Friday, December 31, 2010

On Starting Something New

Clammy palms. Beads of sweat on forehead. Butterflies in your stomach.

And all the ingredients for the complex macaroni-marshmallow-uber-casserole lined up in front of you.

Or a five-hundred million foot high bungee jump in South Africa is staring up at you wiggling its eyebrows mockingly.

Then, the horrible, awful feeling... the slightly calm, slightly panicked voice in your head saying knowingly, "This, m'dear, is going to end in disaster."

And you tremble and melt into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz because you know it is all too true.

So what is the cause of this awful anxious feeling?

Well, as illustrated above, it could be the daunting task of cooking (gasp! Guess what? I made pizza buns today. They were only a little bit burnt. Tell me you're proud of me!) or the terrifying feeling of having to launch yourself from high heights into nothingness with nothing but a stretchy elastic attached to your body. But both of these things (in my case, think of good examples for your own cases...) are things that are new.

In general, new things are kind of scary. New experiences, new events, new people, new everything, make me (and other people, I think) kind of nervous. Especially because new encompasses a large part of what everyone is known to fear: the unknown.

Yes, people could've made macaroni-marshmallow casserole (I just made that up, though, don't try it, or I guess you could if you were a genius cooking master. I am not...) before, and could've blogged some tips about making it, but that doesn't make the experience any more new to you.

OK, my writing point (can you guess it?): Same goes with a story. When we delve into a story, it's something completely new we jump into once we start blacking out some of that horrifying blank page with letters. Alright, yes, a lot of us have written stories before but does that make the prospect of starting in again any less intimidating? Besides, every story is different and takes shape differently. I, anyways, have a different experience with each story I write and I'm sure others do as well.

I was thinking about all this because of one of the posts on young author Steph Bowe's blog. She was talking about starting a story, and asking for advice on getting from the idea stage to the point where you can actually start writing.

So I decided I'll share what I do, and maybe throw in a few tips.


Stage 1: The Idea Stage

First, I have a simple idea that could be turned into a story like: the entire world is on fire. (Although usually it has more to do with a character; like there is a deaf girl who is only person who seems to know the world is on fire).

I think up a few characters, then I am on my way to collecting little eggs of ideas. I think up situations and events and things that should happen, like the girl should fall into this pit and hear screaming even though she's deaf...

Once I figure out a few main points, then I start asking myself questions, a lot of them starting with What would happen if...? Other good questions to ask would be: What would be the most unexpected? How could that happen? What kind of secrets should he be hiding?

My idea stage is mostly about plot, so I have a couple of events and then I go off on tangents. It's like a tree diagram!

A lot of this stage takes up the majority of my thinking/daydreaming time... especially during school... hmm... ;)

Stage 2: The "Outlining"

I don't really do outlines. At least, not the really detailed, organized storyboard things some authors do. My "outlining" consists of simply writing down my ideas from Stage 1, and maybe jotting some things down about character traits, although mostly just the characters names and which character they belong to.

Oh, which brings me to a very important point: WRITE. YOUR. IDEAS. DOWN. You WILL forget them, unfortunately enough.

Well, that's about it for my pre-story stages. Although I find one thing that really, really helps me when writing a story is having the end in sight. If I know the ending ('cause endings are hard) then I am much better at filling in the rest, although I'm not exactly sure why this is...

Stage 3: The Story-Writing!

Okay, FINE. The PROCRASTINATION of story writing. The simmering of ideas in my head, of the thought of...  I need to get on writing this one of these days..., the endless hours surfing the many awesome writing/publishing/reader blogs (okay, fine, and Facebook and e-mail...). All, really, just procrastionation. I think you already know my thoughts on this one but I'll say it anyway:

Don't. Don't procrastinate. Just tell yourself to do it. Write those first few sentences, hide away your "inner editor" (read my post on that here.), and before you know it you'll be looking up from your page after three hours and you've written 5000 words already.

Well, since this was more about getting to the writing stage than the actual writing stage itself, I think I'll stop there, although I know there's much to elaborate on and I missed tons (feel free to add your insight!).

Happy New Year!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Have Yourself A Merry Awesome Christmas!

I feel like I should do a Christmas post. I mean, I've already done two Christmas-y posts, but it's CHRISTMAS EVE (day) and I'm SO EXCITED and that, somehow, results in the need for a Christmas post.

And what is around a lot at Christmas? No, not wrapping paper. No, not candy canes... but LISTS.

I love lists!! What sane person doesn't? (We love you insane people!)

