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Month: December 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2016

Can you believe it is almost 2017?!?!  I feel like the older I get the faster time seems to go – which is a bit alarming when I think about it.  2016 has been a great year though between the start up of Silverskypress, winning NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, and making some serious headway on my novel who could ask for more?

Well lucky me, I got more because I also read some really amazing books during 2016 written by some amazing people.  Here are my top ten books/series that I read in 2016 (don’t worry there are no spoilers).  In no particular order because that would be hard yo:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:  If you are not typically a fan of classical literature I would highly recommend this book (the audiobook version is really good too) I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story, plot and gorgeous writing.  I’ll admit that I struggle to slog through some of the “Classics” but this was a joy to read.  Read if you like romance, well-rounded characters, and fancy british stuff.
  2. The Lunar Chronicles – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter by Marissa Meyer:  OMG you guys I came to this series a little late in the game – and I didn’t want to like it because I knew it was sort of popular – but I loved it!  The writing was solid, the characters funny, smart and relatable and the plot was action packed with many twists and turns.  Each book focuses on a different main character, while still keeping the same plot and cast from the preceding books.  Loved every second of it – one of those series I can’t wait to reread.  Read if you like adventure, humor, romance, and multiple perspectives.
  3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys:  I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book but talk about powerful!  Based on a true but little known historical event I kept thinking about this story for weeks after I finished it.  Heartbreaking, yet uplifting, challenging but still beautiful.  Everybody needs to experience this for themselves.  Read if you like history, thinking, and boats.
  4. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan:  The title perfectly explains what this book is all about.  Laugh at the outrageous characters, dream of extravagant lifestyles, cringe at awkward family gatherings, and gasp in shock at the scandal!  I loved the audiobook version.  There is also a sequel to this book “China Rich Girlfriend” that is worth an honorable mention – though the audiobook has a different narrator who I didn’t enjoy quite as much, but the book was still good.  Read if you like drama, humor, and money.
  5. Raptor Red by Robert T Bakker:  This is a book from the 80’s not sure how I found it, but it was so fun and different.  I am kind of a dinosaur nerd so a book about the dramas of a Utah Raptors life was oh so fun.  Read if you like dinosaurs, nature documentaries, and eating meat (jk, you can be a vegetarian and still like this book).
  6. The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst:  This book was inspiring.  If you ever feel like you are just too busy, overwhelmed by the pressures of life or torn while trying to make a big life decision this book is your answer.  Through witty anecdotes and sage wisdom Lysa will teach you how to say yes to the best things in life and how to say no to the things that aren’t worth your time.  Read if you are too busy to read, can’t make decisions, and need a nap.
  7. The Raven King By Maggie Stiefvater final book of the Raven Boys Series:  I have been in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s writing since 2014 and have been anxiously awaiting the final installment of the Raven boys series.  Magic, mystery, romance and beautiful prose make this book, and the whole series one of my all time favorites.  Read if you like amazing characters, romance that doesn’t drive the plot, and magic.
  8. Hammered, Hexed and Hounded (three separate books) by Kevin Hearne: There are a lot more books in this series, but these are the three that I have read.  Upbeat and packed with adventure these books are a great easy beach read, or something to lighten your heart after reading a more intense story.  I love the quirky characters, the adorable Irish wolfhound and the awesome humor in these books.  Read if you like mythology, druids, and laughing.
  9. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey:  Another nonfiction book, this is a no nonsense read giving out no nonsense financial advice, challenging you to live life debt free.  My husband and I are taking up the challenge of scaling back so we can pay off all of our student loans as quick as possible (which will hopefully open up doors for my writing!!!).  Dave is blunt, honest and real about money and all the stupid things we do with it.  Gasp as Dave debunks common myths our culture teaches us and put on your boots when this book motivates you to get in the trenches and get your pocket book together.  Read if you have debts, want to be retire well, and are always up for a challenge.
  10. The Job by Janet Evanovich:  Part of her Fox and O’hare series I am convinced that disney stole this concept for the Movie Zootopia.  Seriously they have a fox named Nick…and Evanovich’s character is Nick Fox…come on Disney!  This book, along with the rest of the series is a classic feel good heist adventure where the good guys bend the rules to get the job done.  Read if you like wit, big guns, and suave male leads.

This year has been a bit of a slow reading year for me.  I focused a lot more time on writing (yay) and got a little addicted to television over the summer months (boo).  My biggest reading victories were discovering audiobooks and taking some books off my “to read” list that had been there for a looooong time.  I can’t wait to see what stories I’ll find in 2017!

