More Like NaNo-NoGo

I’ve failed. Failed to complete NaNoWriMo, even though you’d think I’d have it under control, it being my third year and all (you can read my success stories here and here).

Alas, it was not meant to be.

I was determined to finish a manuscript, and I got stuck and couldn’t get unstuck. Partly because I know next-to-nothing about British law enforcement and sports, and guess what my WIP is about? BRITISH LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SPORTS. So I was constantly pausing to research, and therefore only hit 29,000 words. My other problem is that I like talking about the characters, but I sometimes ignore the plot. My bad.

Plus I wrote 13654320 other things for this blog and Mind the Gap, and spent the rest of my time job-hunting, grumbling about job-hunting, decorating for Christmas, sleeping, and, I don’t know, probably eating.

food sleep

Instead of dwelling on my failure, I’m using this as a learning experience and I know that I will have to better manage my time next year. And, as a positive, I’ll be home for half of December, so I can work on my manuscript then (hopefully)!

I do think, however, that I wrote 50,000 words this month anyway (just not in my WIP!). The following is a list of posts I published in November:

ON THIS BLOG:

Library of Souls review
5 Seconds of Summer mini-review
TTT: Book to Movie Adaptations
Book Blitz: Sugar Skulls
Anne & Henry review
Blog Tour: Every Word
#TheShelfieHop
The Real Neat Blog Award
Andrew McMahon concert review
The Universe Versus Alex Woods review
A Thousand Nights review

ON MIND THE GAP:

PVRIS
WCW: Lynn Gunn
Every series review
Why We Love Neil Gaiman
Orphan Black season one review
Tea-riffic Recommendations
Why We Love Andrew McMahon
#NowPlaying
NaNoWriMo (ironically, I didn’t follow my own advice!)
Soulless review
Why We Love Harry Potter
Community season five review
Peanuts
Holiday Music
Don Broco

ON IDOBI.COM:

Friday Night Lites review

And here’s a list of upcoming posts (written but not yet published) that I’ve been working on, since I’m going to London next week and won’t be home to write them! You can click the links now, but they won’t be live until the date listed in parentheses.

ON THIS BLOG:

TTT: Top Ten Books of 2015 (Dec 15)

ON MIND THE GAP:

Victor Frankenstein review (Dec 2)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Dec 4)
All I Want For Christmas (Dec 5)
My Favourite Christmas/Holiday Episodes (Dec 8)
London (Dec 10)
Holiday Movies (Dec 12)
All Time Low (Dec 14)
WCW: Emma Stone (Dec 16)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone/Days of Blood and Starlight review (Dec 18)
Celebrating the Holidays (Dec 19)
How I Met Your Mother season nine (Dec 22)
Best of 2015 (Dec 26)

You could also maybe sign up for the Mind the Gap newsletter (on our homepage), so that you can keep up with these posts every week (but only if you want to!).

ON IDOBI.COM:

My Christmas Letter to All Time Low/You Me At Six
Un(Covered): Christmas Time is Here
Un(Covered): Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

For anyone who participated in NaNoWriMo, how did it go? And for the rest of you: how was your November?

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WIP: Alistair in Wonderland

Yesterday’s Top Ten Tuesday was one of my favourites so far. I absolutely love fairytale retellings (and fairytales in general, I suppose), so I had way too much fun going through other people’s lists and adding books to my TBR.

While I was brainstorming titles for my list, I remembered my own attempt at re-writing a favourite story. I wrote it for a contest and made plans to expand it into a full-length novel (or at least novella), but to be honest, I haven’t touched it in over a year.

So here it is. If you take the time to read this – thank you! And please let me know what you think! I hope it’s not too terrible.

Featuring the cover I made for it in my production class which isn’t the best because Photoshop/InDesign are not my friends and my instructor didn’t love the colour scheme (I told him that the black and white covers worked for Twilight and he couldn’t really argue).

alistair

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Falafelosophy: Some Advice from Arthur and Neil Gaiman

I know I haven’t done a “Writing Wednesday” in like 400 years, but I recently found out that NEIL GAIMAN was on an episode of Arthur a few years ago, and I just had to talk about it.

Falafelosophy:

I’ve always enjoyed Arthur; I read the books and watched the show when I was younger. There have even been a few times (recently) when my nieces stay over on a Friday and wake me up at some ungodly time on Saturday (like 9am!! The horror!!) and I’ll insist that we watch Arthur during/after breakfast.