So, some Christmas lists for this awesome special day:

1. Hallelujah Chorus, no argument! Well, really, the entirety of Handel's Messiah. GENIUS.
2. Joseph's Song (I'm not sure of the artist, but it's a pretty, sweet song).
3. O Holy Night.
4. O Come O Come Immanuel
5. Baby It's Cold Outside. I don't actually know this song very well, but a lot of people love it!

What are YOUR favourite Christmas songs?

1. Christmas Eve at my mom's parents house with my cousins and aunts and uncles on my mom's side.
2. Stockings on Christmas eve.
3. Picture on the stairs at Grandparents house on Christmas Eve with uncooperative everyone. (My aunt is the one behind all this craziness!)
4. Christmas Morning Cinnamon Buns. If that's not the best tradition EVER, what IS?
5. The rest of Christmas day with my dad's family.
6. Christmas crackers. Everyone wears their tissue paper hats for the rest of the meal!

What are your family's awesome Christmas traditions?

1. Carols.
2. Wrapping presents.
3. Hot chocolate, or any hot drink, in a holiday mug. Or eggnog.
4. SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was so happy, it snowed this morning BIG FAT FLAKES. I felt so Christmas spirity. :)

Hmm... what else?

Anyway, just some lists. I promise I'll get back to some more writing-related posts after Christmas... but I just have too much Christmas (or holiday) spirit not to share it right now!!!



Friday, December 17, 2010

Oh Christmas Spirit, Where Have You Gotten To?

It started this morning with wrapping my friend's Christmas presents and singing Christmas carols at the top of my lungs.

What I want to know is, why the heck am I feeling all Christmas-y now, a *ahem* nine days before Christmas? Sure, there was the initial high when the store Christmas decorations were out, and then when we went to cut down our Christmas tree... but after that... where'd my Christmas spirit go?

I think a lot of have this problem. We are caught up in the busyness, the *omigoshIleftmyChristmasshoppingforthe24it'sgoingtobeSOBUSY*, the homework (for me, at least), and the overall stress. All this just squeezes out the Christmas spirit that makes us happily sigh, "Oh, I love Christmas!" Well, I am going to suggest a solution.

First of all, I would like to provide you with a poem I wrote moments ago to put in one of my friend's Christmas cards:

Once upon a time there was a young boy
He was rosy and plump, with no thought to his future in toys.
What he focused on now was what he should eat
Concentrating oft on next year's Christmas feast.
This fascination with food he never outgrew
Not even when it was reindeer he flew
Yet one fateful night, his belly one treat past full
He stepped on a rooftop, his reinder impatient, waiting to pull
He let out a cry as the shingles started to crumble
Soon after that, his voice was mere mumble
Wide-eyed reinder trampled, nervous, in rooftop muck
And muttered under their breath, "at least this time he didn't get stuck!"

I realize the rhythm is kind off, but I am terrible at rhyming! (If you'd like to see a really epic Christmas poem, go here.)

If you are really clever (and that's okay if you aren't, I still accept you! :D) then you may have figured out I already provided three different ways to nudge our Christmas spirit out from hiding under the still-lingering Hallowe'en decorations. If not, I'll make a list and add some more thing as well.

1. SING! Okay, so you don't have to actually sing, that's just something I really love to do and always makes me feel happier, when I'm walking around the house belting Christmas carols... but, if you're not a singing person, listen to music instead. And remember, you're trying to draw out your Christmas spirit, so how about listening to Christmas music.

2. PRESENTS! First of all, make present-buying and present-wrapping and present-thinking-of something enjoyable not something stressful. Have fun looking at all the different things in stores, and of course when it comes to wrapping that's the BEST PART. I love wrapping presents. The more bows and ribbon the better!!!

3. WRITE CHRISTMASY STUFF! You can write sentimental stuff about Christmas, but believe me it's a lot more fun to write silly, fun Christmas stuff like I did with my poem, and like one of the lovely YA Highway ladies did in my link above.

4. GO BACK TO THE ORIGINAL. I know, I know, it's cheesy, corny, whatever but really, what else but go back to the original meaning of Christmas could bring out Christmas spirit more? Speaking of the meaning of Christmas, you could listen to (or read) Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Scrooge'll show you the meaning of Christmas!

That being said, what is the meaning of Christmas? Since not everyone goes by the whole Christian Jesus-being-born thing (I do; and it kind of makes sense, because he's the whole reason Christmas even exists) I think people need to take their own meanings away. Giving, family, whatever. If you think about it, even Jesus' story emphasizes these points. It was giving a lot to have Jesus become human and live on earth. And God provided him with a family, too.

