Sunday, 30 January 2011

Books Read in January

I have decided to post a list at the end of each month, of books I read during that month. This will be a place to make brief comments about some of the books, whereas my overall annual list, simply includes names of books and authors, without any reviews or comments.

01. Arctic Drift - Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler - 05/01
Good story, excellent plot. But as is often the problem with a lot of complicated thriller novels,  writing itself leaves a lot to be desired. So even though I can appreciate a good story, and I can see what an excellent movie it might have made, but I can also see how much more I might have enjoyed if writing was more polished. 

02. Princess Diaries: Seventh Heaven - Meg Cabot - 06/01

03. Princess Diaries: After Eight - Meg Cabot - 07/01
I mistakenly thought that this was the last book in the series, so I was extremely annoyed by its ambiguous ending. I am sure there were few expletives as well. Then I calmed down enough to check on Meg Cabot's website and realised that there are actually two more books, so the world was right again. I am not a fan of vague endings at the best of times, but in series it is completely unforgivable. I don't invest hours and hours of reading time, and several books worth of money in a series, to find that conclusion could be either this or either that. 

04. Journal 1 - Dolly Garland - 08/01
I haven't read my journals cover-to-cover since I started keeping them. For the earlier journals, enough time has passed for me to look at them with objectivity, so I have decided to start reading from Journal 1. 

05. The Laurentine Spy - Emily Gee - 09/01
This was an excellent stand-alone fantasy. It does a good job of containing just enough information of setting and background to be sufficient for stand alone. It is well-written, engaging and characters are very sympathetic and well developed.

06. The Devil and Miss Prym - Paulo Coelho - 11/01

07. Club Dead - Charlaine Harris - 14/01

08. Knight of Shadows - Roger Zelazney - 14/01

09. Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris - 16/01
My absolute favourite book in the Sookie Stackhouse series (from Books 1 to 8). Before this book, I liked this series. After this book, I love this series.

10. Dead as a Doornail - Charlaine Harris - 16/01

11. Definitely Dead - Charlaine Harris - 17/01

12. All Together Dead - Charlaine Harris - 18/01

13. From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris - 19/01

14. Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews - 22/01

15. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader - Anne Fadiman - 22/01
A superb collection of essays from a book lover. Anne Fadiman's writing style is easy to read, engaging and genuine. This little book is a wealth of joy for a book lover, and the essays talk about books, as book lovers think of them - as something more than just a piece of entertainment or an object. The value of books as we perceive them is not understood by "regular" people, and reading these essays is like speaking to a friend who feels exactly the same way.

16. One for the Money * - Janet Evanovich - 24/01
I read quite a lot of Stephanie Plum books from a library few years ago. Just bought first three books in the series for re-read. 

17. Pride and Prejudice * - Jane Austen - 30/01
Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors of all time, and definitely my THE favourite classics author. Now and again, I feel the need to revisit my favourite Austen books. 

Monday, 24 January 2011

Naming Characters

A very big part of a new WIP is naming characters. The initial Urban Fantasy I was going to write was easy, because I already had main characters, but since I went off to another idea, I needed new characters. So the brainstorm started. And along with that, thoughts about names.

Names are of course very important. There are issues of certain facts and realism. You can't have a modern young woman named Edna without some sort of explanation. No offence to any Edna out there, but I only know or have heard of Ednas who belong firmly in my grandmother's generation. So if your 20 year-old is named Edna, you bet there is some reason for it. Or I think there should be. 

But other than that, we do have a lot of freedom with modern characters. In the world today, names are no longer restricted to one culture or one geographical location. Baby names range from weird to wonderful, and that could be used for characters. So realism I can manage. But for me, names are really really important. They have to resonate with me perfectly for that specific character. 

Some characters come with a full name. Other come with a first name and then I have to fumble around for a surname. Then there is the issue of bigger picture. Sometimes, I find names for hero and heroine that I love, but they end up sounding too similar or several supporting characters end up with names that begin with same letters or end in same sounds. Then I have to change some. I have been known to spend days trolling through baby names websites for inspiration if the right name doesn't strike. 

I prefer to have final names as early in the process as possible, because names are very much part of a character's identity, and I like to start thinking of them with their right name immediately. I am sometimes less fussy with really minor characters, but all main characters and important supporting characters do get a lot of attention before I name them. Though I do love the ones who tell me what their names are from the start. 

What about you? How do you name your characters? How fussy are you?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

What Kind of a Reader Are You?

