Sunday, January 29, 2017

Beautiful Books: January 2017

~Beautiful People is a monthly linkup for writers hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.~

1. What were your writing achievements last year?
I re-wrote the fantasy novel that I have been working on for the past two years, and I focused on characters. I also attempted to write a few short stories, though I haven't finished any of them. Additionally, I wrote a lot of blog posts of which I am proud, and I earned A's on all of my college essays (though one was, technically, a B+/A-)!

2. What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?
My biggest goal for 2017 is to finish my fantasy novel. If I can, I would also like to write/finish several short stories. If I can't write them, then I would at least like to outline them. Tentatively, I am thinking about writing an anthology of scary stories (my Gothic Literature class inspired me). Also, my sci-fi cafĂ© story idea is still cooking in the back of my mind. It's not fully baked yet, but I have high hopes that the oven timer will sound its completion soon!
3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!
My fantasy novel! Though have learned a lot through the enjoyable process of editing this book, I am ready to finish this story.
4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?
I hope to continue refining my essay-writing skills. Also, I hope I can continue growing in my characterization and streamlining skills.
At the end of 2017, I would like to have a physical copy of my finished manuscript in front of me. (And my secret hope is that I will have published something in my school's literary journal. But, shh! Don't tell anyone!)
5. Describe your general editing process.
Since I've only editing one book before this one, I don't have an editing process yet. The one I've been using for this novel has been working well, though. I started by working on my plot, and then I worked on my characters. Now, I'm working on my plot and characters again. After I finish with them, I will look over the draft for wordiness, decide if I need better word choice, and fix grammar mistakes.
6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think [your most recent] draft turned out?
A seven. It was much better than I expected and it has a lot of potential, but it still has a lot of work to be done to it. Luckily, I can see exactly what needs to be done! All I need is the time and motivation to do it.
7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?
In addition to my characters, my world building still needs work. I don't have to worry much about one of my races since only one of its members is in the story. Finn's race, however, I have renovated since I decided that I didn't want him to be an Elf. I've made up my own race, which means a lot of rewriting later in the story. Hopefully, I can write them well enough that people don't think they are Elves.
8. What do you like the most about your draft?
The cleverness and humor. I didn't remember that my story was so funny! I'm taking this as a good sign: if I'm entertained by it, certainly my audience will be entertained, right?
9. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers?
Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?
After I finish this draft, I will have several people read it. Then, I will work on edits based on their comments, and word choice and grammar edits. After that, I don't know. I want to publish the story somewhere, but I don't know yet if I want to self-publish it or go the independent or traditional route.
10. What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?
First of all: Congratulations!! You wrote a whole novel! My advice to you is to take a break from your story for several weeks. Then, start looking at it again. You will see the problems and have to come up with solutions. Sometimes, letting other people read your work helps you figure out problems and solutions.
No first draft is perfect, but nearly every story has potential, so find problems, find solutions to those problems, and make your novel the best that it can be!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Long and Winding Editing Road—It Begins Again.

~I've been inspired by Katie at Spiral-Bound's "Editing Diaries" posts to do my own editing series. Currently, I'm in the process of editing a fairytale-fantasy novel I wrote in 2014, and I want you to join me on this journey! Maybe, together, we can learn a few things about writing along The Long and Winding Editing Road.~

I figured that Christmas break would be the ideal time to begin the fourth draft of my fantasy novel. Despite a number of major changes to my characters, I had the fanciful idea that I would be able to finish the fourth draft during my three week break. I made excellent time through the first third of the novel; but, the second third took me by surprise. It has always been the most difficult part of the novel as the characters are between quests and nothing much happens. It is a time for character development and a time for me to lay the foundation for things to come later in the story. In past drafts, I have taken out much content from this middle section. This draft has been no different. In fact, I took out two chapters, and allocated their necessary parts to different chapters.
I've never had to make big cuts like this before. It's liberating to highlight several thousand words, hit the backspace key, and see them disappear (don't worry–I have them saved somewhere else!). It's fun to make these cuts, knowing that I am streamlining my story and making it better! I feel like a real writer.
I did, however, run across a roadblock. This roadblock has come in the shape of a character. Surprisingly—nay, miraculously!—the character who is giving me trouble is not Finn. Finn is behaving himself (for once). No, King John is giving me trouble. He's my villain and I've never felt solid with his characterization. During the last draft, I had a better handle on his character; because I was focused on my main characters, though, I couldn't devote as much time to him as he deserved. Over the summer, I wrote part of his backstory in short story form. That helped me understand him better.
Now, I have printed out the fourteen chapters that make up the middle section of my novel. I plan to go through them very carefully so that I can...