Now grab a cup of mint hot chocolate (the only way to go), a copy of A Christmas Carol and cuddle up with some Christmas spirit.

That being said,

Merry Christmas .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Addressed to: Santa, Santa's Workshop, North Pole

Did you know that the North Pole very well could be located in Canada? That means Santa might be a Canadian! So. Cool. (Literally!)

But, aside from that interesting little tidbit, today... I am going to... participate in my first "RTW" or "Road Trip Wednesday" (hosted by YA Highway). They ask a question, and everyone answers it on their own blogs!

Today's question is... *rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr* (that was a drumroll)...

You spot Santa at the mall, climb onto his lap, and whisper that you've been a good boy or girl in his ear. What do you want Santa to bring you this year? Go wild! Have fun! After all, you earned it!

Okay, first of all what is Santa -the real Santa- doing at the mall? Shouldn't he be instruction his elves or spying on little girls and boys or something? Either that or like Dumbledore, he is keeping everyone safe with a twinkle in his eye. (HP is all I'm reading right now, hence all the HP comparisons).

Second of all, as far as getting a "writing wishlist", I so have not earned it. Aside from this blog, and English assignments, I have not worked a single minute on my "WIP" (Is it WIP or WiP?) Alas, I will still create a writer's wishlist, hoping upon hope that Dumbledore *ahem* Santa will give me a second chance. (And a third. And a fourth. And a fifth... and so forth and so forth...)

Dear Santa,

I provide for you in the following letter Gracie's Wish List for an Ideal Writer's Christmas. I hope you will forgive previous mistakes and procrastinations I have made in this busy time, and consider my requests. I will now present my wishes in a numbered list form, since I like to be extremely organized, and I drop into random spasms when my things like lists are not organized properly. Now, I will begin my list-making.

1. Time. Santa, kidnap Father Time for me and stuff him in a sack. Have him wait, about three days, while I finish everything from homework to Christmas card-making to present wrapping. Then, he may come out and live life normally while I savour the work-free days I have left.

2. Fun. Once you have rid me of that annoying clock, ticking away hours and yelling at me "YOU STILL HAVE STUFF TO DO", please provide me with fun. This is essential to my health, as laughter (proven scientifically) is the best medicine. Not that I don't have fun in my life, but arrange it so that there is time for not just me, but every one of my friends to get together and simply hang out.

3. Motivation. Santa, please kick me in the rear, do whatever it takes to get me to continue to write and work and spit out words each day, no matter what.

4. Brilliance. I know, Santa, this may be asking a bit much, but I would love for brilliance. Not necessarily in intelligence, but in my ideas. I need an idea that is unique and fun, for me to write and others to read.

5. The ability to write short stories. This is a helpful skill, Santa, and I seem to just not be able to acquire brilliant ideas (see number 4) to write these short stories.

6. Anyway possible so I can travel. Experiencing different things is a key part in acquiring ideas (see four and five). This can be acheived through travelling, something I have always wanted to do.

These may be prestigious dreams and wishes, but Santa, I know you are capable of anything. I hope.

P.S. I wouldn't mind a variety of a hundred chocolate mints, either.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

No, Character, Don't Go! I LOVE YOU!!!

I have a secret.

I love happy endings. I know a lot of books tend to veer off course from happy endings, from ending with teeth-clenching cliff-hangers (Hunger Games, anyone?) to simply not leaving everything happily resolved.

I, however, like happy endings, although occasionally (if sweet happy endings were all I saw, I would ask what the world was coming to; variety is good). I like closing the book, and thinking nice thoughts about those characters and relief and not gut-wrenching What's going to happen next? or That was unexpected, and weird or various other unsatisfied feelings. I like feeling like the story and the characters have been quenched, and the resolution resolved completely.

But do happy endings really bring us satisfaction? Because often, even when everything is resolved happy as a duck (I don't think that's the right expression, ah well) I am whining in my head that the story is over. I want more.

Now, this could be the case because human beings are selfish and wanting and never really satisfied but... I have a different proposition.

Really, it's the characters. Throughout the novel, we get attached to the quirks and perks of the lovely protagonists and protag-sidekicks, and when the end comes, we don't want to let it go no matter the ending. We cry out, "But I was just getting to know [insert character name here]".

Some examples I've found in reading adventures are...

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler).

This is such a cute little romance. I loved every minute of it and couldn't put it down. And the reason I couldn't put it down was not because it was heart-stopping cliff-hangers every second page, or chapters dripping with mystery and anticipation. It was the characters. Quirky Eliot and Cal attracted my attention so much that I was indulged in the story. It helped they were interesting, too -Eliot made fireworks illegally, Cal and her mother were constantly travelling, among other things. But most of all, there was a happy ending (hope that didn't spoil too much; though the story isn't really in the ending, it's in the story) and I absolutely hated I had finished the book already. This was because I fell in love with Cal and Eliot.

