Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Remember childhood?  That was the time of lingering afternoons, when a few hours were forever.  Enough time to conquer the playground, the world, and still fit in an afternoon snack.  Those were the days…

Now time flies and I don't like it one bit.  Can you believe it's 2013?  *shudders*

Well, before I officially welcome the New Year, I guess I'd like to look at my personal 2012.  I'll try to stick to writerly things, though of course I'll throw in some extra!

I finished the first draft of a WIP.  Hoorah!  My first middle grade book, which was a drastic change from my other work.  But it was so much fun to write, that I might just have to stick to kid's lit all the time.

Returned to WIP #2, which I had deemed a "drawer book."  I cringed at the sight of it, and then rewrote the first chapter for kicks and giggles.  Got some positive feedback, so now I'm seriously considering revamping the whole thing.  Should I?

Returned to WIP #3.  Started seriously revising that.  Chop chop chop!

Started my blog!  Oh my goodness, I've learned so much from reading other writers' blogs.  The internet is an amazing tool.

Headed down to the great state of Texas to see some awesome friends, who also happen to be my #1 beta readers.  I owe them for breaking me out of my writing-oriented shyness, so thanks guyssssssss!

Finished revising WIP #3.  There were some major revisions in terms of plot, character, overall writing style, etc.  However, I came to the conclusion that this book will always be a "drawer book."  I needed to write it, revise it, everything (it was great practice!), but I don't think I'll ever attempt to get it out into the world.  And frankly, I'm okay with that.  It needed to happen, but now it's done.  Hoorah!

Finally time to revise WIP #1.  But goodness, was that a first draft!  Revise revise revise, chop chop chop, cut a character, add another, scratch that, GAH.

Joined a writers' circle that meets weekly.  Though the meetings are often unproductive (we spend a lot of time catching up on each other's lives), the group provided me with some excellent friends and beta readers.

Finished those revisions on WIP #1.  Wiped off the sweat, sent it out to beta readers.

But what's this?  PitchMas and Pitch Wars?  Unfortunately, I can't wait for the beta readers, so it's off to the contests.  With PitchMas I got some requests (yay!), and with Pitch Wars I'm fortunate enough to be an alternate!  Hoorah!

So, what has 2012 taught me in terms of writing?  A lot.  But here are the three big lessons:

1.  Let your work marinate - I made the mistake of jumping into revisions right after I finished my first drafts, so I didn't have fresh eyes.  I couldn't see the problems that were blatantly obvious when I looked at the work seven months later (and in some cases, a few years).  Writing takes patience, so just wait.

2.  Never give up - I had all but lost hope on WIP #2, but after looking at it again, I'm really excited to rework it!

3.  Confidence! - I guess this isn't really a lesson, but 2012 gave me much needed confidence in my work.  I found a great writer's circle, got lots of positive feedback, and made ripples in PitchMas and Pitch Wars.

My goal for 2013?  Keep writing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Beauty of Spontaneity

I just booked a spontaneous trip to Rome.  And I mean spontaneous.  Impulsive.  Spur-of-the-moment.  Probably crazy.  I didn't have any reasons for doing it, and though I can tack on the merits of such a trip, they're all afterthoughts.

But that's all right.  I love a good adventure.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Favorite Books This Year

The Shelf is a special bookshelf in my room which holds only my all-time favorites.  There aren't that many (maybe about ten, tops) because I'm extremely selective about which books get to live on The Shelf.  Some long time residents include Tess of the D'UrbervillesOne Hundred Years of Solitude, and Water for Elephants.

Because of the selectivity, it's not every year that a book gets added to The Shelf, but this year, TWO books made the cut.  These are books that blew my mind, that haunted me long after I read the final sentence (and to a certain extent, still haunt me).  So, applause for:
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - I read this book during the summer, and my goodness, what a book!  It's funny, tragic, heartfelt, romantic…And mmm, Rhett Butler.  I'd sure like to meet him under the mistletoe :)
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner - It's not an easy read, nor are the characters particularly likable, but the story is absolutely mind-blowing.  More than once I shot up and started screaming "WHAT?  WHAT?"
Hmm, I'm sensing a theme here: both my additions are about the South during and after the Civil War.  Both involve struggling families, ruthless gentlemen, unfortunate marriages…Should I be concerned?  Nah.  They were both great, that's all.

