Weekly Writing Wrap-Up: January 24 – 30

Welcome to my Weekly Writing Wrap-Up for this week!

Total Word Count for the Week: 7037

Top Writing Day: My top writing day was Thursday with 2001 words.

What I Worked On: I worked on my Snow/Finley novel and a little bit of fanfiction.

The Good News:¬†I made my goal! ūüėÄ

The Bad News: I’ve been trying to think up a title for my novel, and I still can’t think of one.

Lesson Learned: This week, while reading this post: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2014/01/how-to-write-good-bad-guys.html¬†I realized that I had yet to create a main bad guy for my novel. I inserted¬†him last night, and now he’s working hard to prove his “badness.”

Goal for Next Week: I’m upping my goal for next week to 700 words.

If you’d like to share your weekly wrap-up, go ahead and post it in the comments below!

~ Kayla

Songwrite: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble writing without music. Music helps me focus, blocks out distractions, and sets the mood for the scene I’m writing. While songs have inspired fanfictions and even scenes in my novels, I’ve never flat out wrote a story from just what comes to mind while listening to a song. Well, today I decided to try that very thing. I’m calling it a “songwrite.” I was inspired to try out a freewrite-type post from reading one of my follower’s blogs, Like Star Filled Skies. She posted a few of her freewrites, and I really loved the idea and wanted to try it out myself! You can read one of her freewrites here:

http://likestarfilledskies.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/love-letters/ .

For the song part of my “songwrite,” I chose “O Come, O Come Emanuel” sung by Enya. I’ve heard the song by various artists countless times on the radio, but Francesca Battistelli’s version (my favorite!) made me fall in love with it. While looking for Francesca’s version on Youtube, I found Enya’s version and decided to give it¬†a try and was impressed. It has a fantasy-like vibe about it, explaining the direction I went with the story. Here’s the song:

And here’s the “write” part! I set my goal at 300 words, whether or not I felt the story was done. I came in at 326, so I was only¬†26 words over!

The heavy, wooden door creaks open, and I enter in. I walk slowly down the aisle, careful not to step on the hem of my dress. There is an eerie silence that fills the air. If I shut my eyes tight, I can almost hear the monks moving about, their soft chants filling the ancient halls of this once sacred place. Only there are no monks tonight. Only me. At least, I hope I’m the only one here. Hands trembling, I slip the hood of my black cloak off my head. My footsteps echo throughout the hall and off the grey stones that run from the floor up, up, up the walls. The stained glass windows glow with an odd warmth as the pale moonlight fills the chamber, and yet the howling of the wind outside makes me remember there is no peace in this place.

I stop in the middle of the aisle, too scared to go on, but knowing that I have to. It isn’t the first time I wish I hadn’t been chosen for this. The sound of bells fills the chamber, and my heart begins to pound. My fingers wrap around the hilt of my weapon, and I wait for silence to settle over the place again. I have to go through with this. I was chosen. I take a deep breath, and start walking again. As the Leader, it’s my duty to perform the Ceremony.  Only … I’m not really the Leader. That fact haunts me, and I realize what a horrible mistake I made that day. If I had only known. For a moment, I pause again and lean against the stone wall seeking support from its solid strength. My dark hair falls forward in waves about me, and I push it back over my shoulder and straighten up again, resolved to go on. I have to make my mistake right, and the only way is going through with this.

~ Kayla

Quote of the Week

Welcome to today’s quote of the week! It comes from Benjamin Franklin, who really needs no introduction! ūüôā Benjamin Franklin is famous for his witty maxims, and here’s one he penned about writing. I liked this quote because it’s a good reminder that writing isn’t just all about sitting at a keyboard and typing.

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth the reading, or do things worth the writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

~ Kayla

What I’ve Read This Month

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to read more, and I’ve set myself the goal of four books a month. I’m trying to read different genres, fiction and non-fiction, and even from different age groups. Well, I did indeed read four books (actually five!) in January and today,¬†I thought I’d go ahead and share them. Let’s get started!