Another example is Harry Potter, which (don't kill me!) I have only started reading a couple weeks ago. At the point I am in the series (halfway through the fourth book) no book so far has ended unhappily.

Yet, I still wanted to go on and read the next book, and the next. Why was this? Because Ron, and Harry and Hermione (along with Ginny and Hagrid and the rest) were just so lovable. I wanted to spend more time with the characters, which left me dissatisfied at the end when I couldn't.

That'll be all for now, but stay tuned till tomorrow when I'll continue on this idea: How to make your characters lovable!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

There's A Crazy Person Inside of You: Get Them Out!

First off, let me ask you a question: have you ever heard of the International Baccalaureate programme?

No? Well, I'll explain, then. International Baccalaureate is simply another word for "crazy".
Fine. It isn't really, but it might as well be. Just a quick overview: the International Baccalaureate (or "IB") is a worldwide program for, to put it bluntly, smart people. Really smart people. The work is hard, you're constantly learning things a grade above you and in grade 12 you can take university courses (and get credit for them). But as well as all of that, you have to write an Extended Essay and complete 150 hours of volunteer service. People in countries all over the world mark IB exams. It's quite the presitigious program. All of this, however, is supposed to make you a better person.

Although, in my class, (yes I'm currently in IB -but don't get the notion that I'm smart, now. I just work hard) this means you're crazy. You don't even want me to relate some of the insane things that have happened so far this year with the lovable yet crazy perfectionists that are my classmates.

Most recently (today), a small girl who has high aspirations and is a grade A perfectionist, came across her pencil case full of pens where her well-meaning friends (very well meaning to get a good laugh, that is) had switched all the pen caps on her pens.

Chaos ensued, as the girl shouted, "This cap isn't even the same BRAND!" and started to cry. No, I am not making this up.

Which, finally, brings me to my point. Last year all the grade tens in my school had to go to this session about protecting yourself against creeps (basically) and the instructor told us we had inside of us an "inner mean girl", a "little girl" and a "wise woman". Right now, I am going to tell you that all of us writers have a little girl (or guy) inside of us who screams and cries when her (or his) pen caps get switched.

Some people call this our "inner editor". While writing our first draft, we write a sentence. This is the first sentence. Now, while waiting for inspiration and absent-mindedly pressing the shift key, we re-read the sentence and all of a sudden that girl/guy inside of us who needs the pen caps in the right places starts to crawl out from the cracks between the floorboards.

She or he starts screaming, "There MUST be a better way to word that, you could use more DESCRIPTION, for goodness sake, ohno ohno ohnoooooo this isn't PERFECT!" And suddenly, you're going back to rewrite the first sentence, over and over and over and over again.

This is the first sentence of your first draft. FIRST DRAFT, I repeat. Somewhere, once, I read that your first draft is for nothing but getting your ideas down. Seeing how they all fit together, working out what happens when, what works the best.

That is why I say, give that matching-pen-cap loving girl(guy) the boot! At least, while you're still in the beginner stages of your story, where you just need to let the ideas flow. Isn't writing, after all, about creativity? Even in editing, I think we need to keep a degree of creativity and not let our inner matching-pen-cap loving girl/guy take over (small as s/he is).

Just write. 


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Young Published Author: Gordon Korman!

Gordon Korman is author of the hilarious Macdonald Hall series, as well as the intense Island, Dive and Everest triolgies, plus a whole TON of other books (he's probably well past fifty by now). I love his books, they are hilarious and he writes for a bunch of different ages, too. You should definitely go check some of his books out of the library!!

But, where did this awesome (might I add, Canadian) author get his start? At the ripe age of... fourteen. His first book, This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, the first book in the Macdonald Hall series, was published by Scholastic when he was only fourteen! He wrote the book when he was twelve for a grade 7 English assignment. Anyway, he sent his manuscript in to Scholastic because he was the class monitor for the Scholastic book order sheets in classrooms.

He published a bunch of other books when he was a teen, and obviously he went on to become a great success... over fifty published books to his credit! And, just a note... he apparently makes less money than Shaquille O'Neal but more than the French-fry-box unfolder at the local Drive-Thru. (That's his quote, not mine!)

Oh, he was born in Montreal, Quebec in Canada although now I think he lives in New York. Also, if you check out his Top Ten Questions on his site, you'll see how funny he is... like check out the answer to "What did you want to do before you became a writer"?