Tell me about some of your favorite books, what should I add to my reading list (or bump to the front!) Let me know in the comments below.  This is my last post of 2016 so I’ll see you in the new year.
Stay amazing my friends!

The End: Killing the First Draft

The End: Killing the First Draft

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Guess what? I finished the first draft of my first novel!!!! I have 90,00 words of a somewhat coherent story. How does it feel you ask? It feels flippin’ great.

But it took forever. 1.5 years to be exact.

One of the hardest things about being a writer is actually finishing that first draft. We often linger on the details, editing as we go, which in many cases causes us to burn out and quit. That’s what almost happened to me! I almost never finished the dang thing.

So how did I kill the first draft once and for all?

I recognized my perfectionism as a stalling tendency.

The first draft is not the final product, and the goal isn’t to produce carefully thought out and polished pages. Giving up perfectionism allows you to embrace discovery. As Terry Pratchett said, the first draft is just you telling yourself the story. It doesn’t have to be pretty, correctly punctuated, or even sensical. Just have fun with the first draft and don’t let perfectionism get in the way of the story.

I stopped obsessively reworking, rewriting, and researching.

Drafting is not editing, nor is it researching. Don’t do one when you should be doing the other. Instead of wasting time with google searches I noted the idea that needed researching and simply pressed on. Likewise, when I noticed that a passage needed edits I made note of it and reminded myself that I can always fix it later. When I stopped sweating the mistakes I started making progress.

I sent my inner critic on vacation and gave myself permission to write badly.

As soon as I silenced my inner critic I began writing faster, and as I wrote faster, believe it or not, my story improved. When I freed myself from the tyranny of my inner critic my imagination came out to play and I came up with some pretty great ideas on the fly. Sometimes creativity and criticism are mutually exclusive.

I learned a lot on the  journey from beginning to end. Foremost of which, the first draft needn’t (and shouldn’t) take an excessive amount of time. So this NaNoWriMo I was determined to take on a new story and finish the first draft in one month. And I did it! The NaNoWriMo draft was shorter and sloppier than the draft I labored over for a year and a half, but the NaNoWriMo draft was better. It possessed better ideas, was fresh and off the cuff, and unburdened by perfectionism or even proper punctuation.

Both drafts need work but the NaNoWriMo draft was much more fun.  In the future I’m going to write my first drafts quickly instead of slowly. For me at least, it doesn’t matter how much time I invest in a first draft –  it’s still going to need a whole lot of revision. I do believe that there are rare talents out there who can produce a first draft worth reading but for the rest of us mere mortals the first draft is going to suck. I’m sure you’ve come across the perennial words of Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is sh*t.”

To everyone out there struggling with a first draft. Good luck! I’d love to hear about your novel writing adventure. Stay tuned for an update on lit events in the Twin Cities!

Welcome to December

Welcome to December

Welcome to December!  We made it! #party #nanowrimoisover #whyamIusinghashtags

Whether you had a wonderful NaNoWriMo experience or a terrible one – it’s over! Hopefully, you learned something, or grew as a writer or even got a finished draft as a result of all your hard work.  No matter what you should be proud of yourself.  Even if you wrote one word and then dried up, that’s still progress.  

November was quite the roller-coaster of a month for me.  Day one – literally November 1st – I came down with a cold – fever, cough and zero energy to do anything beside watch full house reruns on the couch.  The following weekend was an early family thanksgiving full of babies, dogs, and lots of good food.  After that fun weekend I came down with a second cold (I know how terrible is that, not gonna lie I definitely cried about it) and two days later my husband (who also caught the cold) and I flew down to Florida to visit Universal, Disney and the beach (it was an amazing vacation, despite us both being under the weather and getting airplane ear).  Then after being home for a full three days we headed out again to visit family in South Dakota for thanksgiving.  

Yeah…November was a busy busy busy month….did I mention it was busy?

Amidst all of that chaos I was plugging away at my 50,000 word goal.  It could have been stressful, and frustrating or created super bad burnout and all sorts of other writer problems.  But – it didn’t.  I actually had a wonderful NaNoWriMo experience, I made my 50,000 words, finished my draft, feel more motivated to keep writing and I even like what I wrote…for the most part.

