NaNoWriMo Prep in October – Planning

I’ve been super busy this year producing work under a couple of different pen names, but I always find November’s NaNoWriMo to be a good writing exercise and time to produce something under my real name.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo every year since 2010. Two of the books I completed and self-published under NaNoWriMo were highly praised. The third is currently being looked at by a publisher. We’ll ignore the year my cat and computer both died and I lost half the novel I was writing. I still haven’t quite recovered from that and can’t bring myself to re-write the lost novel.

downloadMy advice? BACK IT UP.

But anyhow, it’s October again and time to start my NaNo prep.

A few months ago I won a pre-made book cover in a giveaway, and I decided to build a story around the cover.

I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for NaNo 2014, but I pretty soon managed to settle on a character, figure out her goal, throw some obstacles in the way and develop a plot.

I’m a planner. If I don’t know what’s going to happen in the novel I sit there staring at the screen.

Conversely, if I know how the story’s going to end, I normally don’t feel the urge to complete it.

(Which is probably why I have so many unfinished novels.)

I’m planning my new novel using the three act plot structure.

Act 1 ‘Exposition’:

  1. Setup
  2. Inciting incident
  3. First turning point – where the hero accepts their new calling

Act 2 ‘Rising Action’:

  1. Obstacles and progress
  2. Mid-way point – a major setback
  3. More obstacles and higher stakes.
  4. Second turning point – what I call ‘the point of no return’.

Act 3 ‘Resolution’:

  1. Stand up and fight – the final push.
  2. Climax
  3. Resolution

This is the structure I’ll be following in writing my novel. Let’s hope I can stick to it!

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My Top Five Favourite Non-Fantasy Books

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (contemporary YA)

Before I Fall

It was kind of a guilty pleasure to ride around in Sam’s head as she exerts her magical popular girl powers to terrify others. I loved watching her figure out the butterfly effect and how every action was linked and had a reaction.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (YA dystopian)

Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)

Wither was amazing. It made me cry. It make me laugh. I loved the pace and the plot and Rhine’s character. She’s a caring, manipulative, awesome heroine. She never gives up on what she wants, she never loses sight of it and she goes through a lot to reach her goal. She doesn’t need saving, she has goals that extend beyond becoming someone’s girlfriend. She’s realistic and probably one of my favourite heroines.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (YA sci-fi)

Glow (Sky Chasers, #1)

Waverly is just like the coolest chick ever. I didn’t see as much selfishness in her as a lot of people tend to complain about YA heroines. She’s strong, selfless, and always puts others before herself. She puts her body on the line over and over again and her faith NEVER wavers… heh… Waverly… I made a funny.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (classic)

Wuthering Heights

I love this book because it’s not a romance. I love this book because the characters are all selfish and self-destructive, and completely ruin the lives of those they purport to love. It’s a story of two incredibly selfish people who can’t just love each other but have to hurt everyone around them as well. I think the destruction they cause from their actions is really cool. They’re like little hurricanes sweeping the secondary characters along for the ride. There’s so much drama confined in two houses on the Yorkshire moors that it leaves me wondering why doesn’t this book explode from sheer awesomeness.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (YA paranormal)

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)

It’s not the story per say that makes this novel so good. It’s the clear writing, the immersion into Rose’s head (and occasionally, Lissa’s), and most importantly (to me), the politics of royalty and high school, the politics between the Moroi and their dhampirs schoolmates, and the whole relationship between Rose and Lissa. This is the best high school book I’ve read, because it goes in-depth into reputations and rumours, and the dirty business behind popularity.

August is the Book Birthday month for my first novel, The Edge of Darkness, a deep-space cyborg dystopian.
Please go here for your chance to win a paperback copy.
Ends September 30.

My Favourite Classics

My favourite classics, in no particular order, are:

1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, 1877

imageThis was the first adult novel I ever read. I can’t even remember how old I was, but it seemed like an enormous book to me. I was perhaps six or seven. It was given to me by some relative because I had a major thing for horses when I was a child, to the point that I eventually made my mother promise me that if we even moved to the country and had the room, she’d buy me a horse. This promise didn’t happen until I was a teenager, though, and all through my childhood I was a bit surly when it came to what I wanted. Every chance of a wish (birthday, first star of the night) I wished I had my own horse. Of course, when my mother finally did make the promise, it cheered me up on end and put me in a better state of mind. It didn’t matter that we would never move to the country: I needed the option open anyway. This book taught me about cruelty to animals, and I always make sure it is with me on airplanes.