People treat their books differently. They love their books differently. One person's habit could be another person's nightmare. Forget about e-books for a moment, and think of all the paperbacks and hardbacks you love(d) before the E-Reader Army arrived in town. How do you treat your books?

Are you a spine breaker? Are your pages dog-eared? Do you care if the books are used or new? Do you keep them? Do you write in them? Do you leave the book open, lying face down? Does it matter what your book looks like? 


I will share my own idiosyncrasies. 

  1. I almost always buy new books. I have few used ones, where I might have picked them up from a second-hand shop or charity shop. But these would have been something that caught my interest, but not necessarily something I desperately wanted. These would have been bargains that were so cheap I felt it wouldn't be a waste even if I never touched them or didn't keep them, and even if used, they would be in relatively good condition. If it's a messed up book, dog eared ages, broken spines, food splashes - I wouldn't buy it for a penny. 
  2. In all of my books I write my name and a date when I got the book. If I bought it from somewhere unusual - like while I was travelling in another country - then I write down the place I bought it from. 
  3. I don't really lend my books, and I don't borrow other people's. Having lent them to few people previously, I have learned my lesson. I don't trust other people to handle my books. I lend occasional book to my husband. But he doesn't read a lot and I buy plenty for him as various presents than he ever reads, so it's not a big thing. But even when I give him one of my books, I supply it with a book mark and instructions to be careful. 
  4. I do have double standards. I write in my books. I can scribble across the margins, underline pages, and it's okay. It adds to the character. If anyone else as much as puts a dot in it, they wouldn't be my favourite person for a long long time. 
  5. I always use bookmarks. I may leave a book open and facing down for two seconds if I am just trying to grab something and needs hands free, but no more than that. I have a handy supply of bookmarks around, so it's never a problem, and besides, as soon as I pick up a book to read, a bookmark is the first thing that goes in there. 
  6. I take care of my books, but not at the cost of pleasure. I am naturally careful with them, so if I have read a book only once, it will almost always look brand new. But the books I read again and again, begin to show wear and tear. And I like that. It adds to their character, and it makes sense that my favourite books would fall into that category.
  7. I keep all my books.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Selecting a New Project - Part 2

Some more development - though not exactly what I had planned.

When I first decided to choose between a Sci-Fi project or an Urban Fantasy Project, it was a pretty simple thing. I decided quite early on that I was going to focus on the Urban Fantasy project. So started working on brainstorm for that. 

I must admit, I was tempted a few times to start writing. But I stuck to my plan and kept working on brainstorm, because as I have proclaimed here before, I am now definitely a planner. My pantser days are behind me. Then today, something entirely different happened. I veered off, and thought about another character, and then some of the ideas I had used in other projects (not started, but just at the idea stage) sort of mingled with this one, and then I was thinking about completely different Urban Fantasy.

I still like the premise of my original Urban Fantasy, and I am keeping it. But for now, this new idea is pulling me strongly, so I am going to focus on that, brainstorm that, and see what happens. I am hoping that this will be it. I don't really want to keep changing my mind, because I want a solid plot for one book, so I can start writing it soon. But I am also not going to rush the writing if ideas are not properly in place. So keeping my fingers crossed, and this will be it. 

What are you working on at the moment? How is it going?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Learning Discipline - (Almost) Daily Writer

As you may have noted in my Weekly Goal post, my writing goals are quite modest. Much modest if you compare it to my usual word count goals. 300 words on working days, and 1000 words on weekends - that is certainly achievable.

Why the modest goals? I could probably do more on many days. But the point is, not every day.

Finally I seem to have learned the lesson from 2010. Okay, I probably knew this before, but the message seems to have sunk in at last.

The message: Focus on discipline of daily habit, rather than just the goal

I will admit, I am not at all satisfied with 2010 in terms of my writing. It was a disappointing year, and I didn't meet majority of my goals. I want this year to be different. And I realise what my error was. I was focusing on big goals. I had ambitious goals. And that's good - we need ambition, and big goals. But I didn't keep up with the discipline.

I kept changing my goals, and when not satisfied with one draft, I got stuck in a rut. That has to change. While I am not at all in favour of submitting work that you know is not good enough, there is no point in getting stuck over it. I am a writer, and so I should be writing at least for the majority of 365 days.

It won't be everyday. I know that. Some weeks I will spend brainstorming, some weeks, just editing. But I need to spend more days doing the actual writing. That's why modest goals. Little goals. Daily goals.

