

And I admire her so. much. more. 

Because I want to dream, too. Sometimes I go to bed, so excited about the book industry, dreaming so hard, that I can't fall asleep. There's this constant ache in my heart, where I want something so badly, and I'll do whatever the hell it takes. I look at the shelves of a library or a bookstore, and they are my heroes. They are the ones I look up to. 

Because I want to share a story of my own. And I don't know where the path will take me. But I'll work, harder than anybody. I'll write and rewrite. 

Because I'm going to write an effing good book, and no one is going to stand in my way. 

Why I love Lorde

As you might know, there’s a new star on the scene: Lorde. Not only does she have a distinct style that shot her up the Billboards charts, there’s something else: she’s sixteen years old, and for someone at that age to make such big waves in the grand, sprawling international music industry is legendary.

Now, I don’t follow music that much. I’m not obsessed with current pop/country stars, and throughout the years I’ve singled out a few of my favorites. I only have absolute favorite songs, not artists; my music palate is quite picky and I’m wary of songs that become popular just because they have catchy music and no real deep meaning behind the repetitive words.

The first time I heard Lorde’s smash song Royals, my reaction was like, “That’s it?” The tune was queer, different. The music video was minimalist, with alternating shots between the artist herself singing into the camera against a blank wall and of boys living in a grayscale, suburban-town world. The lyrics had no effect on me whatsoever. “So, what’s the big deal?”

But the song stuck with me for weeks at school. I found myself humming the song on breaks and with friends and the lyrics and tune refused to let go. And when her fame escalated, on a bored Internet search, I looked up the meaning to the lyrics of Royals. And the more I began to understand the words she sang, the deeper the appreciation I felt for her.

She talks about how other songs depict a glamored, unrealistic Hollywood life, with “Gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom…” and “Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece…” She talks about how she doesn’t really care for a life like that, and how “We aren’t caught up in your love affairs.” She talks about her own humble roots—how she came from a low-key town. She talks about how she—and the rest of us—can’t afford such a glossy, flashy life, how we can only dream about ruling our small-town worlds.

In the book industry, there’s long been an unspoken secret on why most books are successful; because they have “real” characters. In popular books such as The Hunger Games, The Fault in our Stars, and Divergent, they all have honestly shaped, intrinsically flawed characters. They don’t have to be beautiful, or the nicest people on earth. They can be scarred and defensive and weak and small. But despite their shortcomings, their troubles, they rise above and conquer and become, in the loosest sense, heroes of their own small stories. 

And that’s why I love Lorde.

 Because she is real. Because the music industry has been so pretentious, so hyped with glitter-dusted stars and wild concerts, with an undercurrent judgement on beauty and looks. And Lorde breaks that norm, with her softly dusted voice that echoes her intelligence and quiet strength. Her songs don’t brag. She has a personality—she recently called Selena Gomez out on anti-feminism in her song Come and Get It, with its provocative lyrics. Some might view that as obnoxious, for even daring to challenge a popular pop singer, but I think it’s refreshing. People are scared to stand up to the pop stars because of their status, but I think it’s nice when the queen bee is challenged and critiqued once in a while.

The music industry needs that. The people that look up to the music stars need that. They need a down-to-earth role model that they can connect with.

Lorde has no mask of arrogance. Because in the end, she speaks the whole, courageous truth. She doesn’t just speak to us. She speaks about us, too. She is one of us.

In that irony, she truly rose to be her own “queen” of the Billboards. And I, someone who isn’t even into today’s pop culture, say bravo.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Music on a Monday!

Hey, Internet! How are you?
I was feeling super inspired by music today, so I'll post bits of songs that I really like/have really liked in the past.
And...it's a Monday, so it totally fits!

1. Burn by Ellie Goulding
I just heard this like maybe five minutes ago, and I'm already in total LOVE with this song. I always feel like Ellie Goulding's songs have a sort of meaning behind its words, instead of just slapping together catchy words and tossing it into a pop tune. But this song...I love it. I can totally tell it will be one of my pump-up songs for NaNoWriMo this year.

2. Young and Beautiful by Lana del Rey
This was the song of my summer. For reasons unknown, it was so inspiring, so moving, and it helped me pull through my last rewrite. (It was HARD. 45,000 words in two weeks. It took nearly everything I had to grind my teeth and drag myself through the doubt, the fear...)

It's one of those songs I listened to over and over and over again, and I remembered this clearly; headphones jammed into my ears, arms sticky with sweat against my sides, furiously typing away at 3 in the morning, while Lana's words and songs stirred something inside me and fed me strength.

Seriously, guys.

I digress.

3. Conquest of Spaces by Woodkid.
I recently started listening to this song, and the lyrics--and the music--really spoke to me. Again, I think it might be part of my playlist for NaNoWriMo. All-around epic song!

And that's it for a Music Monday! What are your pump-up songs? Tell me below in the comments!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

So Much Excitement!

It's October, which means fall and Halloween and cool holidays. It means honeycrisp apples and excessive coffee and tea. It also means that I have been in school for over a month.

That is CRAZY.

Anyways, the things that I am super pumped for!

1. Books.

Come on. With THREE huge series reaching its conclusions, how could I not be freaking out?

House of Hades by Rick Riordan
I have been a steadfast Camp Half-Blood fan since I was a 3rd grader, and I remember for my tenth birthday, I got The Last Olympian as a present--right when it came out. Now, four years later, it's hard to imagine that things have changed so much. I'm such a different person, yet still mostly the same, and I'm still in love with Percy Jackson--and so is my brother. The Mark of Athena destroyed me in the best way possible, and I am biting my crossed fingers that the conclusion to this series will be EPIC in the most mind-blowing way possible.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth:
I remember reading this series in the fall of '11, right when it came out. Back then, I thought it was amazing and kickass and refreshing. It also was one of the first YA books I read and vaguely recognized as YA (after The Hunger Games) and the hype has finally caught up! The series takes in Chicago (Chicagoan pride <3) and I'm sad and thrilled and really, really looking forward to the end.

Champion by Marie Lu
Again, I think I was one of the early crowd--I read Legend in early 2012, and this book CHANGED MY LIFE. I don't even know why or how. All I remember was setting down the book at theater practice, stunned and completely blown away, and walking around for the next freaking WEEK with the book hangover. It was the book that SNAPPED me into YA, and inspired me to take on writing again after my derivative, childlike fantasy novel that I did in 6th grade. It totally shifted my gears and it changed my course entirely. When/if I ever meet Marie, I am going to thank her. For everything she did in Legend to inspire me, even though I don't completely understand how.

2. NaNoWriMo!

Chill, it's still a month till the race. But people are readying their weapons and gears. For me, I have the idea of my story, in the vaguest forms. I know the plot and Things I Want To Include and the last line of the story and how it begins. That's pretty much it.

But anyways! Never mind that. I'm proud to say that I'm a participant in Boot Camp NaNoWriMo, a NaNo community hosted by the amazing Susan Dennard. In November, you can catch me moderating the forums and shenanigans over here: http://forum.susandennard.com/?forum=nanowrimo-bootcamp-2013-2. Come and participate!