-Continue streamlining this part of the story so that the audience doesn't get bored. I want every scene and every character interaction to have purpose.

-Fix King John's character. I want to write him in such a way that the audience feels exactly how I want them to feel about him. This is going to be tricky, since I want them to go from despising him to sort-of liking him to despising him again. Since this is how my main character, Rozella, feels about him, I am hoping that the audience will follow her feelings.

These two goals are going to take precision to complete, which is why I printed out these chapters.

I don't know how much I will be able to work on them during the first eight weeks of school because I have a lot of classwork. My workload drops significantly during the last eight weeks, however, so I hope to work on my story then! I will keep you updated.

Are you writers out there working on anything exciting at the moment?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Obligatory End-of-Year Post

A lot happened to me in 2016.

Out of my fourteen goals for 2016, I only completed four, half-completed four, and failed at six.
I did not perform in a musical, get a piano student, write four pieces of nonfiction in January, host a Dutch-themed dinner party for my friends, practice voice five out of seven days in the week, or read the books that were on my reading list.
I did, however, do better at eating no sugar (I went sugar-free over the summer), exercising, prioritizing other things over the Internet, and reading nonfiction.
I re-wrote my fantasy story. I memorized and performed Sinding's "Rustle of Spring" on the piano, which you can watch here. I figured out college and, to some extent, life. Most importantly, I grew closer to God and put more emphasis on persistent prayer.

What else happened in 2016?

Well, I moved to this blog from Dolls, Books, and Things That Matter. We've had 56 good posts here, nearly all of which I am proud of. Some of my favorites have been The Long and Winding Editing Road series, which I hope to continue this year; a post on why singleness is okay; the exciting adventures of Sharon and Dudley as they try to win fortune and glory; A Shakespeare Appreciation Post on the Bard's 400th death-day anniversary; the Silmarillion Awards; and the essay I wrote about the conflicting feelings I felt when my grandpa died.

Many of my recent blog posts have been about college. That has been the biggest change in my life this year. I have met wonderful people, enjoyed lovely classes, and learned a lot about interpersonal relationships and living on my own.

March 30th marked my one-year anniversary of being migraine free.

I read fifty books. My favorites were...
-Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson, a biography of one of my favorite composers Dmitri Shostakovich.
-The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.
-Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

What do I hope to accomplish in 2017?

-I want to give my blog a makeover, including changing the name to "Regarding Reading, Writing, and Sometimes Life." Additionally, I hope to post at least once a month, if not more.

-Eat less sugar and exercise more.

-Read thirty-five books (perhaps Anna Karenina? perhaps Anne of Green Gables? perhaps some Arthur Conan Doyle, of which I have many? perhaps some Herman Melville, of which I also have many?).

-Continue to do well in school.

-Find a home church in Minnesota and continue growing in my relationship with God.

-Finish my fantasy novel.

While this final goal is a big one, I have confidence that I can complete it! But, more on that in my next post.

Do you have any goals for the upcoming year?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Best Roommates in All the World

It's snowing in Minneapolis! 

After watching The Shining with my friends tonight, we looked out of the window to see that it was snowing! My roommates and I were so excited that we threw on our hats, gloves, and coats and went frolicking in the snow at 12:00 AM.

What happens when three girls with glasses go inside after running around in the snow for half an hour?
Foggy glasses!
And what's better after a romp in the snow than hot chocolate with candy canes?
I love these girls so so so much!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Collegiate Adventures of Abbey

I have spent all day today thinking, "I'm in college."
This may seem silly, since I have been in college since August, but it never fully hit me until I left campus this weekend to visit family that I am in college. I'm really doing it! I'm going to classes five times a week. I am living on my own (well... not exactly on my own: I have two roommates). I'm making friends! I have made friends. It hasn't even been three months yet, but I have made friends whom I love very, very much. Sometimes it is hard to remember that I have only been at school for eleven weeks. It's funny, the good that can come from being thrown together with a bunch of random people.