Books I Read This Month:

The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh

This is a short book, meant for a younger audience, but I was curious about it because of the sci-fi story line. It’s a story of one of the last families to leave Earth because of the dying sun. Each of the children can only bring one book, and one of them brings a green book, hence the title.¬†They land on this planet, which they call Shine, and learn to survive on it. I found the moth people, the strange wheat, and the shiny grass,¬†a¬†bit odd. Even with some of¬†the strangeness of Shine,¬†the book wasn’t horrible. I just wasn’t thrilled with it.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

This is another younger book I chose mainly because it’s a classic, and¬†I’ve never read it. Karana is from an Indian tribe that lives on an island. When the tribe is forced to leave, her little brother jumps off the ship, and she follows after him. Now that¬†they are¬†stranded on the island, Karana is forced to learn how to survive. I enjoyed this one. It was definitely interesting reading how she¬†survived, fought off the wild dogs, and built a home for herself.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

In England, a group of animals, unhappy with their treatment on a farm, rise¬†up against their owner, take over the farm, and start running it themselves. Animal Farm is a classic novel I read for school. I was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed it! Orwell’s satire on Russia is so brilliant.

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

I wrote a review on this book last week. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here: https://concerningwriting.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/book-review-indian-captive-by-lois-lenski/

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

I read this one for school. It’s the story of humanity’s war against the Martians who come falling from the sky in cylinders to take over the Earth. The book was certainly entertaining, but¬†the one thing I disliked was the fact that you learned almost nothing about the narrator. It was hard to grow attached to him, and¬†I found myself not really caring about what happened to him. Still, the story was pretty exciting, and it was interesting to see how Wells created such non-human like aliens.

So,¬†those are¬†the books I’ve read this month! Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading? Do you have any book recommendations? Comment below and let me know!

~ Kayla

5 Character Creation Tips to Learn From Star Trek

“To boldly go where no one has gone before.” This iconic phrase instantly brings to mind the Star Trek series.¬†Phaser fights, new life, and new civilizations are also defining elements of this tv show. Perhaps¬†just as defining are its characters. The writers of Star Trek were able to craft some amazing and memorable¬†characters that feel truly real. Round, realistic, and relatable¬†characters are a goal of every author, so I thought I’d share five things I’ve learned from Star Trek about creating great characters.

1. They have a backstory.

On The Next Generation Commander Riker is a good cook. Why? Well, we learn his mother died when he was young, and his father hated to cook, leaving young Riker to fix all the food. We learn that he lived in Alaska, and he had a troubled relationship with his father. The things that a person experiences makes them who they are, and the writers on Star Trek use their characters’ background stories to shape them and make them more relatable. Each¬†character has experiences unique to them making them all the more real.

2. They have interests.

On Deep Space Nine, Sisko loves baseball, and has a baseball sitting on his desk. His love of baseball is referenced many times throughout the series, and there’s even a whole episode about it (Take Me Out to the Holosuite, one of my favorite episodes!). Riker plays the trombone and, as I stated before, loves to cook. Data has a cat, writes poetry, paints, and plays the violin. The fact that the characters have interests makes them more realistic, more like living, breathing people.

3. They grow.

Hoshi Sato, in Enterprise, starts off in the series as being frightened and unsure of herself. She’s scared about space travel, and doesn’t believe that she can translate or learn languages well enough in order to help the crew. By the end of the series, however, Hoshi is confident and brave, even taking command of the bridge, something she would have never done before. Data, too, grows and changes. In the beginning, Data’s much more like a robot than a person.¬†By the end of the series, Data uses human phrases, writes poetry, and even sleeps. Just like real people, Star Trek characters grow and change, and through that, become much more real.

4. They have habits, sayings, and quirks that just make them, them.

Captain Picard’s “Tea, Earl Gray, hot,” and the way he¬†tugs at¬†his jacket are immediately recognized as something only Picard would say or do.¬†Giving Picard a certain phrase allows him to have his own identity and personality, helping to create a realistic and round character. Giving characters a recognizable habit makes them more original and unique.

