Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

And This is the Part Where I Snap… April 2, 2011

Filed under: In the News — katblogger @ 10:26 AM
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Before I get into all the lovely ranting, a few updates:

Script Frenzy started yesterday. I got a grand total of… zero pages done, thanks to school activities. Yippie. The only reason I’m sticking with it is pure stubborness. Actually, that’s usually the only reason I do anything.

Second, Scott Westerfeld pulled the simultaneously most awesome and most annoying April Fool’s prank ever. Just in case I wasn’t already cracked in the attic before…

Now on to the business. A disclaimer – I am not usually a profane person. However, one must make exceptions.

Anyone remember Terry Jones? That annoying Floridian pastor that said he was going to burn the Qur’an/Koran in order to get lots of publicity? The government eventually talked him out of it saying that it would only harm our soldiers, but not before he got lots of face time.

And the little *ahem* bastard went ahead and did it on March 20, after holding a mock trial to convict it. Sounds familiar? Let’s just stick the Inquisition and Hitler together, why don’t we? Fake trials and burning books. Wonderful.

 Guess what? Yesterday, an angry mob in Afghanistan, incited by furious Mullahs, attacked a UN compound, damaging the building and killing at least twelve UN officials. Some of the mob was killed as well.

So now we have bloodshed, anger, and the Middle East yet again thinking all Americans are such self-centered, insensitive jerks.

Thanks a lot, Pastor Jones. I hope it was worth it to you.


Goliath Pictures Revealed! …Sort Of March 2, 2011

Filed under: Books — katblogger @ 7:48 PM
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If you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a tendency to obsess.

*insert pause here for those who know me personally to snicker* I know. I had that coming.

I often obsess over books that I really, really want released. You may recall my obsession over Mockingjay’s cover, way back last summer. I tried to add a link, but the computer really hates me today, so I can’t make it work. Moving on.

Anyway, Scott Westerfeld released three pieces of art from his upcoming book Goliath at… sort of released them. He put a big white box over the most important part of each one, and forced the fans to choose. How cruel of him. But of course, even missing roughly 40% of the art, that hasn’t stopped obsessors like me from analyzing every pixel in loving detail.

(Those of you who know me off this blog can skip the rest – you’ve heard me run through it quite a few times already.)

Artwork #1: The Two-Headed Messenger

The person involved is Dr. Barlow, unless Count Volger has become a cross dresser. There’s some sort of bird, presumably the messenger, perched in front of her. The title indicates that the bird is probably two headed. Why, you ask? Well, you might recall that the Hapsburg crest is a two headed eagle. So perhaps the Hapsburgs have sent Alek a message. Of course, it would be odd for them to have fabricated beasties around, but no one understands the workings of royal families. They’re all crazy from inbreeding anyway. (For more on that, check out this article: It’s hilarious.)

Artwork # 2: Secrets in the Rookery

So there’s a rookery. Somewhere. Since it’s chapter two, they’re probably still aboard the Leviathan. The figure appears to be either Alek or Deryn, although you might be able to squeeze both of them in that little white space. Bovril’s present, so obviously one of them is there. (That lovely imprinting thing in action.) And we all know what secret we want revealed, but that wouldn’t happen in chapter two, would it?

Artwork # 3: Hooking the Package

I see pine trees in the background, and a creature that looks like a bear. Therefore, I’m guessing we’re in Russia. Why would Russia be sending the airship a package? Or is the airship delivering Russia something? It looks like Deryn is probably swinging around ropes and such, which she is quite good at. Just a generic action scene.

There will be plenty more analysis when a complete image comes out, and we have one per month to look forward to, to help pass the time before September 4th. I’ll be back soon, hopefully with a post that will appeal to a broader audience than fellow Westerfeld-obsessors.


What am I Reading? 2/07 February 7, 2011

Filed under: Books — katblogger @ 4:56 PM
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This is a vampire novel by the loosest possible definition. Vampirism is a parasite contracted like an STD (or is it STI now?). The symptoms include fear of light, cannibalism, and hatred of all that’s familiar. The main character Cal is a carrier of the parasite, searching for the girl who infected him before she spreads it even further. You won’t expect the twist.


The First Sentence Petting Zoo January 22, 2011

Filed under: Books,Writing — katblogger @ 10:27 AM
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A while ago, I wrote a post on the power of a first sentence. That being said, I thought – Why not show people the good, the bad, and the just plain weird of first sentences? So I grabbed some popular books, and some ones I like, and cracked them open to the first page. Here you are, along with a little commentary of mine.

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

“She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.”

Good. We have a character’s name – a pretty long character name, which is intruiging – and the mystery. Why won’t she open her eyes?

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.”

Medium. The act of waking up adds immediacy, and the cold bed signifies that someone is missing. Still… it could be better.

Uglies, Scott Westerfeld.

“The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.”

Good. This is one of the just plain weird ones. But it’s intruiging, isn’t it?