Last time on Updates From Abbey...

I moved into my room, met my roommates, and started my classes.

My roommates and I are still getting along swimmingly. God blessed us when he put us three together.

I have tried several new things since coming to college, including swing dancing and participating on a flag football team!

Swing dancing is fun, though I am not too good at it. The guy who taught me kept saying, "I'm not going to drop you. Don't worry." When he dipped me, the elder generation would have been proud, for I kept my posture stiff as a board. Of course, that is not really the proper posture when one is dancing.

The same guy who taught me how to swing dance also signed me (and everyone else in our brother-sister hall) up for his flag football team. Most of us showed up for the first game. Our team consisted of three people who knew how to play and four or five people who had never even heard of a football before. Our valiant captain gave us stellar instructions: "Okay, we're running that way!"
Our team of cheerleaders supported us with chants of encouragement: "A for Average! M for Mediocre! L for LOSER!"
We lost our first two games. Our team name was the "Average Joes," so we weren't setting the bar very high to begin with.
At every subsequent game we lost players until there were not enough of us to play any more, and the other team had to lend us two of their own players. We won that game.
There hasn't been mention of the "Average Joes" since then. That was over a month ago.

Another new experience was going to a haunted hayride. I was worried about being terrified to tears, but I actually had a lot of fun! The group I went with was really sassy to the actors dressed in scary costumes. I didn't get (too) scared because I spent most of the time laughing at everyone's commentary! My favorite was when a monkey jumped on the hayride and someone in the group said, "Oh, I loved your work in Planet of the Apes!"

I am a part of the Women's Chorale at school. Our first "concert" was singing the National Anthem with the Men's Chorus at the homecoming game (which we won, by the way!). It's so much fun to sing in choir! Right now, we are preparing for our winter concert, which should be very impressive.

Though the picture is slightly blurry, this is my favorite picture of my main group of friends. This was a few weeks ago when we dressed up in our Sunday best and went to St. Mary's Basilica for church. My friend (and roommate) Sarah is majoring in Intercultural Studies and must visit different denominations for projects. Since Joseph is the only one in our group with a car, he chauffeurs us around to church and to the store. I have yet to find a home church.

There is a board game store very near to school. They have a lending library of board games that you can take to a table and play, which is SO exciting! I'm so glad that my friends like to play board games, too!

I have been to more sporting matches in the past few weeks than I have in my entire life. One of my roommates is on the women's lacrosse team, so Sarah and I went to support her at her first scrimmage. Not to brag, but we burnt our opposition to a crisp.

At the beginning of October, several of us went camping at Devil's Lake in Wisconsin. What an adventure that was! It rained most of the weekend. We renamed our campsite "Swamp Eric" because it was a literal mud hole.

Our shoes at the end of the trip:

Despite the rain and the mud, I had SO much fun! We bonded through our adversity and cooked over an open fire. We shared stories (*cough cough* I'd tell you one, but you aren't a monk) and sang songs. We hiked, laughed, and didn't shower for three days.

On the way home, we stopped at a cheese shop!

For fall break, I went home with fellow English Literature and Writing major Abby with No E. She was homeschooled like me, and she also does NaNoWriMo! During our break, we worked on an eight-page paper for our Literary Studies class, we planned for NaNoWriMo, and we went to the Spam Museum!


"What about schoolwork?" you may ask. "Don't you ever do homework?"
Yes. Yes, I do. But, perhaps, I shall save that for another blog post.

How are YOU? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Have you ever been to the Spam museum?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Beautiful Books: October 2016

~Beautiful People is a monthly linkup for writers hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.~

It's almost NaNoWriMo time! That means that the Beautiful People link-up changes to Beautiful Books, with an emphasis on a person's entire novel instead of just characters.
My homework load is lighter this quad, so I am able to do NaNoWriMo. I found a friend on campus who does NaNoWriMo, too, and we have been busy brainstorming our novels together! It's so much fun to have a friend to geek out about writing with!
I'm really excited for NaNoWriMo this year because, for the first time since 2013, I'm working on a new project! For the past several years, I have been working on my unnamed fantasy/fairytale story (you can read about my progress here), so it will be really nice to start a new story.

