Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Reading List

To mark the end of 2011, I though I'd take a look back at some of the books I read this year. This is an incomplete list - its mostly books I read in the second half of year.

Recently, I became curious how many books I read in a year. Next year, I'd like to keep better track and compile a complete list for 2012.

Here are a few of the books I read in 2011:

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox -  Maggie O'Farrell.

Save Me - Lisa Scottoline

Writer With a Day Job- Aine Greaney

Angela Sloan - James Wharton, Jr.

Misery - Stephen King

Here's the Deal Don't Touch Me - Howie Mandel

Ghostbread -Sonja Livingston

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L Frank Baum

Life Without Limits - Nick Vujicic

Night Road - Kristin Hannah

The Heart of the Matter - Emily Giffin

One Thousand White Women - Jim Fergus

Mudbound - Hillary Jordan

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford

Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay

Room - Emma Donoghue

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Misery, Stephen King

For whatever reason, I seem to avoid books and movies that are all the rage. I've never read the Twilight books or seen a Star Wars movie. And until very recently I'd never read Harry Potter or seen any of the movies.

So despite the dozens of books he's written, I've never read a Stephen King book. Mostly because I'm not particularly interested in the genre. I've seen some of the movie adaptations, who hasn't? Carrie and It (and I'm still leery of clowns to this day) So, as an aspiring writer, I decided it was time to read a novel by one of the most widely recognized writers in the world, Stephen King.

I chose Misery simply because I'm familiar with the plot after watching the movie years ago (love Kathy Bates in this role) and I figured it would be pretty harmless - no scary clowns, or creepy crawly things, just a crazy lady holding a writer hostage.

I read Misery and enjoyed it. I even read it before bed several times without having any spooks or nightmares.

I finished the book within a few days and while I was tempted to try another King book, I decided against it and immediately moved on to reading something easy and lighthearted. Four days later I found myself dreaming about people running around town in black robes and those freaky white masks from the movie Scream, torturing people. Not sure why the Scream tie in, I haven't seen a Scream movie in about a decade. All I know is, I've never before had such a bloody, gruesome dream. But I know, it's because of reading Misery.

There's no denying Misery is a gruesome book. I found myself recoiling with disgust (you can't close your eyes when you're reading!) yet reading feverishly to find out what happened next. Much of the book is spent inside Paul Sheldon's head and his inner dialogue is riveting and sometimes downright funny. I like the stream-of-conscious approach there, actually following Sheldon's train of thought. I loved the mind games and Sheldon's analysis of Annie's ever-changing psychological state.

There is also a novel within a novel as we read Misery's Return, the book Sheldon is writing at Annie Wilkes' demand that he bring back the beloved character of his widely popular Misery series. I wasn't particularly interested in the story of Misery Chastain, however, and I found myself scanning through these parts, eager to get back to the action inside Annie Wilkes' home. I do see though, the relevance of including these excerpts as a means to exploring Sheldon's state of mind and how his time with Annie affects his writing.

So now I can say I've read Stephen King. And perhaps I will again.

With the hopes of writing my own novel(s) someday, I feel I must read everything I can get my hands on, from the classics to modern bestsellers and everything in between.

My next quest will be to read my first Danielle Steele novel.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Books for Writers: Writer with a Day Job

As writers, many of us dream of the day we'll be able to give up our day jobs to write full time. We struggle to find time to write between, work and/or school, and the other obligations we seem to rack up. We often find (or make) excuses.

In preparation for NaNoWriMo I began reading, "Writer with a Day Job" by Aine Greaney. I was grabbed by the title and subtitle: "Inspiration & Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your Career."

This book lists challenges (read: excuses) and ways to overcome them. This book offers suggestions to find time to write during your day whether it's before work, after work, during your lunch hour or on your commute. No more excuses for not writing!

You'll also find writing exercises and prompts to get you started with tutorials focusing on things like dialogue and point of view.

This book came to me at the perfect time. It helped me through NaNoWriMo. In reading this book, I was inspired to wake up early and write in the morning before work, edit on my lunch break and brainstorm during my commute. I found, it's surprising what I was able to accomplish in just 15 minutes time. I highly recommend this book to anyone who works full time and struggles to find writing time in their schedule!

 I think the idea is, we don't have to write Pulitzer Prize winning work everyday. Write something, anything in the time you have. Jot notes about your characters, map our your next scene. Make observations about the people/places/things around you.

Many of us will never be able to quit our jobs and write full time. Let's face it, with exception of a very luck few, publishing a book will not allow you to quit your day job. But changing your attitude and the way you approach those extra few minutes of your day can make all the difference to finding balance between work and writing.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Now What?

I just spent the last thirty days working on a novel. I woke up early every single day to write before work - well okay, every day but one. I wrote every day, multiple times a day exceeding my own expectations, writing further than I thought I could, writing beyond what I had outlined.

Here's what I learned:

1. I am capable of getting out of bed an hour early every day to write. I am not a morning person. But it's what I need to do to make the time to write.

2. Though I am a night owl, I had some of my most productive writing sessions before the sun came up. Evenings, for me, are full of distractions and temptations I can't resist (read: prime time television) If I want to make writing part of my day, mornings may be my answer. And coffee of course.

2. A little brainstorming goes a long way. I never thought taking ten minutes to think about my writing could be all that beneficial. But several times this month, I picked up a pen and paper and just started writing my next scene. In just a few minutes time, I gave myself a jump start on what I could work on writing that night when I had more than ten minutes. It helped me overcome that glaze of starting at the cursor, trying to figure out where to begin.

So now what? For starters, I need a break from this story. I need to set it aside and come back to it in a few weeks with a fresh eye before I can do any editing and revising. I hope to get it to a point where I can consider submitting it for publication, but optimistically, that is a way down the road.

One thing I do know, is I'm ready to start working on something else. While working on this novel I've had a few other ideas emerge, ideas I'd like to explore and see where I can take them. Perhaps the biggest challenge of NaNoWriMo is to keep the writing momentum going.

But in the end, I have a novel. A beginning, a middle, and a end. 350+ pages of my ideas down on paper. And that's a really good feeling.