These are the goals I KNOW I can achieve EVERY DAY. Even if I miss one day - like this week when I was so exhausted, I feel asleep - I know I can make up for it the next day. That is not to say that I will not write more if I feel like it. More is fine. That's overachieving. But the key thing is to meet the goals, because in the long run, over the course of the entire year, it's the little, daily goals that will produce more productive results than writing frenzies of 10K per day on random weekends.

So I will save my frenzies for NaNo, but day to day, the lesson I am trying to teach myself is to be disciplined. Without discipline, talent or hard-work are not going to amount to much.

It's been a good start so far, but the year has barely started, so really hoping that I won't drop off the Discipline Wagon. And if I do, you guys feel free to yell at me.

How do you deal with issue of discipline? Are you one of those people that are naturally disciplined? Or did you have to teach yourself? How did you manage it? Or are you a constant struggler at it, like I am? Share your troubles and triumphs.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Selecting a New Project

Now that my NaNo Novel is finished - at least this draft - it's time to select a new project to work on while I let it rest for a bit before starting editing. I have decided to leave it for minimum 2 weeks or maximum 4 weeks. I don't know which yet. It will depend on how things go with the new project.

My plan is to use these 2-4 weeks to:
1. Decide which novel I will work on
2. Brainstorm
3. Have at least initial, basic outline in place

Deciding which novel I will work on is the first step. I have a lot of projects at various stages, ranging from a single idea to half-finished books that need rewrites. I have decided that I want to work on something new. In the last couple of years, I have learned a lot of new things, and I hope improved as a writer, but it's been a messy process of discovery. So I want to know if things become more efficient with a new project, because I will be starting with a clean slate.

So that narrowed me down to four projects. One Urban Fantasy, One Fantasy, Two Science Fiction - one of them possibly Space Opera type.

Then I thought about those four projects. The Fantasy one is quite well developed idea, and I already had a rough outline in place. But since then, I have decided to change bits of plot, characters, and so it will require major changes in that outline. I feel like I have too much information for that project - both old and new - so it doesn't feel too much of a clean slate. So I have eliminated that.

One of the science fiction (not Space Opera type) is too new. The strongest thing I have for that is the main character. He is the one I know - but all the other characters are bit vague at the moment, and I haven't got a firm direction for plot. There is hardly any information there, so I have eliminated that. The story I have in mind is quite an ambitious one, and it will certainly be considerably long one I think, so I think this idea needs some time to stew.

That leaves me with the Urban Fantasy and Sci-fi (space-operaish). Between these two, I need to make a decision.

For Urban Fantasy, I have the main characters, couple of supporting characters, back story for the MC, and some knowledge of what kind of story I want it to be. I have main conflict, but not the exact details of MC's role - well, more accurately her occupation or how will she be involved. I haven't got a full plot either. So for this, I have just enough to get started with, but not enough information that it still feels like a brand new project.

For the sci-fi one, I have even less info. I have the MC, and I have his situation. Those are the absolute firm things, and I am happy with that. But there is no plot at the moment. I have vague ideas of the kind of story I want, but without details. So this is also a brand new project.

Both of these should be of equal length - probably around 90K, so whichever one I pick, should take about the same sort of time. That will be an experiment in itself, as I am hoping to write this draft at the same time as revising my NaNo draft. I have done simultaneous projects before, but not with daily discipline, so it will be a challenge to do equal justice to both projects, or even figure out how I am going to manage the time. But I will keep you guys posted.

For now....it's decision time. Urban Fantasy or Sci-fi? I will know in a day or two.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

NaNo2010 Draft Finished

I have surprised myself by having completed NaNo novel tonight. I was expecting to finish it by end of next week, but today, even after I had finished my target of 1000 words, I felt that the end was closer, so kept writing. 2352 words later, the novel is finished. 

Final word count is 89603 words. 


It will need a lot of editing, I have no doubt of that. There will be cuts, and quite a bit of setting details need to be added. But I am going to leave it for at least two weeks to give myself some distance before starting the next draft. For now, I am just happy that it's finished. 



Friday, 7 January 2011

What Happened to Your NaNo Words?

Remember last November? The clock hand announced midnight and many of us - after a quick squal of excitement - began to pound the keys. It was a great month. I love NaNo, with accumulation of crazy writerly spirit that seems to spread around the world. Whether you officially won NaNo or not, doesn't matter. Though if you did win, congratulations. What matters is that at the end of it, you had something.

