Sunday, March 25, 2012

What’s in a name?

**This is a blog post I wrote back on November 16, 2011 before I even had this lovely writing blog, but I was doing some more naming today and found it to be appropriate, so I decided to post it and add to it a bit with some more recent perspective.**

By InverseHypercube (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Naming is annoyingly hard. What’s in a name? Well, a lot. A name can tell you quite a bit about a person/character. With a name comes history and meaning, and can set the tone of a novel. 

So back in November, when I was first starting to nail down all of the elements of my novel, I had been trying for days to come up with the perfect name for one of the main characters. Luckily the name for the primary character came to me instantly and easily one night while I was falling asleep, but this other name put up quite a struggle. I Googled, I brainstormed, I name generated, I crowd-sourced it on Facebook, polled my friends, but still nothing was sticking. But finally, somehow I landed on one I like, or rather, I landed on two. By then I had decided I needed two names for this character...of course. But with the perspective of the last few months, I know I settled on two that fit perfectly.

Reading Divergent author Veronica Roth's post about names yesterday got me thinking more about the fact that I had gone with two names. As she discussed, names can be very powerful and when a character has multiple names, "this usually signals the beginning of some kind of transformation, or indicates that a transformation has already taken place." This is precisely what happened with my naming look forward to that. ;)

But until I settled on the fact that the character needed two names and what those names were, it was just creating a wall for me. I couldn’t write anything more without knowing who I was writing about, and that started with the name. I could already see the character in my mind and knew their personality and physical description, the only thing that was evading me was the name. But after I got the name down, things fell into place nicely. 

For some of the other characters, the names came easily, but for others, I went through the same process, trying to figure out what name best suited their personality. Luckily, none of the other names were as much of a struggle as that one character's.

All of this happened right before finals. Finals are always my best time for productivity it seems. I always want to write the most when it’s the most impractical. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, maybe I just love a challenge. Despite exams being only two weeks away, I was in full-on writing mode and loving every minute of it. The good news is that both finals and book writing went quite well, so it worked out.

Back in the present, after finishing my draft, I still had a couple of pesky name gaps where I had just left a blank and needed particularly some last names to be filled in (one of which was for that same tricky character as before!) so I had to get back on the name train--Googling, brainstorming, name generating, researching. But I think I finally found names that I'm really happy with and that have a lot of significance too, which is always awesome. I just don't know how parents do it though--naming is hard!

How have your naming experiences been? What are some of your favorite unusual names or favorite names of characters in books? I still particularly love Mara Dyer of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Peeta of The Hunger Games (speaking of which--wasn't the movie amazing??). Oh, and Jace from The Mortal Instruments Series.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Editing--on the Beach!

Let's be real--if you're going to edit, it may as well be on the beach! But as it seems, Spring Break doesn't last forever, so now I'm back to the real world and law school.

But editing on the beach was pretty awesome. It was great to just have a whole week free where I could read, write, and relax.

Round 1 edits are complete! So it was highly productive as well--I edited a huge chunk of my manuscript, all while enjoying the Florida rays (from the safety of the shade). Now I'm in the process of going through and working on round two of edits.

Taking a box of file folders on Spring Break isn’t weird, is it? Apparently not for me…because I brought it with me to hold my MS and told my mom it was filled with file folders so I could organize things (because I like to pretend to be sneaky about working on my books). But she didn’t question that I would actually have file folders to organize things on Spring Break. My life--just your typical writer/law student nerd. ;)

Where's your favorite place to write or work on your book? If you could go anywhere to write where would it be? 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Recommendation: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Can a book be this amazing? It can.

You should go read this book now, if not yesterday. Because it’s amazing. And you will love it.

“Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.”

(I just love the style it’s written in with the: "It can" and "She's wrong.")

But it’s so much more than both of those: It’s mysterious, it keeps you reading and wondering what could possibly be going on, it’s original, it’s incredibly written, it’s spooky, but also romantic, one of the characters is British (need I say more?), and it’s hilarious. How can it be all of these things so wonderfully? You’re just going to have to read it to find out. Seriously. Go get it now. I literally was laughing out loud while reading parts of it, which is pretty rare for a book that isn’t trying to be a comedy.