5. They have faults, and they fail.

At the beginning of Voyager, B’Elanna Torres has a temper and is full of anger. By the second season (I’m still watching this series!), B’Elanna has learned to control her temper, becoming a qualified chief engineer. When Wesley Crusher goes to Starfleet Academy, he makes a disastrous decision that ends up killing one of¬†his fellow cadets, and then lies about it to cover up what he did. No one is perfect, not even the characters on Star Trek. Much like we 21st century earthlings, 24th century Star Trek characters fail and have faults which allows us to connect and sympathize with them.

From “These are the voyages …” to “to boldly go where no one has gone before” Star Trek is full of round, interesting characters with habits, faults, and interests. Now I have an excuse to re-watch some of my favorite episodes again! All in the name of creating better characters, of course. ūüėČ

Live long and prosper!

~ Kayla

Weekly Writing Wrap-Up: January 17 – 23

Welcome to my Weekly Writing Wrap-Up for this week!

Total Word Count for the Week: 7514

Top Writing Day: My top writing day was Saturday with 1749 words.

What I Worked On: I worked on my Snow/Finley novel and Hobbit fanfiction.

The Good News:¬†I’ve almost written 10,000 words in Snow/Finley!

The Bad News: I missed my word count on¬†Thursday (by 20 words ūüė¶ ) and Friday!

Lesson Learned: I read a Go Teen Writers article this week about ways to start a novel. I tend to start my novels with a statement, and reading this article made me want to try some new beginnings out when I edit/write a novel. You can read the article here: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2014/01/ten-ways-to-start-novel.html

Goal for Next Week: My goal for next week is 600 words, once again. ūüôā

If you’d like to share your weekly wrap-up, go ahead and post it in the comments below!

~ Kayla

Character Names – Snow and Finley

Warning: I am incredibly biased towards these names. These are the names of my two MCs (main characters) from one of my title-less novels that I’m currently working on. It’s sort of a¬†dystopian story about a girl, Snow, who is kidnapped by a guy working for the government, whose name is Finley, in order to¬†train her to¬†use her special abilities. Anyway, I thought I’d share these two names that I’ve come to love. As always, feel free to use them, but remember I had them first! ūüėČ

Snow is¬†a¬†girl’s name derived from the Old English word snaw. While it is rare as a first name, I found it listed¬†in an article entitled “Unusual Baby Names Destined to Become More Popular.”¬†¬†Of course, the most famous ‘Snow’ is probably Snow White, from the fairy tale. My Snow is a bit shy and quiet, but has a definite spunky side, and her biggest fault is being overconfident. I think the name would work great in a contemporary novel, or, of course, a dystopian.

Finley can be a boy or girl’s name. I’ve chosen to use it as a guy’s name. Finley is pronounced “fin-lee.”¬†It’s of an Irish/Scottish origin, and it means “fair-haired hero.” It¬†has quite a history, for it was the name of Macbeth’s father. Finley is still pretty unusual, if you want a more rare choice for your character. The Finley in my story is arrogant, full of himself, and thinks he’s perfect.¬†At the beginning of the story, he’s anything but a “fair-haired hero!” He does change though, and by the end, he’s a little less full of himself. Even with him being a jerk, Finley’s been a blast to write so far. While Finley might think he’d be perfect in any genre, I’d use him in fantasy, and of course, dystopian!

So, what do you think of the names Finley and Snow? Would you use them for your characters?

~ Kayla

Quote of the Week

Today’s quote is really an apology. On Monday, I posted the story of Jane Austen and Mark Twain. Mr. Twain was not a big fan of Miss Austen and said some pretty nasty things about her and her writing. In order to make it up to Miss Austen, I have decided to let her be featured for the quote of the week. So, today’s quote comes from Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice.

“I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know.” – Jane Austen, speaking of Elizabeth Bennet in a letter to her sister.

I¬†can really relate to Jane on this subject.¬†I’ve been working on a novel, and I’m convinced that my characters are the most fantastic, most wonderful ever created. Deep down inside, I know that is¬†not really true, but, still, they’re my ‘babies’ and I love them. ūüėČ Anyway, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one to be completely enamored with her own characters!