2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, 1847

imageI love this classic with a passion. I love the turbulence of the lovers and the choices that Cathy made. I love the story of Cathy and Heathcliff so much more than any boring Mr Darcy or any of his boorish incarnations (aka Edward Cullen). I love how it is told from numerous perspectives out of chronological order. It doesn’t hurt that Heathcliff is brought home from Mr Earnshaw’s trip to Liverpool, which is where I now live. I love the relationships between each of the characters, and how each of them carries their own flaws, and I love the idea of the society out there on the moors. It took me a while to track a  decent copy down, but when I did, I found it irresistibly hard to put down. This is one book I try to reread every year. Incidentally, I also thoroughly enjoyed the BBC Yorkshire telemovie adaptation released in 2009. I felt this was a very accurate representation of the book and the casting was top notch. It really boiled down the plot to the bare essentials and would be a good point of reference for those who are unable to read the book, for whatever reason.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, 1847

imageI love this plucky little heroine, and I love the fact that she’s not the most beautiful girl on the planet and I love the fact that she falls in love with Edward Rochester who is not the most handsome of men. That’s real love for you. I love how Jane overcomes all her trials to become a stronger woman. I really enjoyed reading about her childhood as well as her adult life. I also love that she experiences both poverty and personal wealth, and how her and Mr Rochester end up swapping positions and she takes him in after he loses everything. Their marriage is one of perfect equality and seems like a good example for many to follow. I read this for a university course, and my lecturer advised us to read one chapter at a time. It was hard to only read one chapter and then put the book down, though, because it totally engrossed me. Reading it that way, though, helped me to digest it properly and appreciate it more than Wuthering Heights, which I powered through.

Meme: Lucky Seven

I’ve been tagged for the Lucky 7 meme by twitter buddy Emilia Quill. Currently I am stressing to the eyeballs about finishing the WIP before Camp NaNoWriMo starts (Ha! Like that’s going to happen) and planning the next two standalone novels.

Here’s the seven lines from page 77 of my WIP, starting from line seven six. We’re crashing one of many dates that Tina goes on in the book:

“Do you want to get in?” Lachlan asked after we’d watched the dolphins peeking at us, swimming past and flashing their fins at us, somersaulting out of the water and splashing us, laughing at us and inviting us to join them in the water. They seemed to be saying, Come on in! The water’s fine.

“Should we?” I said. “I mean, they’re wild. Isn’t it illegal or something?”

He gave me a smile that bordered on condescending. “No one’s going to stop us.” He kicked a leg over one side of the boat. “Or are you too afraid?”

The seven I’m tagging:

Charlotte E English

Devil’s Advocate

Writing Through Rose Tinted Glasses

A Beautiful Ramble

That’s it, actually. I don’t follow many writers with a WIP: my circles are more reviewers or people already (traditionally) published who won’t share a WIP.

Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

New GirlPublisher: HarlequinTeen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Release Date: 31 January 2012
Source: Netgalley.
Rating:4 out of 5 stars.

Blurb (from Goodreads.com)

A contemporary young-adult retelling inspired by the classic 1938 romantic suspense bestseller Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

They call me ‘New Girl‘…

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend…but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

Review (full review posted on Goodreads.com)

It was a little hard to get into, but by the time Becca’s narration came I was interested. Becca’s POV caught me by surprise – I wasn’t expecting it and I was completely prepared to not like it… but Becca was fascinating to read about – that level of sociopathy could only result in something tragic – much like the badly behaving teenagers in horror films always get killed – you know, the ones who drink and have sex. Teen horror flicks are morality warnings. I never felt this book was preachy, but I could certainly see how others might think that.

Sometimes I wondered if Becca was so bad just to contrast with how good ‘New Girl’ was. New Girl was a good girl. Sure, she was as bad as the other students: She broke all the school rules, snuck out after curfew, went to the boys’ dorm, had things with both boys Becca was after, and got drunk –  but she wasn’t half as bad as Becca, who was truly atrocious. Let’s look at some of my status updates for Becca’s character:

Page 55: I don’t even think this is slut shaming but Becca is all kinds of a bitch.

Page 66: Look, Becca may be a manipulative bitch whom I really don’t like but I’m really enjoying reading about her. She’s a great, flawed, insecure, desperate for attention drama queen and it’s a nice relief to see those imperfections when mostly in YA we get boring personality-less Mary-Sues like Nora and Bella and Luce.