What was it? Short stories, partial book, a script? Where is it now? Have you finished it? Abandoned it? Are you finishing it? Whatever happened to all those words?

I am currently working on my NaNo novel. After unproductive December (barely 2000 words in total), January is going to be better. (YES IT IS). I wrote over 80K during November, so I don't have long to go. There are 4 scenes left. I don't know how many words it will take exactly, but no more than 10K - and even that's probably pushing it. So I hope to fnish my NaNo draft by end of January.

What about you? What are you going to do with your NaNo words?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Books Read 2011


My reading goal for 2011 is to read minimum 80 books, though I am secretly hoping that I could at least match last year's 99. But 80 is the goal. Here, I will keep an on-going list of books I read, and the dates I finish them. Feel free to make your comments, share your views about these books, or about what you are reading. Many of you have joined me in this reading challenge, so share your successes throughout the year. 


* books = rereads 


BOOKS READ

01. Arctic Drift - Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler - 05/01
02. Princess Diaries: Seventh Heaven - Meg Cabot - 06/01
03. Princess Diaries: After Eight - Meg Cabot - 07/01
04. Journal 1 - Dolly Garland - 08/01
05. The Laurentine Spy - Emily Gee - 09/01
06. The Devil and Miss Prym - Paulo Coelho - 11/01
07. Club Dead - Charlaine Harris - 14/01
08. Knight of Shadows - Roger Zelazney - 14/01
09. Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris - 16/01
10. Dead as a Doornail - Charlaine Harris - 16/01
11. Definitely Dead - Charlaine Harris - 17/01
12. All Together Dead - Charlaine Harris - 18/01
13. From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris - 19/01
14. Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews - 22/01
15. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader - Anne Fadiman - 22/01
16. One for the Money * - Janet Evanovich - 24/01
17. Pride and Prejudice * - Jane Austen - 30/01
18. Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox - Eoin Colfer - 01/02
19. LEPrecon - Eoin Colfer - 01/02
20. Nemi - Lise Myhre - 05/02
21. The Six Sacred Stones - Matthew Reilly - 09/02
22. Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse - Laurell K. Hamilton - 15/02
23. Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris - 16/02
24. The Half-Made World - Felix Gilman - 19/02
25. Lark Rise - Flora Thompson - 01/03
26. Over to Candleford - Flora Thompson - 04/03
27. Candleford Green - Flora Thompson - 09/03
28. Strengths Finder 2.0 - Tom Rath - 12/03
29. Discovering Your Personality Type - Don Ruso&Russ Hudson - 17/03
30. Promises in Death - J. D. Robb - 19/03
31. Prince of Chaos - Roger Zelazny - 21/03
32. Turn Coat - Jim Butcher - 01/04
33. Globejotting - Dave Fox - 05/04
34. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde - 08/04
35. James Bond 02: Live and Let Die - 16/04
36. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia A. McKillip - 19/04
37. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - 24/04
38. 84 Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff - 24/04
39. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street - Helene Hanff - 26/04
40. Twilight's Dawn - Anne Bishop - 29/04
41. Sixty-One Nails - Mike Shevdon - 01/05
42. Artemis Fowl and the Atlantic Complex - Eoin Colfer - 07/05
43. Dead in the Family - Charlaine Harris - 08/05
44. Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich - 10/05
45. Matilda - Roald Dahl - 12/05
46. The Twits - Roald Dahl - 15/05
47. Dark Lover - J. R. Ward - 20/05
48. First Five Pages - Noah Lukeman  - 21/05
49. The Road to Bedlam - Mike Shevdon - 28/05
50. Tigana - Guy Gavriel Kay - 04/06
51. Notes on Writing Weird Fiction - H. P. Lovecraft - 08/06
52. The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss - 17/06
53. Next Logical Step - Ben Bova - 22/06
54. Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury - 26/06
55. How to Write a Great Query Letter - Noah Lukeman - 30/06
56. The Art of War for Writers - James Scott Bell - 01/07
57. Writing Fiction For All You Are Worth - James Scott Bell - 04/07
58. Dead Until Dark* - Charlaine Harris - 08/07
59. Journal 2 - Dolly Garland - 09/07
60. Moon Blood - Patricia Briggs - 13/07
61. Coraline - Neil Gaiman - 21/07
62. Heat Wave - Richard Castle - 21/07
63. Twilight - Stephenie Meyer - 23/07
64. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer - 23/07
65. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer - 24/07
66. Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer - 24/07
67. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - Stephenie Meyer - 26/07
68. Four to Score - Janet Evanovich - 30/07
69. Living Dead in Dallas* - Charlaine Harris - 31/07
70. Plum Lucky - Janet Evanovich - 03/08
71. How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent - Noah Lukeman - 06/08
72. Diary of a Wimpy Vampire - Tim Collins - 08/08
73. A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin - 17/08
74. How to Read Like a Writer - Francine Prose - 19/08
75. Side Jobs - Jim Butcher - 19/08
76. Tenerife Journal - Dolly Garland - 31/08
77. A Clash of Kings - George R. R. Martin - 12/09
78. Fantasy in Death - J. D. Robb - 15/09
79. The Sign of Four - Arthur Conan Doyle - 20/09
80. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wolves at the Gate - Drew Goddard - 24/09
81. Grave Peril - Jim Butcher - 25/09
82. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins - 27/09
83. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins - 28/09
84. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins - 29/09
85. The Old Man and the Sea* - Ernest Hemingway - 30/09
86. Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians - Brandon Sanderson - 03/10
87. Dear John - Nicholas Sparks - 10/10
88. A Storm of Swords - George R. R. Martin - 24/10
89. Princess Diaries: To the Nines - Meg Cabot - 25/10
90. Princess Diaries: Ten Out of Ten - 26/10
91. Dead to the World* - 30/10
92. The Best of Reading for Your Success - Scott Dinsmore - 11/11
93. Focus - Leo Babauta - 12/11
94. How to Gain Extra 2 Hours Per Day - Brian Tracy - 12/11
95. 21 Ways to Double Your Productivity - Brian Tracy - 13/11
96. Zen to Done - Leo Babauta - 13/11
97. Goals - Brian Tracy - 14/11
98. Maximum Achievement - Brian Tracy - 15/11
99. 50 Best Jobs For Your Personality - Michael Farr - 19/11
100. My Life Planning Workbook - JaiperJAM - 19/11
101. The Ultimate Goals Program - Brian Tracy - 22/11
102. 21 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Money - Brian Tracy - 23/11
103. Get Paid More and Promoted Faster - Brian Tracy - 24/11
104. A Feast for the Crows - George R. R. Martin - 03/12
105. Across the Universe - Beth Revis - 0412
106. Doctor Who: The King's Dragon - Una McCormacn - 05/12
107. Starman's Quest - Robert Silverberg - 05/12
108. The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss - 10/12
109. Third Girl - Agatha Christie - 17/12