So this was basically a dream-come-true episode. I’ve already watched it 1.5 times, but I might have to watch it again.

In true Neil Gaiman fashion, he drops a whole lot of truth bombs and some sound advice on Sue Ellen, who is struggling with her writing (at his suggestion, she considers writing a graphic novel).

Neil_Gaman

Here are some of my favourite lines:

“Don’t judge your story, you just started it.”

“You’ve got a story to tell and you’re the only one who can tell it.”

“…sometimes it takes a while for people to appreciate something new.”

And, my new personal mantra:

“You can’t just abandon your falafel like that!”

Granted, he was talking about an actual falafel at the time, but this sentence works two ways:

First and foremost, you’d be a fool if you ran away from a perfectly good falafel (I mean, look at it! It looks delicious. And the food truck guy was all “I give you hot sauce”, so you know it’s going to be spicy-but-tasty).

But, if you want to over-analyze this seemingly simple statement (and if you’re an English major like me, analyzing simple statements is instinctive) you can also think of it a metaphorical way: don’t abandon your project. Even if you get distracted or plagued by self-doubt, keep at it. Add some more “hot sauce” (“spice/change it up” if you will), but don’t just leave it to the side because you’ll never get back to it and that would be a shame.

That’s just my take on this, I could be making mountains out of molehills or whatever that saying is. But it was still hella fun trying to come up with a deeper meaning from this episode!

And, of course, he offered some genuinely good advice, so I recommend taking the 10 minutes to watch it, especially if you’re a writer. Sometimes all we need is a chat with our Inner Neil when we’re feeling insecure about our work.

Sidenote: I’d pay an obscene amount of money to have Neil Gaiman hand me a falafel. Authorly advice would just be a bonus.

Sidenote 2: “Neil Gaiman? What are you doing in my falafel?” is one of the greatest sentences I’ve ever heard. It’s going to be my new catchphrase.

gaiman falafel

Versatile Blogger Award!

I realize this is like my 1354068th post of the day, but you guys! The very kind Laura (Tea Time Reads) nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award! This was most unexpected, but I feel absurdly honoured. Thanks, Laura! Please go check out her blog! :)

versatile-blogger

How it works:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
  2. Share 10 random facts about yourself
  3. Nominate 10 other bloggers who are relatively new to blogging (& you like!)

So here are 10 Random Facts About Me:

  1. “bellsiebooks” was coined by my oldest niece. My eldest sister (I have two sisters and a brother) nicknamed me Bella when I was little; when my niece was about 3, she realized that “Bella” and “book” both start with a “b”, so she combined it and pronounced it to be my new name.
  2. I’m currently interning at a children’s book publisher, and I can honestly say it’s my dream job. I live for YA and children’s books.
  3. I also dream of being an author; I’ve written one YA novel so far (though it’s in it’s fourth major revision), and I have about 10 other ideas floating around in various states (some have about 50 rough pages, while others are no more than a named document).
  4. I love love LOVE music and going to concerts. If I come home sweaty and/or without a voice, then I know it’s been a good show.
  5. My favourite movie of all time is The Nightmare Before Christmas. I love Tim Burton and I’m trying to watch all of his movies (I own most of them).
  6. I often work Adventure Time quotes or Scrubs references into every day conversation. And I somehow manage to turn almost any music-based conversation into a discussion about You Me At Six.
  7. I currently have three tattoos, have a consultation booked for a fourth, and have plans for at least five more. In my spare time, I fantasize about having enough money to spend on a full-coloured sleeve.
  8. I have a ridiculous collection of tea, most of it from England. Twinings Earl Grey was the first flavour I liked and it’s still one of my favourites.
  9. I also have a ridiculous collection of Converse sneakers, and one day I hope to have one pair of shoes for every colour of the rainbow.
  10. Sometimes I write for idobi radio (an alternative/pop-punk online radio station), and recently I’ve been collaborating with my friend Jane on music reviews (so far we’ve done a review of a Bleachers concert, and a track-by-track discussion of Fall Out Boy’s American Beauty/American Psycho).

Nominations:

I don’t know that many blogs, so I’ve picked five random ones that I follow :)
Steam Punk, On the Edge of Food-vention
Starlight Daydreamer
A Baked Creation
Books For MKS
Vital Endeavor
BONUS (because she was also nominated by Laura!)
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Books

An Intern and a Super Conference

Talking with Tundra

Hello everyone!

It’s Sam the intern and for once, I’m not trying to get you to sign up for my Reading Club (but you should probably check it out anyway!). I’m here to share my experience at the OLA Super Conference.

In my six months working in publishing, I’ve only been to one other conference; all I did was sit quietly behind a table for a few hours while people milled around, glancing at our table but rarely stopping to chat. So I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre last Thursday.

It was a lot more fun than sitting behind a table, let me tell you.

IMAG1268

For one thing, there were so many people! Librarians and library assistants and library sciences students and other people who, I guess, work at libraries in some way.

Hundreds of companies were represented in the hall…

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55,671

Well, I’ve done it.

At 55,671 words, I finished NaNoWriMo with a week to spare.

I’m not saying this to brag (well, maybe a little bit – a “humble brag”, if you will). It’s more to say “wow, I’m surprised this happened, since I’ve barely had time to read a flippin’ Adventure Time comic book, so how was I supposed to write 50,000  words?”

Wanna know my secret? I cheated.

Okay, so I don’t think it’s possible to actually cheat at NaNoWriMo. But I took the slightly-more-easy way out and, instead of starting a book from scratch, I wrote a second draft of my first novel. Which meant there were a few chapters that I could just copy-and-paste from one document into another. And thus I reached my goal sooner than anticipated.

This is not to say I didn’t painstakingly read every word I had previously written. I made adjustments along the way, and formatted the heck out of my new version (for some reason, my original manuscript had “straight quotes” and not “curly quotes” and that gave me such a headache, I can’t even tell you). I came across sentences that I knew I wouldn’t be able to re-write because they just fit so well, and I stumbled on phrases where I cringed because I don’t know why I thought that was a good way to express myself.

I feel like this time around, I got to know my characters even more, which meant I could go through dialogue I wrote 1-2 years ago (I just now realized that I’ve been working on this novel for two years. I’m going to cry. It’s a toddler!), and tweak it so that Olivia always sounded like Olivia, and Finn always like Finn, and Pippa was always Pippa (about a week ago, I turned to Ro and said “man, Pippa’s so unhinged!” and she was all “ya think?”, but I don’t think I ever really registered how cuckoo for cocoa puffs she is until re-writing her interludes).

I also like to think that I made up for this “cheating” by writing more blog posts. In 20 days, I’ve written 12 posts (not including this one, or the one that’s drafted and ready to go on Saturday, or the next installment of Music Monday that’s already done, or the one I still have to edit before posting on Tuesday…). So I like to think that it all evens out.

Plus, forcing myself to focus on one work-in-progress renewed my love for my first baby. Not that I didn’t love it before, I just sort of let it fall by the wayside while I thought about other things (my gay detective, for one. HOLY FRACK, THAT SERIES IS GOING TO BE AMAZING). But now that I’m back in a Fireworks mood, I’m going to spend the next week drafting the sequel (or I’ll at least attempt it). And maybe I’ll even start tackling the beast that is the third book in the series before the end of the year (I’m not going to say it’s unlikely, but it’s probably unlikely).

So to all you out there rushing toward the finish line, may your words fly swiftly! You’re so close to defeating NaNoWriMo – good luck!

And for anyone who’s done, bravo! You made it! Take a break before you re-read it!( Seriously, don’t try to revise right away. NO GOOD CAN COME FROM RE-READING TOO SOON).

NaNoWriMo 2.0

It’s almost that time of year again! Not Christmas (though that’s soon too!): NaNoWriMo aka that month where writers both love and hate themselves (I suppose a lot of writers feel this way on a daily basis, but for those of us who don’t write as a full-time job, this is a special month).

I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and it was an excellent experience. So, naturally, I figured I’d do it again this year.

Just like last year, I’ll have to end early because I’ll be leaving the country at the end of November and would like to have 50,000 words submitted before then. Unlike last year, I’ll be unemployed for most of the month, so I don’t really have an excuse for not finishing.

Last year, I took a short story and “expanded” it – by which I mean, I started to write it linearly, then realized I was running out of time and sort of skipped parts in the middle so that I could write the last two chapters. This year, I’m re-writing my first completed novel, Fireworks, start to finish.

It took me several weeks to decide what I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo 2014. I narrowed it down to four ideas, then asked Ro to pick one.

About a month ago, I decided I needed to re-write Fireworks. In the middle of the night, I realized that if I changed one aspect of the story (what if Max was the one who came home, not Olivia?), then it would make the whole story a lot tighter and would fling the reader into the action a lot faster (I worry a lot about pacing). Then, just as I was trying to figure out whether or not it was worth it (sidenote: if you come up with an idea that’s going to make your book tighter, it’s always worth it), I came across this article from Writer’s Digest and it pretty much sealed the deal. It’s going to be a lot of work – changing that one detail forces me to re-write pretty much every chapter – but if it makes the story more enjoyable, then I’m willing to put in that extra effort.

So, for most of November, if you need me, I’ll be sitting in my living room, wearing pyjamas, surrounded by notebooks and the occasional scrap paper, and alternating between berating and congratulating myself.

I can’t wait to get started.

Trust your heart, and trust your story – Neil Gaiman

neil gaiman

This is my new favourite quote (like I’ve said numerous times on this blog, I’m currently obsessed with Neil Gaiman – seriously, why did I wait so long to read his stuff?!). I think it’s perfect and one day, in the future, I would like a tattoo of it. Maybe it will be my gift to myself when I finally publish a book.

On Friday, I received my first rejection from an agent. You’d think that my reaction would be to sit down and cry for a few hours, but I didn’t. I’m not saying I didn’t eventually tear up a little, but my initial response was an odd sort of pride. Now I have something in common with other authors: everyone gets rejected at some point. I’ve never felt more like an author than I did at that moment.

This literary agent was quite nice: she offered me a couple of suggestions and wished me luck – infinitely more helpful than a curt “no”, which is what I had been fearing. Of course, now the problem is all I can think about is ways to improve my book. Last night, I scribbled an alternate story line on a Post-It that made perfect sense at the time…until I explained it to Ro who pointed out that the rest of the plot stops making sense if I change that particular aspect. She was right, but in my efforts to make my story more explosive (which is my new way of saying “better”), I lost track of my original idea. In a way, I stopped trusting my story and, consequently, I stopped trusting myself.

So this quote comes at a good time. Not only do I think it’s beautiful (it’s from Gaiman’s poem “Instructions”, and it’s laden with deliciously metaphorical meanings), but it’s something I need to remember. My book might not be ready yet – because these things take time, you know – but my story – my dream of being an author – is just getting started. I only have to learn how to trust myself.

What’s your next chapter?

This past weekend, I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC.

I registered for the conference on a whim in April. I had been hoping to go to Montreal’s Osheaga Festival (the same weekend),  but it was actually cheaper for me to fly to New York and attend this conference than it was to go to Quebec. Also the fact that this conference would actually help further my career, as opposed to going to an (admittedly awesome) outdoor festival for three days.

Because this was the first conference I’ve ever attended, I had no idea what to expect. My first session was Friday afternoon (2:40pm, to be exact) and from there, I basically went non-stop until Sunday at 1pm.

The sessions were varied: there were 3-4 different talks every hour and it was sometimes hard to decide which one I wanted to go to. Luckily, most of the talks were recorded and the links should be sent out soon.

I went to talks about writing bestsellers and what not to do; discussions of the publishing industry and the role of literary agents; and lectures on important storytelling elements and building your author platform. I also made sure to attend all three keynote speeches (one at the end of each day). Some of the sessions were enlightening and/or helpful; others, not so much. But it was interesting to hear from other authors’ about their own experiences, though it’s important to remember that, sometimes, what works for one person won’t work for another.

For example, there was a talk about how Goodreads can help you promote your work and it honestly sounded like this author was just saying “This is why I’m popular and you’re not, but good luck anyway” (fine, he didn’t actually say that, but that was the vibe he was giving off, to which I mentally replied, “if you’re so cool, why have I never heard of you?”).

But then there were the really helpful sessions, like the one about setting and description (which is something I constantly struggle with). There was a talk that helped me personally, and judging from the nodding and murmuring going around, it had a similar effect on most of the audience.

