Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Being Brilliant

I'm in a happy mood right now, so I'm going to write a random blog post expressing my random thoughts.

Four exciting things first:

1. I got into Hampshire! Yaaaaay!!! :) Now to choose … Hampshire or Emerson, Hampshire or Emerson … Well, I have about a month to think about it. And it depends on a lot of boring money stuff and whatnot. Anyway ...

2. My ABNA excerpt is now up on Amazon! It's available as a free Kindle download. So you can read it if a) you have a Kindle, or b) you download the free Kindle app. If you guys would check it out, that'd be just splendid! *thumbs up* Thanks! Love ya!

3. This blog will soon experience its first guest post, from my friend and fellow teenage writer, Nellee Horne. She's 16 years old and is a self-published author! Here is her blog and a link to her book on Amazon. :)

4. One of my plays was chosen to be featured at a young playwrights festival this Thursday ... I even get to rehearse with the actors and stuff! *squee* I will most certainly blog about this. :)

Now, for today's topic ...


I had an epiphany about this lately, so I thought I'd share it with the world.

At some point (or at many points) all writers must wonder, "What makes an author brilliant?" Surely you've read something before that was so good, it made you want to tear your own writing to shreds. You finished reading, and you thought, "Why can't I be that gosh darn brilliant?"

We tend to use the word as if it's a God-given trait. But the truth is, no one is born brilliant. In fact, the world's most acclaimed authors are/were extremely critical of themselves. For example, James Joyce nearly burned his original manuscript of Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and similarly Vladamir Nabakov attempted to burn Lolita. Harper Lee threw To Kill a Mockingbird out a window after working on it for five years.

I don't know about you, but I find these things pretty shocking! To think the world could have lost some of its most amazing books because their authors thought they would never be good ... ! Ack, I don't even know how to complete the thought. It blows my mind.

But then again, I am very critical of my own writing. I doubt I'd ever go so far as to burn (or otherwise destroy) anything I'd written, but there are definitely many days where I hate my own work––where I attempt to write or edit, and I end up crying in a fetal position instead. (Well, not literally––most of the time––but you know what I mean.) Just ask any of my writing-ninja friends; they have to tolerate my whining every single day. Bahaha.

It's not that I don't believe I'm talented. If I didn't think I could achieve brilliance, why else would I write? Is it not the writer's life goal to change the world with one book, to make everyone see life in a new way? There must be some reason why I'm sitting here, banging my head against the keyboard ... Because I have something to say, godammit! I just need to figure out how to say it, first. I have to find my own voice.

That's what all writers want to achieve––the ability to express the meanings of life in a way no one has done it before. And as I'm sure you all know, it's pretty dang frustrating. You often have that feeling like "It's all been done before. Why am I so special?"

But the thing is, that's the feeling that helps you get better at writing. That's what drives you to keep trying. If you already said to yourself, "Hey! I'm brilliant!" you'd stop trying to get better. You wouldn't try anything new, and you wouldn't take any risks.

That's the thing about the world's most brilliant authors ... They don't realize how brilliant they are! It's the struggle to create something ideal, which drives them to try crazy new things in their writing. That dedication and courage is, ultimately, what makes a writer unique and unforgettable.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another wonderful Tuesday! (And this one is particularly wonderful)

Hello, blog-world! I have two very good pieces of news today. :)

1. I GOT INTO EMERSON. AAHHH! I'M GOING TO COLLEGE. (Assuming I get the financial aid I need and whatnot.) I'm so excited! For those of you who don't know, Emerson has an excellent writing program. And it's right in Boston, so I'd still be close to home. So psyched! :)

2. I MADE THE QUARTERFINALS OF ABNA. So, I got two reviews on my excerpt of Edge. I'm pretty happy with them.

The first reviewer said the strongest aspect of the excerpt is the voice. "The writing sounded like an 18 year old was talking rather than an adult trying to be hip or a forced teenage voice." HA! How funny is that? ;) And he/she concluded by saying, "The author has a clear vision of what he sees and how his characters feel, and expresses it concisely and fully. I loved it, and will be looking forward to it’s release." Well, despite the typo and the fact that my reviewer thinks I'm a man, that's pretty good stuff! (Actually, I'm happy that he/she thinks I'm a man since my protagonist is male. Guess I make a convincing boy!)

The second reviewer was not quite so positive ... He/she said the strongest aspect is that the plot is "interesting" and it has a good hook, etc. However, he/she said it was "frustrating to read. Maxwell (the main character) is an idiot. ... But he IS amusing in his stupidity." I guess that could be taken as harsh ... but I'm not all that offended. I actually agree, kind of. Max does start off as rather stupid ... but (I hope) he develops more, later on in the story. ;) And even if he is idiotic, he is endearingly so! I still love him. :) Anyway, this reviewer ended by saying it was better than 80% of the excerpts he/she had read, and that it was "pretty good". *Shrugs* So it's not a glowing review, but it's not scathing either and I'm thankful for that.

What both reviewers seemed to agree upon was that Max accepts his situation too easily. He just wakes up with no memory, has a voice in his head telling him what to do, and he's like "This is weird, but … OKAY!" And yeah, I think they're right. The pacing is a bit rushed. So, I should work on that. :P

I guess the lesson to be learned here is, you need to give your characters strong and realistic emotional reactions in order to hook the reader. Part of what draws the reader in isn't just a good plot (although that's also pretty essential), but also a character that is real and relatable.

So, this means I'm going to get a Publishers Weekly review. HOLY TALKING MUSHROOMS. I'm terrified. Well, I'll be sure to update on that once I get it. (Which will be on April 26th. *already biting nails*) And soon my excerpt of Edge will go live on Amazon (so it will be available as a free download for Kindle! Woot woot!). I'll post a link as soon as it goes up! :)

Also, I recently did an interview about Walking Shadow with Ana Mardoll––a vine reviewer from ABNA. Check it out here!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Tuesday. You know the drill.

Hello, people out there! Wow ... does this blog really have more than 5000 views? That's pretty awesome. :)

I'm not really writing anything currently, but I'm giving Walking Shadow another edit. (Still need to cut out about 30,000 words. GRRR!) So, I figured I'd post another teaser from it today. I think I've only posted one teaser from it before, anyway.

Now I need to finish writing a poem for Writing class. (What else rhymes with "grow"? *chews end of pencil*)

Enjoy this (very short) teaser, in which Cassandra has creepy dreams and such. Oh, and the "eyes on the walls" refer to the paintings she's done all over her room. So yeah. HERE IT IS!

Tonight, I dream of a place I've never seen. A layer of snow glitters on the ground, but the air isn't cold. The sky is a pale shade of pink. The strangest thing is, there are roses growing everywhere––their vibrant, blood-red petals standing out against the starry whiteness.

My footsteps whisper against the snow. I gaze around in wonder, as an unfamiliar tingling feeling rushes through me. Whatever it is, it makes me turn around … and that's when I see him.

He kneels on the ground, his dark clothes standing out in the bright landscape. A rose pokes out of the snow near to him, and he reaches for it. His fingers curl around the stem, and he plucks the flower from the ground. A thorn pricks his skin, and drops of blood stain the snow red.

The edges of the petals fade from red to ashy gray. The darkness spreads like a burn, all the way down the shriveling stem. He lets the crumpled flower fall, where it lies in the bloodstained snow. He looks up, and I feel the electric shock of recognition when I meet his eyes, so dark that they're almost black. There's desperation in them, like he wants to tell me something.

But he doesn't have a chance to say it, because everything is already gone.


My heart beats violently, like it's trying to break out of my ribcage. I rub at the goose bumps on my arms, blurring the drawings on my skin. This is the time when I'd normally reach for my pen, but I've turned to stone. I close my eyes and I can see it still, painted on the backs of my eyelids. The white snow, the roses, drops of blood falling, the flower shriveling and dying, his dark eyes looking up into mine––questioning, pleading.

Restlessness overtakes my mind, dragging me out of bed. As I pace around my room, the eyes on the walls watch my every step.

I've never seen that part of the Otherworld. And he wasn't like the Othersouls that I'm used to encountering. He seemed more human.

More alive.