Monday, 3 January 2011

Weekly Goals

Since it's Week 1, I figured I will do a Weekly Goal post. I have just made a list of all the things I need to do, so here I will share those goals.

Blogging
- At least two posts on Writer Revealed (this counts ;)
- At least two posts on Journal Addict

Reading
- Finish reading Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler (P. 344 - P. 578)
- Read F. Scott Fitzgerald on Authorship at least up to P. 55

Tidy
- lots of mess - mostly papers that really need sorting

Fitness
- Do fitness test on MFC

Website
- Renew website hosting
- Check if domain needs renewing

Writing - NaNo2010
- Monday 300 words
- Tuesday 300 words
- Wednesday 300 words
- Thursday 300 words
- Friday 300 words
- Saturday 1000 words
- Sunday 1000 words

I have a list of secondary goals too that I could work on if I do finish all of these, but it's sufficient to be getting on with, since it will also be first week back to work - and so not looking forward to that. 

Seems finally I am in the New Year, and beginning to get into groove of things. How are things coming along for you? 

Saturday, 1 January 2011

2011 Reading Challenge - Join Me??

2011 Reading Challenge officially begins. What will be your goal for this year? Since I easily surpassed by 75 books last year, I am going to go for 80 books this year. Trying to remain realistic, as I have plenty of other goals this year - like write and edit more, and read more non-fiction (that takes longer than fiction), so I think 80 should do it. 

I will continue recording my 2011 Books Read list on this blog, as I did last year. But for personal use, I keep my faithful spreadsheet, which has more details than what I put on this blog. I know spreadsheets are not everyone's thing - but for me, it still remains most effective and fun (yes - I appreciate spreadsheets and fun don't usually go together, but I am weird about them) :P 

Are you going to keep a list of books you read this year? How do you plan to do that?