I can feel all of your death stares and evil glares coming at me through my keyboard, burning my fingers as you all think to yourselves I’m glad she got two colds in the span of two weeks and I hope she gets another for bragging about how awesome she is and how much she enjoyed NaNoWriMo.  But, please understand that I’m not trying to brag – I’ve had less than great NaNoWriMo experiences in the past – but I think it’s important to celebrate our successes, and figure out what we did right so we can repeat them .  Here’s what I did that helped me to be successful, despite having such a chaotic November.

  1. I pre-wrote – I know I’ve talked about how I am a panster in previous posts  but if you read those thoroughly you’ll have picked up on the fact that even us pansters need to do a little preparation.  I took the back half of October and did character sketches, plus two different types of outlines.  I’ve never done that much preparation before starting a story and it really paid off.  By outlining I feel like I got an entire draft out of the way before writing it.  I streamlined my plot, my characters and my message for the story, all in just a few hours work.  On November 1st I had an outline of each scene – now some parts of my outline were more detailed than others but there were all there – and it was amazing!  If I felt stuck I could reference my outline, if I couldn’t remember something I wanted to include I could look back and see what I’d planned to say.  And, if I couldn’t remember a detail about my character’s I could reference my sketches.  I still don’t enjoy the pre-writing process, and believe me in October I was itching to just start my novel already, but after seeing how well that process worked for me I don’t think I will ever write a draft again without a complete outline
  2. I already had a writing routine – Was I writing 1,667 words every day?  No.  Was I writing ever day?  Not quite.  But, I was writing consistently and used to committing time and energy to my writing.  It’s a lot harder to go from 0 to 50,000 than it is to go from 15,000 to 50,000.
  3. I was ready to create – Since December of 2015 I have been editing my Moon Cursed series, and if I haven’t mentioned it ever in one of my other posts (I’m sure I have) editing is not my favorite.  I love to create, I love the blank page so after almost a year of edit edit edit, I was ready for the breath of fresh air that comes with a new story.
  4. I broke up my writing sessions – This might be a personal preference, but when I have to write 1,667 words every day I find it hard to write that many at one time (when I have no pressure to write that much I’ll write 3,000 easy peasy).  It feels too big, too overwhelming.  So, most days I broke up my writing session into two chunks.  On work days I would strive to get at least 500 words on my lunch break, while on vacation I did a chunk around lunch time and another chunk around dinner.  Over the holidays I literally would write 200 word chunks throughout the day scraping to get every spare moment I could to get those word counts.  It helped me not to feel overwhelmed  by my goal and it had the extra bonus of allowing my ideas to marinate during the day so by the time my evening session rolled around I was ready to go.
  5. I picked a great genre – My project for November was a fun, super hero spoof, chapter book, for ages 8-12.  It’s silly, it’s lighthearted and it’s in first person perspective.  A lot of the book wrote itself.  I’ve never written in that genre, for that age group or from that perspective, but I wanted to try them all and I was lucky enough to discover that I love all three of those writing elements.   Usually, I feel self conscious about my writing, or feel that my ideas are bigger than my skill level.  With this project I was loving what I was writing – so much so that I read my first few chapters to a group of kids that live next door (and they loved it – asked if they could have the first copy of it when it’s published –  I nearly cried from happiness).  This genre is my element and it is something that just feels like me.  I love writing the more serious things – love writing themes that are too mature for children – but I also love being silly and crazy and random and those things come more natural to me than the serious stuff.  I didn’t think I wanted to write for this age group, but I might have actually discovered my calling as a writer.
  6. I had great support – My husband was a huge support, helping prep dinner, encouraging me to get writing when I didn’t feel like it and letting me prioritize myself and my goals above him for a few weeks.  He is amazing, and I couldn’t resist giving him a shout out

Don’t get me wrong, November was still hard.  There were days – especially towards the end -where I was tired, out of ideas and didn’t think I could do it.  I had a lot of moments staring at my screen, forcing words that I knew were no good from my fingers.  My story is far from perfect and I am so very very tired at the end of this journey.  But I did it – I have a completed draft of my new book and I’m excited to dive back into editing this December.

More than accomplishing the 50,000 words I feel proud that I tackled something new.  Even if I’d hated the genre I tried I think I still would have appreciated learning that about myself.  Whether you “won” or not, I hope you are proud that you tried, that you wrote anything and that you took steps to pursue your goal of writing.  Now go, grab a pillow and a warm beverage and curl up on the couch and enjoy some well earned rest (but not for too long)

Stay Amazing my Friends,