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
A few months ago I had an idea for a character, but he did not have a story to go with him. Since I was working on my unnamed fantasy/fairytale story, I put away this character to think about at a later time. I was working on the worldbuilding for my unnamed novel when I had a sudden idea: the race I was working on had a hinted-at but long-forgotten past. What if my storyless character was a part of this long-forgotten past? Before I knew it, I had a four book series planned out!

2. Describe what your novel is about!
Witches/Warlocks are living in a technologically advanced world; their technology is powered by their magic. The government is trying to find ways to harness magic more efficiently. Unfortunately, their experiments cause a massive explosion which decimates most of their kingdom and the nearby human kingdom.
3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

Finnias Flannagan: Finnias is the character that I came up with a couple months ago who didn't have a storyline to go with him. He is a Warlock living in the capitol city of his people. He is a brilliant hairdresser who is making a name for himself among the elite. He is personable and easy to get along with, but he can be obsessive compulsive about a lot of little things, like cleanliness, which is sometimes a problem between him and his three roommates. Finnias comes from a large family whom he visits often. He is medium height and sleight of figure. He has brown hair (which he always dyes other colors) and blue eyes.

Finnigan Flannagan: Finnigan is Finnias' twin brother and also one of his roommates. He is easy to get along with, like his brother, but not as OCD. He's funny and witty and loves to entertain his friends with jokes. He's very manly and spends a lot of his free time working out or helping his father and brothers with high labor projects.

Chay Deron: Chay is Finnias' second roommate. He is an endearing pessimist and can be very blunt. He's very observant and speaks up for people when they can't speak up for themselves, when he bothers to care. He tends to brood in corners.

Kelsie Jams: Finnias' third roommate is an artist. He is constantly lost in a world of his own inside his brain so he is very forgetful, helpless, and accident prone. It's a wonder he hasn't been killed by accident yet.

Aileen: Aileen is Kelsie's girlfriend. She is an ambassador to the Witches/Warlocks from the humans. She is extremely intelligent and passionate. She also has a sixth sense when it comes to Kelsie. She is, undoubtedly, the reason that he is still alive. She watches out for him and makes sure his absentmindedness doesn't get him into trouble.
5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
This year, I have been doing quite a bit of NaNoWriMo prep work. My novelling buddy has inspired me to develop my characters, world, and plot before NaNo even begins! Sometime in the next week, I hope to outline my plot.
6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
I'm really looking forward to writing character interactions. I have a versatile cast who are different enough that their interactions should be entertaining to write (and read, too, hopefully!). In addition to my five major characters, I have many members of Finnias' family who will show up in the novel. I'm hoping that I can write them like J.K. Rowling did with the minor characters in Harry Potter: even though the minor characters have small roles, they are still memorable enough to stick in the reader's imagination many years later.
7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
The Witches/Warlocks live near the ocean.
The novel takes place in the capitol city.
Everything gets destroyed so there is a lot of rubble.
8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
After the city is destroyed, Finnias' goal is survival. A new leader rises from the rubble whom Finnias does not agree with, so his goal is also to find some way of saving his people from a tyrant.
9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Once his world is destroyed, Finnias must learn acceptance. He must also learn to be heroic, rather than cowardly.
10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
One of the major themes of the book is going to be the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil, and how one should react to them. Some other themes will be sticking up for what's right and what you believe in, learning to let go, dealing with grief, and dealing with betrayal.

Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo? If so, tell me about your story!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Summer Reading List: The Epic Conclusion

In THIS post, I shared with you my summer reading list and the likelihood that I would finish each book. I had lofty goals—fourteen books. I finished... (wait for it... wait for it...) ...three books.
Three books from my list, that is. I actually finished sixteen books between May and the end of August. So, even though I didn't complete my reading list, I would still count myself successful.
Let's recap, shall we?


Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

2/5 stars.
A human mining operation on a faraway planet is attacked, but several ships escape before it's Too Late. Unfortunately, they are plagued with a biological weapon and are chased by the bad guys. Can teenage lovers Kady and Ezra hack into the computer and save everyone??

The format of this book is fantastic, as it is told through transcripted conversations, transcripted surveillance videos, instant messages, and ships logs.
That was, however, the only thing I enjoyed about the book. The plot was okay, I suppose, but the characters were all the same smart-mouthed, crass person. Would not recommend.