You can visit his website here or follow his blog here. 

Wait till next time... I'll have a new young published/almost published author for  you!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Flings

Here I am, sitting in my home's beautiful blue kitchen, heat blasting on my right, peppermint tea steaming on my left. Ah... what a perfect winter day (and no school for a teacher's day! Yay!) Tomorrow, my family and my cousins with their daughter are going to get Christmas trees... I'm excited!

Anyway, the joys of winter was not to be my point today. I was just going to say I've thought of some ideas for "columns", if you will. One, is I'm going to post every so often about a young author I've come across. I find it so exciting when I find out about authors that have been published young, and how they did it, because I'm young, and it'd be cool to be published.

Another one I've thought up is about "writer's slang". Since I've only just begun reading a ton of writing blogs, there's some abbreviations and slang that writers use that I (and hopefully other people new to the writing world) don't understand. (For example, ARC. When I first read that somewhere I was like, OK. ARC. Yeah. WHAT IS THAT??)

I will also hopefully be participating in YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesdays, where they ask a question and a ton of awesome writers and bloggers then answer the question on their blogs. This week's question was What movie do you want to read as a book? and I could not, for the life of me, think of an answer. So, heheh, I didn't participate.

Anyway, something actually interesting for today... I secretly like writing essays. :) Secretly, because what student in their right mind (I just about wrote "write" mind, whoops) would like essays? Well, I do. 'Cause I like writing. :)

And, lastly, something fun for Friday:

Countertenors amaze me.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Welcome to The Inside of My Head!

Hey, all!

I'm new. N00b, newbie, whatever you want to call me. I'm new, not to the writing world (I've been doing that for years) but I guess you could say to the community of writers and bloggers who are authors, etc. Just recently I started following some really interesting writing blog (like the amazing YA Highway and a bunch of others.)

For my first post, I thought would graciously tell you about myself...

First, the basics:

My name is Gracie (although not actually, I just use that as my 'net name) and I am 16 years old. I am around 5'8 and I have greenish-blue eyes, and poofy hair. Oh, I am also a born and proud Canadian!

Next, my writing:

So, I've been writing stories and such ever since I had the ability to make those lines of lead into words. I've loved it and wanted to be an author ever since I can remember. You know how little kids sometimes dream about being crazy things, like firefighters or soldiers? I never had those dreams. I've always wanted to be an author. Anyway, I got my first ever publication in the awesome all-Canadian What If? magazine when I was 13. The work I got published was a short story about how this band was playing and made a dragon come to life in their music classroom. I've submitted a few other things to a few other young writers' publications, like Stone Soup or The Claremont Review, but I have to say they were pretty crappy and I'm very thankful they were not put in print! Anyways, last June I entered a short story into a local contest held by my city's Writer's Collective, and I won third place. (I was quite surprised as I didn't think it was very good, and the title was horrible... I called it "The Book"). Some other things... I went to a summer writing camp a few years ago run by the Manitoba Writer's Guild, and when I was really young I went to a writer's workshop run by the author of Kalifax, Duncan Thornton. (Who actually turned out to be my Grandma's cousin's nephew!)

And finally, just some stuff about me as a person:

I have two siblings: one older sister with Down Syndrome (18) (she's the funniest person ever with the most awesome personality ever), and a younger brother (14)who is obsessed with everything soccer (and video games, of course). I also have two cats, Calypso and Venus who are the friendliest little creatures ever (as I'm writing this Calypso is lying in between my outstretched legs, purring.) Along with writing, I also enjoy music (I am in two choirs and two bands, plus worship team at my church), singing, crafts and scrapbooking. As you can see, I enjoy art.

Now, just to have something not about me... what do ya'll think of the whole James Frey debacle? And, would anyone have any links to clips of him being beaten down by Oprah?

And on the other side of things... a book that I loved when I was in middle school called Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen, is now a movie!! (Since August of this year, so I'm a little slow, but I only found out recently and it's still cool!) Check it out here on Goodreads. It's an awesome book, although I don't remember much of it... just that there's these two characters, Bryce and Juli. At the beginning, Juli loves Bryce and Bryce thinks Juli is weird. Then, Bryce loves Juli and Juli doesn't love Bryce. The one scene I remember is that Bryce smells Juli's hair because it smells like watermelons, and she thinks it's weird. It's written in alternating perspectives, which I always enjoy much more than the limited POV.

Anyway... hi, blog readers! Hope that was a good enough introduction for you to the inside of my head!



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