30 November: NaNo Wrap-Up

It’s the end of another season of NaNo, and it’s time for another monthly wrap-up – special edition!

So how did you do this year, Feliza?

Well… for the first time ever, I won!  I ended up with just a little over 50,000 words basically at the last minute, though I do have about five hours left in November now that I’m done…  My procrastinating ways have not left me.

What did you learn?

I actually learned a lot about England, actually.  Much of Victorious takes place in an alternate-universe version of London, so I had to learn a lot of things about London and about England in general.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

  • Parliament is housed in Westminster Palace, which is divided into two primary parts: The Chamber of Lords and the Chamber of Commons (possibly just Lords Chamber and Commons Chamber, but that was a little vague.)
  • (Also, the Big Ben clock tower is connected to Westminster.)
  • There are at least four streets in London called “Wentworth Road.”
  • There is a Portland in England, and the title for the nobility that resides there is the “Earl of Portland.”  How cool.

In terms of writing, I learned it’s much nicer to chip away chunks of 200 or 400 words at a time when I’m stuck.  Writer’s block is something I usually don’t have to deal with (as I said in this guest post) but I did this month, since NaNo competed with multiple papers and my job.

Most of all, I learned that being stubborn (which some people call “being determined”) is possibly one of my better traits.  Without that stubbornness and determination, I never could have done this.

What changed while you wrote?

Everything.

Just kidding.  But a lot of things did change.  When I started writing Victorious, I had a few primary characters: the protagonist, Augustine Allen, the several-greats grandson of the first black lawyer in America; Victoria, a college journalist in the alternate universe Augustine gets sucked into; Victor, Victoria’s twin brother and a mechanics/science prodigy; and the Duke and Duchess of Wales, Andrew and Mina.

My first day of writing Victorious, though, I added a new major character: Beth Nguyen, Augustine’s best friend in his own world.  She spent the rest of the novel doing a bunch of random things – usually when I was bored, needed to word-pad, or even when I was hungry.

I also spent more time talking about and developing Prince Andrew, Duke of Wales, and Mina, Duchess of Wales, than I originally expected.  While I can’t really tell you too much without giving away the plot, I can tell you that Andrew became a much more interesting prince and Mina went from forward-thinking royalty to working journalist and college instructor.

What would you recommend I do if I want to write a novel?

If you want to write a novel, the first thing you need to do is try to do it.  There are so many ways to do this, even if you think you don’t have time.  Take fifteen minutes normally reserved for Twitter or Facebook and pour it into writing even 100 words of a story.

I’d encourage everyone who wants to write a novel to try NaNoWriMo, but I personally believe aspiring NaNos should try Script Frenzy first.  It’s still hard, but it’s not as hard as NaNo – plus, it’s coming up in April, and you won’t be able to NaNo the regular way until Camp NaNoWriMo in July and August.

Also, my boyfriend and I discussed this a lot during the challenge: you must, must, must read.  If you’re not reading, you can’t write – because you never learn style, good dialogue, or what to look for in a story.

The Hard Facts

Total Words Written: 50,186

Completed?: Not by a long shot.  There’s plenty of adventure left for Augustine and Victoria.  At least the remaining chapters are outlined.

Won?:  YES!

31 October: Current Progress

Happy Halloween!

As I gear up for NaNoWriMo with the rest of the UT Writer’s Guild, I’m wrapping up a few of my long-term projects before November.  Most of them will start over again in December.

  • I’ve decided to work on a new, as-of-now untitled screenplay project.  All I can really tell you is that it’s related to The TECH Project and my first attempt at Script Frenzy in 2009.  And that it’ll be much better than both of those things.
  • This month, I’ve been making some excellent progress on my novel The Final Experiment, which is a direct sequel to The TECH Project and takes place one year after TTP’s conclusion.  I’m more than three-fourths of the way finished transcribing the novel, but I also have to write two full scenes – including an intense battle scene – and there’s a lot of editing to do before I can do anything else with the manuscript.
  • I’m also working on Knitting, a prompt for my Screenwriting class that’s growing into a slightly larger story.  It may go on to do bigger and better things, but for now it’s a 10-minute short film.

And now on to NaNoWriMo!  Here’s what you can look forward to as I update with fair regularity about my progress:

Augustine is a little old-fashioned.  His whole apartment is decorated in neo-Victorian style – but he’s felt for some time now that something’s missing.  He finds that missing element in a back-alley antique store: an ornate brass-framed mirror, faintly scratched.  Thrilled with his find, Augustine hauls it home only to find himself sucked inside – into a strange, almost Victorian world filled with oil-driven and steam-powered machines.

That’s just a brief summary – I have much more outlined!

You can also see in my current sidebar a NaNoWriMo widget.  I’ll keep my word count updated there, too, so you can check my progress as I make it.  I plan to win NaNo for the first time this year!

Will you be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year?  If so, add me as a friend!  You can find me under the username xxfourthelement or in the Toledo regional forums.

2011 Summer Reading List, Part 1

We are about midway through June and about one third of the way through what could be considered my “summer break,” meaning the break between spring semester and fall semester during which I work part-time.

I’ve started working my way through my summer reading list, which is much more extensive and broad than that of other years, since I’m aiming for graduate school after I graduate in May 2012.  So far, I’ve actually made decent progress.  Below, I’ve listed a selection of books I’ve finished reading as well as my recommendations for each.

  • The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming – While I had high hopes for this book, which prominently featured a woman who is technically the Princess of Toledo (my hometown), I was disappointed to discover that the book was not exactly my cup of tea.  Granted, it was fantastically written, and as an alternative history it was spectacular, but the style did not necessarily agree with my tastes as a reader.  As an English student, though, I can certainly see the charm of the book, and encourage those interested in historical fiction or steampunk fiction to check this out.
  • America Pacifica by Anna North – This book, on the other hand, certainly went above and beyond what I expected.  Though I knew it was a futuristic, post-apocalyptic story, a genre I sometimes have difficulty with in adult fiction, the writing was still clear and accessible to an average reader.  Though the ending dragged out a little longer than I would have liked, the mysteries unraveled in the novel are curious enough to keep a reader interested.  It’s not exactly for the optimistic, happy-ending type, but sci-fi and post-apocalyptic fans will enjoy this story about an eighteen-year-old girl who will do anything to save her mother in a tyrannical island society.
  • Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner – What else can be expected from a book given a great review by the New York Times?  I loved Vaclav and Lena, a novel about two young people whose friendship and love stays alive no matter what.  Though the book has its sad moments, it is truly a beautiful story, despite the horrific topic it addresses.  My favorite is Vaclav, though I love Lena as well.  Each important character is given depth and roundness that shows great care.  And, of course, I have a natural affinity for anything regarding immigrants to America.  I would encourage everyone to at least take a look at Vaclav and Lena, if for no other reason than to see the spectacular accomplishment of debut author Haley Tanner.

Those are just three of the books on my list.  In the future, look forward to other small reviews of books including Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin.