3 Things to Consider When Writing A Novel

These three questions aren’t in any particular order, and they certainly aren’t irrefutable nuggets of truth. My ideas about writing may not match your ideas, and that’s perfectly alright. These questions simply explore what I have experienced and felt as both a writer and a reader, and I wanted to share them.

A Note: While I’ve geared this post toward novel-writing, I’m fairly sure it’s applicable to not only other forms of writing, but really to any form of creative expression.

This is huge. HUGE. You can’t write without a reason. Or, come to think of it, you could—theoretically—but there’s a 95% chance that whatever you wrote would be crap.

There are thousands upon thousands of reasons why people write. It can be therapeutic, rewarding, entertaining, but it has to be something. You wouldn’t spend $1 million on a mosquito, would you? (For those of you who answered yes to that question, kindly escort yourself away from my blog and into a mental hospital, please and thank you.) Not unless you had a reason for buying that mosquito. Maybe the mosquito is actually a robot and you are a collector. Maybe the mosquito is the last mosquito on earth and you are a (deranged) scientist who wants to preserve the species. But there is a reason you want that mosquito.

In the same way (leaving the horrid mosquito metaphor behind), you must have a reason for writing. Maybe you’re writing to make money (good luck, mate); maybe you’re writing to distract yourself from something unpleasant in your environment; maybe you’re writing because some mad bloke is holding a gun to your head demanding you write him a sonnet.

Whatever the reason, it must exist, and it must be solid. Otherwise, you can write, but you can’t create.

Personally, I write because I enjoy it. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and I’m good at it. That’s my reason. What’s yours?

This isn’t particularly related to formatting, although that’s certainly something else to consider. But what do you want your novel to be? Do you want it to be cute and fun like Pulling Princes? Dark and dangerous like Dracula? Charming and magical like Matilda? Write with the spirit of your idea. If you’re going to write about a murderer hunting his next victim, don’t drop in slapstick humor just for the hell of it. If you’re writing a children’s book, don’t build a plot around real estate marketing or quantum physics research. Consider your content, your objective, and your own personality, and write with a certain tone already in mind. This will help you not only get to know your story better, but help you write it better too. A lot of writers don’t plot everything out from the beginning, but the good ones have at least the feel of the story and write every word to fit that particular mood.

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This is sort of a trick question. You ought to be writing for your own sake, because you want to or you need money or some other reason that involves you. Writing is in many ways a selfish occupation, and using it for gain, healing, or entertainment is one of its primary functions for people. You must write for yourself before you can write for anyone else.

But with that note aside, consider your potential audience. You may not plan for your novel to ever see the light of day, which is perfectly alright, but if you have even a smidgen of an inkling that someone other than yourself might someday lay eyes on your work, think about that. Think about the kinds of people your book may attract and ask yourself what you would say to that group if given the chance. If you’re writing a teen romance, who might pick up that book? Teenage girls, of course. So what would you say to a teenage girl? What advice would you have to offer her? Perhaps you might want to remind her that breakups aren’t the end of the world, or her own self-worth is more important than any boy, or there are worse things in life than having zits or nagging mothers.

This isn’t something that you necessarily have to incorporate into your novel. Your theme doesn’t need to revolve around any particular gem of wisdom you have for your audience, but it will likely be influenced by how you answer this question.

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Top Ten Books to Read for Halloween

Top 10 Tuesday Halloween

***Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish, with a new Top Ten prompt every week. Check it out!

I’ve linked everything to Goodreads, so just click if you’re interested!

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1. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I don’t think this even needs explaining. Witches and wizards and dark forests and castles and pumpkin juice sort of embody Halloween. Plus, is there ever a bad time to read Harry Potter?

2. The Diary of a Fairy Godmother by Esmé Raji Codell

I’ve loved this book since I was young. It integrates fairytales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but mainly it’s just this really cute story about a young witch figuring out where she fits in, and in the meantime, there’s some hilarity and chaos.

3. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

It’s a musical AND a book, aka my two favorite things. I actually read this book over the weekend because I saw it in the bookstore and had a “Yes! I need you!” moment. It’s sort of vaguely creepy but also lovely and mysterious and the narration makes it a very charming read.

4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

To be honest, I didn’t like this book. For one, while I have a weak spot for beautiful writing, Shelley just goes on. And on. And on. And by the end of it I actually threw down the book and scowled for a good hour. But still. It’s a classic for a reason, so I’m sure there are plenty of people who would enjoy it, plus the scary/creepy factor is definitely there.

5. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I adored this book when I read it for the first time. I haven’t read it in years, but it’s still an old favorite. Kit, the main character, is a serious badass, and the whole Puritan background contrasts against that and highlights her fiery, exotic nature. It’s not really scary, but I still love it.

6. The Magic in Manhattan series by Sarah Mlynowski

This series is kind of awesome. Teenage witches are one of my favorite things, and I love all the fun and madness and coming-of-age hilarity.

7. Edgar Allan Poe

Poe needs no explanation. He’s friggin’ POE.

8. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman*

So I haven’t read this, but I adored the movie and I love the premise of little soon-to-be witches going to live with their eccentric aunts and growing up and living their weird lives.

9. Coraline by Neil Gaiman*

Who doesn’t love Coraline?

10. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Double, double, toil in trouble! I mean, witches and murder and prophecies are the stuff Halloween is made of, and it’s got a nice, dark vibe that’s not precisely spooky, but not exactly a walk through a field of daisies either.

Also, if you’re looking for something Halloween-y to watch, my personal favorites include Hocus Pocus, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Bewitched, Harry Potter, The Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Phantom of the Opera, among many others.

If you have some good Halloween books/movies to suggest, I’d love to know about them! My bookcase hasn’t toppled over yet, so that means I still have room for more books! Let me know your favorites in the comments below.

See you Thursday!

*I haven’t actually read this (yet), but I’m still recommending it based on friends’ recommendations and what I know about the book.
Credits: Graphics courtesy of Obsidian Dawn.

ARC Review: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

How did I get it? Netgalley

Genre: Science fiction, dystopian

Synopsis: “Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”

Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is now to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion…and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world, and in Cat’s heart.

Review: Okay, so first things first. This? This was beautifully written. Like, crack-your-heart-open-and-make-you-bleed kind of beautiful. Every word had thought behind it, every character was real and complex and emotive. This is a book that you have to take a break from every once in a while to just lay there while your brain takes it all in. It’s powerful and poignant and deep, and it’s like reading something vast and tiny at the same time, a small story that feels big.

The main character, Cat, is someone with a plethora of faults, which in my case made her more relatable, although I can see how she might grate on some people’s nerves. Her journey through life is very tumultuous and she makes a ton of mistakes, but I liked that about her, and she certainly isn’t the only one with issues in this book. Her parents, her friends, and the other people around her have their own flaws, and I really enjoyed how much thought Ms. Clarke put into every single character. I grew especially fond of Finn, which is probably due in part to my love of the awkward-male-turtle role, but Finn really did make my heart ache. Reading about Finn’s struggle to understand his surroundings and his own capacity to feel made me think about human nature and emotions, and how powerful they really are. How ironic that a robot should be the one to teach readers about humanity.

***SPOILER***

One thing that I didn’t care for was the plotline concerning Cat’s marriage. For one, a lot of Cat’s interactions with Richard made her seem, well, catty. And also, while I understand this part of the story is crucial, I didn’t like the way it was done. Richard’s character was horrid, yes, but it didn’t feel authentic. His violence and mistreatment of Cat were done in a way that made me feel like the author was just saying her lines, and there was nothing raw or cutting in their final interactions. Cat’s behavior toward Richard seemed like a shallow effort by the author to show her strength of character, as though by publicly embarrassing him or saying “You hit me, so I’m divorcing you” automatically makes her a woman of steel when in reality, it felt like there was very little thought behind Cat’s actions, like the author was shoving words in her mouth and situating her just how she liked.

***END SPOILER***

I don’t read books like this very often simply because I end up walking around for the next week with a hangover. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s very draining, especially in my case since I read it in a day. But at the same time, this book was completely and totally worth the energy. The author put such care into it, and it’s so stunning both stylistically and thematically that even if I didn’t like the story, I would love the book anyway for the writing.

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend it? Yes

Other Books By the Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke has also written a YA series called The Assassin’s Curse, which from what I can tell looks pretty awesome.

Stacking the Shelves #2

***Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It’s a chance to share any books you’ve bought, borrowed, or received in the past 7 days. All of the books on this list are linked to Goodreads.
I’ve recently sold my soul to Netgalley, so I’ve got a few new additions to my shelf to share, though fortunately (at least for my wallet) not as many as last time. Although I don’t plan to review all of these books (except the ARCs of course), if you see anything in particular you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!




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Mafia Girl by Deborah Blumenthal (thanks @ Albert Whitman & Company)

Endless by Amanda Gray (thanks @ Month9Books)

The Curse Keepers by Denise Grover Swank (thanks @ 47North)

Through the Door by Jodi McIsaac (thanks @ 47North)

The Hazel Tree by Julia Debski* (thanks @ Julia Debski)

Mind Bond by Julie Haydon (thanks  @ Feather in Cap Publishing)

Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic (thanks @ Patchwork Press)

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke** (thanks @ Angry Robot)

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish (thanks @ Orbit Books)

*If you’ve seen my update post, you probably already know that Julia is a very good friend of mine who just self-published her first novel, The Hazel Tree. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a pretty fabulous book. I’ll be reviewing it most likely in early November, so stay tuned for that as well.

**I’ve actually already read this gorgeous novel, so if you’d like to know my thoughts on it, check back on Monday for my official review.

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Emma by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It by Dennis Merritt Jones

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

Hopefully, the gods will grant me the self-control not to go book-hunting for a little while considering the sheer size of my TBR pile at the moment. I would offer you a picture of said pile, but I don’t want to frighten you so I’ll refrain.

See you Monday!

Top Ten Tuesday #1

Top Ten Character Names I Love

1. Gavriella

I know it’s kind of vain to have one of your own characters on this list, but I really like the way this name rolls off the tongue and it’s pretty without being too prissy. (Or at least that’s how I feel.)

2. Jace

Tawny eyes. Angel with a bad-boy streak. Total badass with a love complex. ‘Nuff said.

3. Fitzwilliam Darcy

I named my bloody CAR after this man. Darcy is an iconic name that instantly makes me think love, devotion, happiness, gushy girly feelings.

4. Coraline

I don’t even know, it’s just pretty and quirky and makes me feel good.

5. Dickon

The Secret Garden was a huge part of my childhood, and Dickon just inspires this feeling of hope and life and magic that instantly cheers me up.

6. Annabeth

Okay, so Percy Jackson isn’t, like, my favorite series ever or anything, although it was a fun read, but this name is just so bloody perfect. It’s sort of frilly but at the same time so down-to-business, and I love the names Anna and Beth individually so together=love.

7. Jesse Tuck

I mean, come on, Tuck Everlasting. How can I not love this name? It’s simple but romantic and meaningful and inspiring.

8. Harry Potter

Does this even need an explanation? HARRY. POTTER.

9. Wendy

Wendy Darling is basically the most perfect name ever. J. M. Barrie created a name that’s so iconic, it’s hard not to love it. Wendy is someone everyone wants to be, Wendy is the child that got to taste magic and adventure, Wendy is the girl who flew to the stars and back.

10. Gatsby

I can’t even…how do you explain why you love a name? I love this name because of what it brings to mind: passion, power, dreams, eternal hope, a slow fall into impossibilities. It’s a name that everyone knows, universal and timeless.

***Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish, with a new Top Ten prompt every week. Check it out!

Update Chat

So, the month of October has been general insanity, especially with college applications, senior project, midterms, deadlines, and general mayhem.

Shockingly, this has resulted in very little writing time.

I have, however, had the chance to hone my editing skills as my BFF and partner in madness, Ms. Julia Debski, asked me to be the butcher—er, editor—of her debut novel, The Hazel Tree. That book is now published (*quiet flailing*) so I would love for you go check it out. It’s on Kindle for $1.99 and you can also get it in paperback for $9.50, so seriously, go take a look. It’s awesome and full of werewolves and romance and super-creepy Alphas and super-sexy cousins (*cough*ROB*cough*). As soon as the gods bless me with $10, I will be reading and reviewing this beauty, so stay tuned.

In other news, I am doing my best to write while still clinging to the last vestiges of my sanity (which never existed in the first place according to my loved ones). I’m taking my own advice and writing the best bullshit I can, but I’ll be honest—my personality does not deal well with imperfection, so I’m not chucking out as much nonsense as I’d like. Still, progress.

This coming week is also my fall break (THANK YOU JESUS) so I’ll hopefully have a lot more time for writing, reading, stressing over college, and obsessing over CW’s new TV show “Reign”. Seriously, ridiculous historical inaccuracies aside, it is my most delicious guilty pleasure show this season. But, yes, writing is hopefully happening, along with chipping away at my positively gargantuan TBR pile, starting with a book about the Mongol Queens and John Green’s The Fault in Our Starsas well as finishing “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” and The Tao of Pooh. I decided to join this year’s Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon mostly because Halloween is fantastic and this is great motivation for me to put more effort into reading.

As part of this update post, I’d like to include a list of things I’m doing/obsessing over that I’d love for you to check out, which I may or may not have already mentioned above, but we’ll ignore that because I like to make lists. It soothes me.

1. The Hazel Tree

2. Emma Approved (a vlog series by Hank Green)

3. Reign, CW’s new supermegafoxyawesomehot TV show

4. Composing a SSAATB choral piece based on Secret Garden’s Sleepsong

5. New theme which I can’t remember the name of but love purely because a chubby, smiling apple is involved.

6. Einstein Bros. Bagels

7. Beautiful fall weather, nice and cool and fantastic. Absolute favorite season ever because sweaters and hot cider and pretty colors and Halloween.

8. Is anyone else emotionally traumatized by that bizarre “Girls Don’t Poop” ad with the ’50s redhead with a British accent posing on a toilet and referring to her poop at least a dozen times in the space of 20 seconds? That poor actress will probably never have another job offer EVER AGAIN.

That concludes this little post. If you are reading/watching/being traumatized by anything I’ve mentioned, please comment so I can join in your joy/pleasure/horror. And don’t forget to check out the fabulous Julia Debski’s new novel The Hazel Tree!

Stacking the Shelves #1

***Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It’s a chance to share any books you’ve bought, borrowed, or received in the past 7 days. All of the books on this list are linked to Goodreads.

Here I go, diving into these awesome memes! I’ve been buying wayyy too many books considering the amount of time I have to actually read them (which adds up to about .5 seconds per day), so I figured I should share them with the masses. Or rather, any poor unfortunate souls who happen upon my wee little blog.

And with that, here we go!

1. How to Read Literature Like A Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster

This is something I’m reading to help me with my senior project. I’m shadowing an English professor and if all goes well, my final product will be a completed syllabus and outline for a course on banned/controversial books.

2. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

I am so excited to write a review for this book. It’s basically a conversation between the author and Winnie the Pooh about Taoism and it’s so freaking adorable.

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3. The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles

This includes the three Greek tragedies “Antigone”, “Oedipus Rex”, and “Oedipus at Colonus”. I’ve read the first two for my lit class and enjoyed them, although Greek ideals amuse me.

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4. “Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay” by Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry, and Diana Ossana

I didn’t know how much I needed this until I saw it on the shelf. I’m very intrigued by screenwriting, so maybe this will inspire me to give it the old college try.

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5. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

This is for my lit class. I cannot believe I’m actually going to read an entire book about a giant bug. God help me. Although this brings up my favorite joke (which, to my knowledge, I came up with): What is it called when you are attracted to a bug? INSECTuous. (Please laugh. That was funny, admit it.)

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6. The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford

Women in history=my favorite thing ever. Especially when we’re talking about women who are traditionally overlooked by historians and society in general (aka, basically all women). I’m not sure just how well-researched this book is, but the title is enough for me to want to read it.

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7. Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman

I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “I Heart Jane Austen” and I basically worship her. She’s such a clever author and her books are just chick-flick enough to warm the cockles of my heart and just sad enough that I have to wipe away at least one tear per reading. So obviously I’m all over a book that equates to a big giant “Kudos to Jane!” banner.

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8. Book Smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming A Literary Genius in 365 Days by Jane Mallison

I feel like I should know the classics. I mean, they’re classics for a reason you know? So I should at least give them a chance and try to understand why the literary has embraced them so fully. And a guide to finding those books never hurt anybody. ;)

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9. “Howl” and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

Ginsberg was pretty…interesting. I watched that movie with James Franco and I liked what I saw, and I hate reading poetry on the Internet (it feels like cheating) so I thought I’d go ahead and buy his stuff. Also, the little book is really thin and tiny and cool.

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10. Manhattan Transfer by Dos Passos

I bought this for my lit. class, didn’t read it, and there’s not really a need to read it anymore, so this is going on the Maybe Someday shelf. If anyone reading this post enjoyed this book, please comment below and tell me why you liked it. I’ve heard plenty of negatives about it, but not enough positives.

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11. Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl

Who doesn’t want a book of lists? As a self-diagnosed list-maniac, I drool over books like this.

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12. “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare

It was 20 cents! What was I supposed to do, leave it?

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13. “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

I feel like your bookshelf isn’t complete without some R&J.

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14. “Henry V” by William Shakespeare

I dunno, it was cheap and I’ve always been mildly interested in it, so why not?

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15. “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

Well we’re reading this in lit in the spring, so I thought I’d be a total nerd and read it now instead.

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16. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

I’m considering putting this on my fake syllabus for my senior project. I’m not that excited about reading it to be honest, but I’m going to try my best.

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17. “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” by John Ford

I’m actually really excited about reading this. It’s an early 17th century play about a brother and sister who fall in love (with each other, in case that wasn’t clear), and I’m just coming off a pretty serious “Borgias” kick, so I need something taboo and scandalous to keep me going. (I think incest is a thing now. It seems like it’s all over HBO. Which, if I’m honest, doesn’t bother me at all.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list, and if you have any recent additions to your bookshelf, you can comment here or make your own Stacking the Shelves post!