The title—amazing. The name Mara Dyer? Love it. The cover—beautiful. I won’t get into the fonts because I don’t want to nerd out on you too much here. Noah Shaw—just yes (you’ll understand once you’ve read the book) ;). 

Also I have a special place in my heart for cool authors who are/used to be lawyers—law school for the win—and Michelle Hodkin is one of the few, the proud, representing. 

What’s even better is that it’s a SERIES!! I love series, because just when you find a great book, you are assured that yes, another one is either out or on the way. I cannot wait to read the next book. Let’s just say the last page of this one—amazing, perfect. But don’t peek and read it first!

The book has gotten tons of great praise left and right, so definitely check it out, you won’t be disappointed! 

Have you read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? What did you think? What amazing books have you read recently?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Novel Revision Process: Becoming Friends With That Red Pen

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been three weeks since I finished writing my second novel! Since then it’s been on to revising. Sitting down with the huge stack of paper that is your manuscript can be kind of daunting, but it’s also really cool to hold  that near-ream of paper and realize that you wrote that, that everything on those pages is a result of all of those hours of writing. So after all the writing, comes all the revising. Finding the best red pen is key here for all the marking up you’re going to be doing (Pentel Sign Pen being my favorite).

Electronic v. Paper revision

For my first novel, I didn’t print out a first draft, choosing instead to edit it all on the computer. I saved pushing print until I had gone through and made all of those changes to save some trees. For this second one, however, I’ve decided to sacrifice the forest (something I always feel guilty about—sorry, trees!) and I printed out all those imperfect first-draft pages. So I’ve been slowly taking my red pen to them and revising, and I must say I’ve been enjoying doing that so much more. 

It’s easier to see the words on the page and flip around and see the bigger picture, for me at least. And I can scribble lots of notes around on the page and play with word choices without actually going in and making the changes. It also allows me to write longer notes in the margins and at the end of chapters on things I want to tweak and incorporate.

The best thing will probably be getting in that secret extra round of editing when I go in to make the changes on the computer in Scrivener (the MOST amazing writing tool ever..more on that another time). Just getting that extra pass over it and having the whole thing fresh in my mind again before actually making the changes I think will go a long way.

So there are definitely perks to the electronic revision process, but right now I’m really enjoying being able to hold those pages in my hands and stack them up. Seeing all the red marks and notes scribbled on the page makes me feel like I’m really making tangible progress too.

The cool thing though is how little it’s changing, even throughout the revision process. All the ideas and scenes are kind of there so far and I’ve just been doing minor edits that I didn’t bother to take the time to do while writing because they would slow down the flow of ideas. Which brings me to writing v. revising:

Writing v. Revising 

I am generally biased toward the process of writing and don’t think of myself as particularly keen on editing. I’d much rather just get the ideas out and enjoy the process of creating rather than the technical nit-pickey editing process. I usually think of writing as the fun part and the revising as the work. For my first book I really didn’t spend too much time editing.

But of course, this novel is different (hopefully better as it comes with two more years of life and experiences) and what I’ve found is that I really have been enjoying the revising process. It’s really cool to be able to change things and to realize you aren’t limited to keeping what’s on the page. You can tear out whatever you want and add things that may be more true to who the characters developed to be in the end. Plus, I am very detail-oriented, so editing is something that comes naturally.

Also the difference now is a change in my frame of mind. Rather than thinking of revision as a way to fix all the mistakes from the first round, I’m approaching it as a way to improve and really make this the best that it can be. It’s a cool opportunity to be able to tweak that dialogue to say what it did in my mind the first time, or to add an extra scene that might develop the characters or reveal some back-story in an important way. So it’s kind of fun in its own way. Kind of like you’ve almost solved a puzzle and if you can just fit the final pieces together you’ll reveal this beautiful picture.

But then of course there are the other rounds of editing. And the beta readers. And more editing. So by then the pieces get jumbled up a bit more and need rearranging again. But hey, as Anne Lamott said in her book on writing, Bird by Bird (which you should read), you’ve just got to take it "bird by bird."*

(*The explanatory quote from Bird by Bird: "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said. 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'")

What’s your revision process like? What are you working on now? What have you found particularly helpful (or not) while revising? I’d love to hear!

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