The Adventure of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit

4/5 stars.
The Bastable children try to solve their family's financial troubles by coming up with several ludicrous schemes to earn money.

This is exactly what you would expect an E. Nesbit book to be like... fun, sweet, and slightly adventurous. I would recommend her books as before-bed reading for the whole family.


The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (audiobook)

4/5 stars.
Demon-in-training Wormwood and his Uncle Screwtape converse via correspondence on how to corrupt human souls.

A fantastic book, though I missed parts of it because I listened to it on my way to work. I want to read it so that I can soak in every word. Once I do that, I'm sure the book will become 5/5 stars, rather than 4/5 stars. I would recommend The Screwtape Letters to Christians who enjoy being challenged in their faith and who enjoy satirical storytelling.

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

5/5 stars.
The history of Middle Earth.

The Lord of the Rings has so much more meaning now that I know the history of the world it takes place in! I loved The Silmarillion, even though I had to wade through the prose at times (I think one of my shoes is still lost in the mire). Recommended to passionate Lord of the Rings fans.

Heap House by Edward Carey

4/5 stars.
Every Iremonger is given an object when they are born. Clod Iremonger is the only one who can hear the birth objects whispering, though. When a new serving girl starts working at Heap House, the objects whisper nervously and even start to move on their own. Are the two events somehow connected?

Heap House is, without a doubt, the most unique story I have EVER read. It's so unique that I don't know how to describe it, so I will say: go read it if you are looking for a distinctive plot!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (audiobook)

5/5 stars.
A mysterious boy appears at the house next door. The four March sisters befriend him and, together, all five of them have many adventures and grow into strong adults under the tutelage of Marmy.

I'm so sad that I never read Little Women before this summer! I enjoyed it immensely and I can't wait to read it again in the future. I recommend this classic for anyone who enjoys friendship stories about people being people.

Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

2/5 stars.
Princess Una has come of age and has suitors from many different lands vying for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, she has also gained the attention of an evil being called The Dragon.

After hearing many bloggers rave about the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, I read the first book. I didn't enjoy it, and I feel terrible for it, because I know that it is a well-loved series. I disliked it for two major reasons: 1) I felt that the pacing didn't work, for the first half of the book focuses on Una and her suitors and nothing really happens... Then, the story takes a drastic turn from romance to allegory and action. 2) The plot doesn't work without the allegory. This may be a personal preference, but I think that if an author writes an allegory, the plot should still make sense if you take out the allegory.
I did enjoy Ms. Stengl's prose, and her world-building seemed well-fleshed out; the world seems much bigger than we read about on the page, which leaves plenty of opportunity for exploring in the sequels.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (audiobook)

I listened to the entire Narnia series on audiobook this summer. My least favorite Narnia book is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because I'm so familiar with the plot. I also know Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader very well. I was happy to read the other books in the series as it has been a long, long time and I had forgotten a lot.


Into the Vast by D.J. Edwardson

5/5 stars.
Adan awakes in the Institute with no memories. When he is broken out of the Institute by Will, he must learn about the world around him and he must decide whether or not he wants to help Will destroy the technological superpower of the city of Oasis.

To quote from my Goodreads review, "Into the Vast is everything I enjoy in a novel: great setting, wonderful prose (my favorite chapter was Chapter 35: On the Threshold), characters that you can feel for, adventure and action, and all with a slight sci-fi undertone (even if the novel is supposed to be more of a dystopian)." If you enjoy that kind of book, check out Into the Vast!


Hidden Pearls by Hayden Wand

3/5 stars.
Constance, one out of six girl cousins raised by their grandparents, is called across the Atlantic ocean to visit her ailing, aging great-aunt. Along the way, she faces storms and privateers and learns many a lesson.

Again, a book that I had high hopes for, but it ultimately disappointed me. My biggest complaint about this book are the romances. There were five couples in this book and they all seemed to fall into their relationships too easily. I found them clichĂ© and they overwhelmed the plot.
I did love the author's humor, though. She's very funny and has many a clever sentence. I also enjoyed the quotes she included at the beginning of each chapter.

And there you have my summer reading list of 2016! Right now, I'm reading Frankenstein for school, the sequel to Into the Vast, and an Edgar Allen Poe short story here and there. I think I will start The Fellowship of the Ring tonight. I miss reading Tolkien.

What have YOU been reading lately?