Midnighters: Blue Noon, Scott Westerfeld. (What can I say? He writes great first sentences.)

“Bixby High’s late bell shrieked in the distance, like something wounded and ready to be cut from the herd.”

Very good. The character is late, adding drama. Also, from their POV, they sound like a psychopath. That always draws me in.

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

“I’d never given much thought to how I would die – thought I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.”

Medium. As much as I like to hate on Twilight, this is pretty good. Obviously it sets up an immediate conflict. But it is a little long, and overly dramatic.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, JK Rowling

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Low medium. It’s not usually a good idea to start a book by talking about secondary characters. And saying they’re ‘perfectly normal’ isn’t really an eye catcher.

Runemarks, Joanne Harris

“Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again.”

Very good. After the end of the world? Goblins? Seriously – this is a good hook.


The Surprising Joys of FanFic January 13, 2011

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 8:30 PM
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 I’m just a high schooler, but I fret. A lot. More than’s healthy for me, probably. Even when I’m writing, I’m always worrying – Is this good enough? Would someone publish this? Should I just give up? Sometimes I lose the point of writing – to write, to have fun, to tell the stories I want to tell.

My problem with the ending? It was the end.

Two years ago, while I was waiting for the lunch period to end, I passed the time by writing a fanfic (fan fiction). For those of you who aren’t complete nerds, that means a work of fiction by a fan (slightly obvious) based on another author’s work. I’d never written a fanfic before, but I was bored, and I’d just finished reading Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters series for the millionth time. As always, the ending grated on me. I wanted to change it, and hey – I could. I was a writer, after all.

I wrote about four pages – but to be honest, it was a little notebook – and then the bell rang. For almost two years, I forgot about it. After all, it was a fanfic. It wasn’t commercially viable at all. What was the point of finishing it?

Then, on a whim, I posted it to a site to share with some other Westerfeld fans, just for the fun of it. Surprisingly, they liked it – and wanted more. “No,” I told them. “That’s all I have. It’s not like I can publish it, so I’m not writing the rest.”

But they kept asking, and eventually I started writing the story again. I still am, and as I do, I’ve realized that fanfics aren’t so useless after all.

1. The biggest thing is, they let you relax. There’s no pressure at all. You’re never going to publish this – so it doesn’t have to be a perfect, polished, beat-the-life-out-of-it copy. You can just write and have fun with it. Writing a fanfic has allowed me to remember that writing can be fun, not a chore.

2. It’s a good exercise. To do a good fanfic, you need to match the author’s style. You have to shift your writing to match the character’s voice. In a book like Midnighters, where the POV switches between five main characters, that’s a lot of different voices. It’s good practice on switching tones.

3. You can share without fear. No one’s going to steal your work. Also, at least for me, sharing a fanfic is a lot less pressure than sharing my own original work. It’s not really mine, so I feel less possessive over it. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s not as much of a big deal.

4. Like I said earlier, sometimes you don’t like the way a story went, or ended. Maybe it just ended so soon. Finally you can control what happens, and make the ending what you always imagined.

Fan fiction isn’t for everyone. But it’s a good exercise, and a fun way to stop taking writing so seriously. Try it sometime.


The Joys of Split Narrative October 10, 2010

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 5:47 PM
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Writing with two or more main characters – who take turns narrating – can be tricky. I’ve only tried it once before, so in retrospect maybe I shouldn’t have made a split narrative novel the goal for this year’s NaNoWriMo. But everything’s been planned out, so off I go – unless I change my mind again. Of course, I’ve already switched novels three times, so I’m sticking with this one. Probably.

What are the problems with split narrative? Well, there’s really a list of things you should avoid, or attempt. First of all, make sure there’s a reason to have split narrative. If your characters are always in the same place, doing the same thing… why bother? Unless they have separate stories to tell – or very separate ways of telling the same story – keep the narrator count down to one.

Second, make the narrators different. Too often you can end up writing identical characters. Make sure your two (or more) narrators have different ways of acting, talking, and thinking. Otherwise it’ll get really boring really fast. For example, check out Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. An Austrian prince talks and thinks nowhere near the same as a British airman.

An exceptionally irritating part of split narrative is charting. Generally, you want to have the characters ‘talk’ for roughly the same amount of time. (Maybe, he gets a chapter, she gets a chapter, etc.). If you just start writing, which is what NaNo essentially asks for, you’ll run into problems. A scene might really need to be told by one character, but you just switched to the other three pages ago! You’ll probably end up with 10 pages of character 1, 3 pages of character 2, 8 pages of character 1, and so on. Mapping out the basic story, and making sure you have the narration where you want it, is essential.

I’m sure I’ll have more split narrative woes in November, when I actually start writing. Until then, I remain safely in the domain of a single voice.


Behemoth Countdown September 28, 2010

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — katblogger @ 8:11 PM
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I’m so excited! (You can get this at Scott Westerfeld’s site, Easy enough, right?