Page 127: Wow, Becca is all kinds of psycho. Her parts of the story are definitely more interesting than the nameless 1st person POV. It’s like Mean Girls with extra bitch and an extra helping of slut. She’s so manipulative… I’m so glad I never knew anyone like her in high school!

Page 211: Becca is just all kinds of psycho.

Page 220: Ugh, this is way worse than the queen bee bitches of Before I Fall. Becca seriously has issues.

I guessed very early on what the twist would be. A red herring threw me off, but then it turned out I was right: I was wrong about another thing, but I was close enough to realise why Dana was so damaged. I knew she’d witnessed something. Her character totally freaked me out as well. It was easy to imagine someone losing their mind like that.

Throughout the narrative I sympathised with New Girl. She was adjusting to a new place and thinking about what her life would be like when she went home. Although I liked reading New Girl’s story, I was far more invested in and interested in the manipulation that was Becca’s narrative. It was so interesting reading about the things that happened the year prior, and when things were revealed, how they reflected in the modern day New Girl’s narrative. Although this book is about the New Girl, Becca’s narrative is integral. She was a truly fascinating character, and very believable.

One of the problems I had was being unable to really ‘place’ the year this novel was written. It made weird references to the film Titanic, Brad Pitt’s dating – he hasn’t ‘dated’ since 2000 – and Cate Blanchett (in Lord of the Rings, also from 2001), but then it constantly referenced Facebook as well. I’m pretty sure it was meant to be set in contemporary times, but the references to things from a decade ago was a little bit strange. Perhaps the author was not aware of whatever today’s teens are talking about, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the same things we were talking about when we were teens a decade ago.

I DO NOT object to anything that’s in this book. I don’t understand how the students keep getting their hands on alcohol and I don’t understand why adults don’t seem to care there’s underage drinking, but all of these things? It’s AWESOME. It adds conflict. It makes the book interesting! I LIKE reading about all the fucked up things teens do – teens that don’t have my background. I still hate parties because of all the drama that happens at them – but I love reading about it.

The biggest problem I had with the narrative was all those extremely common moments when the narrator told the audience what was going on, instead of showing us. Really simple sentences that could have been elaborated, but weren’t. Stuff like: Dana looked shocked… all of them said yes, nodding… the guys were all laughing and clapping at them. This happened a lot early on in the novel, although I think by the end I was either so used to it I didn’t notice anymore or it didn’t happen so much. I was a little disappointed by such simple writing, because I felt it could have been so much better.

The build up to the climax became somewhat unbelievable. It was far too convenient that Blake’s family would pay for a bunch of private hotel rooms that included beds when a bunch of underage drinking teens were involved. Is no one worried about preserving these teens’ virtue? I started to wonder if all the sex and drinking wouldn’t be more suited to a university style of life, because there was next to no adult supervision at any time, and all the rule-breaking didn’t seem particularly difficult or dangerous. Age everyone a few years, remove all the rule breaking and it’d be completely normal. But then I guess the whole Becca thing wouldn’t be so outrageous.

And upon reaching the climax, the audience is suddenly thrown two completely new points of view that we just totally don’t need. This should have been planned from the beginning, and subtly shifted to omniscient POV, not limited head-hopping for a random page. And it’s not accidental: these POVs are labelled so we don’t get confused. I just can’t understand why they’re even there.

And then the ending didn’t make much sense. New Girl tells us that she’s been having recurring dreams all year, but she’s only had one or two. Becca’s body is found a year after she dies in the water – still identifiable? Not decomposed or anything? It just doesn’t make sense. My forensics-trained and former morgue technician hubby tells me her body would definitely be bones, picked clean by the sea life – and maybe not even bones, depending on the area. So how did they find Becca’s body, what condition was it in, and how did they identify her?

But as a bonus, New Girl actually grew as a character. She grew and changed and changed her life as well! It was awesome watching her make the connections in her brain and outgrowing her old home as she had all these new experiences at Manderlay. Yay for heroines who can think for themselves!

And love triangle? Pfft! What love triangle? It’s not a love triangle: it’s a damned train wreck. But I mean that in a good way. Everyone is fucked over by everyone else. There’s no pining and puppy dog eyes and ‘I can’t live without you.’

Overall, despite its flaws, I really enjoyed this book and during the final third I couldn’t wait to get back to reading it. I give it a firm four stars.

AND I really want to read Here Lies Bridget.