All right, time for some honorable mentions.  I loved these books--and I mean really loved them--but even so, they didn't quite make it onto The Shelf.  Some of them are still under consideration for the honor (it takes me a long time to decide), so one day, they could be.
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke (re-read) (under serious consideration)
  • Holes by Louis Sachar (re-read) (under consideration)
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (under consideration)
  • The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  • The Fault in our Stars by John Green (under consideration)
Hoorah!  Goodness, I love to read.

What were your favorite books this year?  Of all time?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hobbit and the Importance of Characters

Last night I went to see The Hobbit.

Woot woot!  I'm super proud of myself because it's the first full LOTR movie (it counts as LOTR, right?) I've seen.  I saw most of The Two Towers, but never finished (I know…I should be ashamed of myself.  Trust me, I am.)

I read The Hobbit for the first time recently.  I mean, very recently.  As in I finished it today.

But when I went to see the movie, I was only 2/3 finished--and I had been reading the book for months.  That's a really long time.  Granted, I read dozens of books simultaneously, but normally it doesn't take me that long to get through a book.  But no matter how I tried, I couldn't get into it.  And I totally understood why:  the characters fell flat.  For the most part, they were just names.  No personalities, no backstories.  I didn't care about them, so even when they were in mortal danger (which was most of the time), I was bored.

But then I saw the movie.  And loved it.  Because the movie had characters, and I grew to care about them.  And not just the standard three (Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin), but the others, too, my favorites  being Fili, Kili, and Bofur (who, until I saw the movie, I hadn't been able to tell apart).  They weren't just names anymore; they had unique personalities.

Today I sped through the rest of The Hobbit (the book, I mean), tackling the same number of pages it had taken me months to read in a couple of hours.  Why the difference?  Because I took the characters from the movie and transferred them to the page.  Now I cared.  I actually got teary when *SPOILER ALERT* Bilbo learns that Fili and Kili died.

Long story short, character development is critical.  You can have the best plot in the world, but if the characters are boring, then it'll be a struggle to read.

What were your thoughts on The Hobbit?  Book and movie?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Children's books shouldn't sit still and behave."

I stumbled across this gem today:

Children’s literature is a place of great experimentation. Like children themselves, it can be hilariously playful and deeply serious. It isn’t content to sit on shelves and behave. It is inquisitive, exploratory – and difficult to categorise. It tells tales of rabbits and ducks, of vampires and zombies, of ordinary kids in ordinary homes, of love and death, and explores the most profound, joyful and troubling aspects of human experience. It experiments with narrative and form, with the shape of the page and the shape of the book. It is where literary culture is constantly renewed. We overlook this world at our peril. It is, and always will be, at the heart of our cultural life.
David Almond, Children’s books shouldn’t sit still and behave.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy (Belated) Time Traveler Day

Happy Time Traveler Day?  (Well, I guess it's a little belated, since it's now past midnight...)  Anyway, according to my wonderful in-the-know friend, December 8th is Time Traveler Day.  Which is freakin' awesome.

I love the idea of time travel.  If I could have any superpower, I would choose that one, hands down.  No flying, no invisibility, no telepathy, but time travel.  I tend to have a write of stories based on time travel.  At least three, and I won't be surprised if more crop up.  Like a lot of writers, I write stories that I would want to live, and I would love to journey into the past.

The first place I would go?  That's really difficult, but I'd probably choose Paris in the 1920s (basically I'd like to be Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris).  The '20s seem like they were a lot of fun, not to mention I'd love to hang out with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, and the like (especially Hemingway).  I'd also like to see regency-era Brazil (obviously. My fascination with Brazil is pretty apparent in my previous posts), Jamaica in the latter half of the 17th century, and Boston/Philadelphia/Williamsburg during the American Revolution.

Back to writing:  my favorite book that involves time travel is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I love that book for a lot of reasons (namely, Sirius Black, Lupin, and an abundance of Snape), but the part with the time turner is wonderful.

Your turn:  Do you have a favorite book/movie that involves time travel?  If you could visit any time period, which would you choose and why?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thank goodness I got a Twitter...

For the longest time I avoided Twitter.  With Facebook, Tumblr, and a blog, I really didn't need anything else to distract me from what's most important:  writing.

Turns out, Twitter is great.

Not only do I get to read some great advice from literary agents, editors, and authors, but I can find out about contests I never would have known existed.  Like Pitch Wars and PitchMas, both great ways to try to get a manuscript noticed.

So here's to Twitter.

P.S.  Follow me @SamBFarkas :)