The keynote speeches were all fantastic: it’s hard to remember sometimes that even established authors go through the same self-doubt and despair of a beginner, so it was nice to hear it from the experts. Harlan Coben, who was probably my favourite speaker, made it a point to say that if an author stops doubting themselves, then they must not be a very good writer (especially if they think they are).

Being an introvert, I wasn’t sure how I would survive a room full of strangers for three days. I didn’t really “network” (that could come back to bite me on the butt), but I briefly chatted with some people. It’s a solitary profession, writing, and it’s hard to force yourself to interact with other people when all you want to do is sit in a corner by yourself and daydream. Of course, you have to break out of your shell for the biggest moment of the conference: the Pitch Slam.

Picture this: fifty literary agents sitting in a room for three hours (broken up into hour-long sessions) while 150-200 hopeful writers mill around to talk to them. You had exactly three minutes to pitch your book to an agent and wait for their response (the three minutes were perfectly timed: they gave you a 30-second warning, and rang a bell when the three minutes were up so that you weren’t wasting everyone’s time). This basically meant that you had 60-90 seconds to give a complete summary of your book, and then the remaining time was up to the agent: they could either reject your project (as not being a good fit for them) or, if they liked your idea, they could hand you a business card with submission guidelines. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll represent you, but it’s a start.

Was the PitchSlam nerve-wracking? Yes. Was I quaking in my flats the entire time? Heck yeah. But of the eight agents I approached in my allotted hour, I got eight business cards. Some of them were intrigued, others not as sold on the idea, but all eight of them requested to read the first three chapters of my book.

I don’t think I can explain the feeling of relief that washed over me when I dashed out of the room when the hour was up. Relief at being able to sit down and take a deep breath without feeling like I was going to throw up, but also relief that my book is not so bad that people reject it without giving it a chance.

Not that there’s any guarantee that they’ll love the book and everyone will fight to sign me to their agency…but it’s one more step towards my ultimate publishing goal.

I recommend this conference to all aspiring authors. It’s an excellent experience and you learn a lot. And, if you happen to like talking to strangers, you can meet some great people. But, more importantly, it will encourage your belief that you’re on the right (or should I say, the WRITE) path.

Trying to figure out if you should attend the next conference? Ask yourself this: what do you want the next chapter in your writing career to be?

I think I’m gonna attach myself to the sinking ship that is book publishing – Daniel Clowes

I think I mentioned last week that I started a publishing course? Maybe? I don’t remember. Either way: I’ve started a publishing course at Ryerson. The summer intensive, where they pack 6 classes into 3 months (they weren’t kidding when they called it “intensive” – in two weeks, we’ve done the equivalent of 12 weeks of material).

It’s fascinating. We’ve spent the past two weeks doing an overview of the industry and every time we talk about a different job, my immediate reaction is “hey, I’d like to do that for the rest of my life”. And then I sit and mull it over and sometimes I decide it’s not right for me (I don’t think I have the personality to be a literary agent, as cool as their job is), while other times I can’t decide which job sounds better (right now I’m leaning toward copyediting, but we’ll see how I feel once I take the actual copyediting class in a few weeks).

For some reason, when I applied to the program, I assumed there would be a lot more writers. I’m not sure why, since it’s a publishing certificate, not a creative writing certificate, but I figured there would be  more people “like me” – more people who want to take over all aspects of the book industry. Yet there are only 2-3 other people in my class (24 students in total), who have expressed an interest in writing. So I don’t know about everyone else, but when I learn about the business side of books, I look at it with two minds: as a hopeful editor, and as an aspiring author. Which is why I (somewhat vainly and perhaps over optimistically) think I’ll do well in the publishing industry: I understand both sides of the story.

Yesterday we talked about how authors are consulted during the cover design process, but they don’t get final say: that’s the publisher/editor’s responsibility. That’s not surprising because, ideally, the publisher will know what’s best for the book (due to past experience with trends and sales and whatnot)…except the author-voice in my head pouted “But that’s my book and want it to look a certain way”. And then I had to smother that voice because I know that’s not how the business works and if authors want the public to discover their work, they (including me) have to suck up their pride and deal with other people handling  their manuscripts. An author provides the text (material), while the publisher produces the actual book. And if authors can’t handle that, then how are they going to get their story out?

Although I suppose that’s when self-publishing becomes an option…