Mini Review: History Is All You Left Me

Two years ago on my 2017 must-read list, I included History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. Despite reading  many, many books last year, I did not read it. Thus it carried over to my 2018 must-read list. I am happy to report I’m victorious at last.

Image result for history is all you left me

I’ll be honest. Why did it take me so long to read this book? I desperately hate sad things. You cannot fathom the depths to which I cannot tolerate them. But I powered through it because I could not take the shame of going another year studiously ignoring this book. After all, it’s a book that starts off with the sad thing and gets slowly better.

I read it like ripping off a bandaid, and though my opinion of sad reading material is unchanged, I found the book itself to be beautiful. In short, it is the aftermath of a boy’s (Theo) death, and his ex-boyfriend’s (Griffin) recovery.

A few things left me unsure about the book. The most prominent is the suggestion at the end of the book that Griffin has been hallucinating Theo’s continued presence in his life. Before this the book read like a goodbye letter to Theo’s memory. With this new element in the last few pages, the book was stripped of some of its tenderness. Secondly, and of much more minor concern, Silver’s teenspeak, especially at the beginning of the book, could be stilted and hard to take seriously.

I enjoyed this book, if you can enjoy a few hours of heartache. Watching Griffin slowly recover and repair his relationships with friends and family felt realistic and natural. If you don’t mind tears, this book is a great one.

YALLFest Radar

I’m writing this on two cups of tea, an extremely sugary hazelnut napoleon pastry, and two hours of writing the climax of my goblin story, so in other words, not in an extremely “present” state of mind. I just hit 66k words on the latter edge of the climax, so I’m expecting to FINISH this baby at ~70k between today and Wednesday, time allowing. And then I’m going to put it away until at least January while I start studying for the GRE with, hopefully, all the vigor with which I’ve been writing.

In other news, tomorrow is my birthday, which I’ve been using as an excuse to treat myself to various things. In other, other news, the most exciting time of the year grows every closer: YALLFest! I’ve just found out Brandon Mull, author of Fablehaven, will be there, and I don’t really know how to process this information. Fablehaven was formative in my middle school years. Kendra, protag and very badass slayer of demon kings, and Bracken, dreamy unicorn prince, were my OTP before I even knew what that even meant.

Of course, the entire lineup for YALLFest this year is incredible. Look forward to another annual set of debrief posts come November. It’s always a vast amount of knowledge to process. I know that attending this year will be as transformative as the two years past.

In other, other, other news, I made this:

b2ada5e654-imageedit_5_8587219100-343x360.gif

It’s my greatest creation. Dazzling, no?

Goblins

Well, it’s hurricane-ing outside and I’m out and about, maybe inadvisably; the jury’s out. Either way I’m staying at Dobra Tea until I hit 60k on my goblin project and leaving not on second sooner. Probably longer than that. I’m happy to report that my pace on this project has not slackened! Meanwhile, I’m slowly but surely working my way through Dobra’s selection of oolongs.

Anyway, I’m going to talk a bit about my process for the goblin story today, because it’s basically all I can think about.

Physical reference materials: in a spiral notebook, I have five pages: a sequential map of where my characters will go and what they will do there, a page with three columns describing character development from start to finish, a description a Marauding Gang™ of goblins, a page of notes to myself, and a day-by-day timeline tracking my protags over their thirty-day journey.

Reference files on Scrivener: character profiles (the first time I have ever used them) and worldbuilding documents on: goblin names, goblin feudalism, goblin nobility hierarchy, types of goblins, and goblin culture. Have I mentioned recently that this story is about some goblins? And, more importantly, that I love scrivener?

I also keep a running list of notes at the bottom of my working document, things that I’ll need to address in the next draft.

Chapter structure: this story rotates between three points of view, but not in any order. There are currently 57 chapters. I try to keep them all an even-ish length, and I try to keep the POVs evenly spaced, but at some points it just cant be helped. For example, at one point two of the protags are trapped in a hallucinatory state and the third takes over the POV for the next few chapters as he saves them.

The most challenging things during this project have been, believe it or not, the fricking GOBLIN NAMES. They can’t be too silly but they can’t be too elven, or too human, and I have two of a dozen that I’m actually content with. I’ve taken to highlighting all mentions of the ones I really don’t like so I won’t forget to come up with something better.

And that’s all for now, folks! Hope you enjoyed a little peek into what I’ve been doing for the last month or so.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Advice (And When Not To)

There’s a lot of writing advice out there. A LOT. There are blogs and books and articles all filled with sage wisdom sure to work well…for most. And that “for most” is exactly the topic of this blog post, which is writing advice that just doesn’t work for me! If there’s any writing advice that for you, personally, is more like writing destruction, feel free to share in the comments!

Without further ado, here’s things that I just can’t do:

  1. Jump around in the plot, rather than write chronologically. Uh…thanks but no thanks. I’ve tried it. It results in underdeveloped main scenes that I have to go and drudgingly link together. How can there be character development when they’re developing all out of order?
  2. Write every day, no matter what. Excuse me, no matter what? No matter a 100-page thesis or working to exhaustion abroad? This advice is simply unreasonable. Write when you can. Of course, when not writing becomes indicative of procrastination rather than sheer inability, that’s another story.
  3. All criticism is constructive. Wrong. Some criticism is bad criticism. Discount it if you know in your gut it’s bad for your story. Think: who’s giving you this advice? Why do they think that? Is their motive consistent with your own?
  4. Remove adjectives. I love adjectives. They can be used to great effect. I’ve used a number of them in this blog post and will not be removing any. A good adjective can help convey tone, emotion, stakes, and much more.
  5. Avoid “they said” dialogue tags. I’ve done a lot of revision cutting dialogue tags, and the subsequent action ends up feeling forced and superficial.

Please don’t get me wrong: there is wisdom in each of these bits of advice. But no advice should be taken blindly; these ones I take with a saltshaker.

Next post will be writing advice I really do like, so stay tuned!

Querying

To my continued shock, on Friday at 10 am I sent my first three query emails out into the wide world. I am still in slight shock. Here is the timeline of events, beginning last Tuesday:

Tuesday: For some reason while at work, I spontaneously think to myself, what if I just start querying? The thought seems absurd. Surely there is still so much to improve in my manuscript. But what? I think of two or three things that can be fixed in an afternoon. I text my best friend, What if I just start querying? The thought seems ludicrously bold. I decide to start querying.

Wednesday: In Malaprops bookstore in downtown Asheville, I pick through my query letter, which has been written for months now, sending it back and forth to my friend and quibbling over single words and phrases, finally working out a “final” draft. I pick three agents from my list I’ve been compiling and begin a spreadsheet. Is this really happening? Some of them want five pages in the email body. I begin despise every word in my first five pages.

Thursday: I sit in the library and polish my pages to a shine. I bombard my friend with slightly panicked phrasing questions. I look up innumerable authors on goodreads represented by various agents to determine if they’ve published any YA. I draft the emails and send many test emails to myself and my friend. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will do it.

Friday: I look up when the best time to send a query email is. There is no best time. In an out-of-body experience, I send the drafted emails. One is returned. I fix the email and send it again. I sit there for several minutes, astonished at myself. I still cannot believe what I’ve done.

As of today, I still can’t believe it! I do not doubt that those emails will receive no responses, but guess what? That’s not the point! The point is I took the first step, at last. I’m still a little giddy when I think about it. Two years ago querying was an abstract concept to me. It still kind of was, until somehow, this Tuesday, it wasn’t anymore.

purple sparkly dragon.gif

Oh, and somewhere in there I compiled a folder of luridly colored mythical creature gifs.