~ Kayla

Book Review: Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more. I also mentioned that I was changing up some things on the blog. So, what does that have to do with this post? Well,¬†while I’m¬†currently on my “Quest To Read More Books in 2014,” ¬†I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve been reading by reviewing them. Today, I’m posting a review of an old book I recently read called¬†Indian Captive by Lois Lenski. Somehow, when we studied American History, I never read this classic historical fiction.¬†I’m glad I’ve gotten a chance to read this novel since it is one not to be missed!

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski is the story of the capture of twelve year old, Mary “Molly” Jemison by the Seneca Indians. Taken by the tribe, she is separated from her family and¬†carried off to an Indian village where she is adopted by two Indian sisters. The Indians are mostly kind to her, and Molly struggles to retain her identity as a white girl and to remember her family. By the end of the book, Molly has a choice to make. Will she stay with the Seneca or return home?

Molly, the protagonist, is a great character.¬†She doesn’t whine or complain through her trials,¬†but bravely faces them which makes her an admirable and likable character. Molly is an easy character to get¬†attached to, and I truly cared what happened in her life. The Indian characters in the novel are engaging as well, and Lenski does a fantastic job portraying Indian culture.

The story is based on the true account of Mary Jemison, who was captured by the Seneca in 1758. While some of the facts are changed so that the story flows better, it still remains accurate. Lenski did a TON of research¬†in writing this book, as she explains in the foreword, and strove to present a¬†true picture of the events.¬†The best thing is¬†while you’re enjoying the book, you can also learn some history. Two for one! ūüėČ

Though the book’s age range is a bit younger than mine, I still enjoyed the story which took me just a couple days to read. While it isn’t exactly a thriller, it’s still pretty exciting. Another thing I enjoyed were the pictures in the novel. The very distinctive illustrations were actually drawn by the author herself. She also wrote another favorite children’s book of mine, Strawberry Girl.¬† Since I enjoyed that book, it was neat to get to read another by her. Indian Captive won a Newberry Honor in 1942, and I think it definitely deserved it!

All in all, I would give Indian Captive a 4 star rating for being an enjoyable book with a great character and fascinating story.

Also, if you’re interested in Mary Jemison’s account of her captivity in her own words,¬†you can find it here: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks/w00087.html

~ Kayla

The Story of Jane Austen and Mark Twain

“I want to dig her up and¬†beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” What kind of sadistic, twisted monster would want to do such a thing to the dead body of a woman? Only the incredibly witty and sarcastic author, Mark Twain.¬†(Who knew he had such violent tendencies? ūüėČ )And who could possibly engender such a passionate response from Mr. Twain? Only another author named Jane Austen.

Our story began in the regency era with the famous author, Jane Austen. Austen was born in England in 1775.¬†She is most famous for writing Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Her stories are set in the time she lived and typically have a romantic story line. They aren’t just all romance though. They also feature her sarcastic and witty commentary about the society she lived in. So far, so good. Nothing to hate, right?

Well, in 1835, 18 years after Austen’s death, a future great author was born, named Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Twain is most famous for writing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.¬†Like Austen, Twain was known for his sarcasm and his¬†wit.¬†But Twain didn’t appreciate Austen’s sarcasm. Or her wit. Or really anything about her. In fact, Twain hated her work. He said this about her books:

“Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that¬†does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.”

And he said this about her writing:

“To me his prose is unreadable — like Jane Austin’s [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane’s. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.”

He also hated her characters, believing, in fact, that “her intention” was to make him “detest all her people.”

Perhaps his most famous quote about Austen is this one:

“I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every¬†time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

So, that is the story of Jane Austen and Mark Twain. I only wish that Austen could have been alive to read Twain’s take on her books. I would have loved to hear how she would have¬†responded¬†to his criticisms!

I’ve enjoyed both authors’ works, but I must agree with Twain.¬†While I have no desire to beat her over her head with her own shin-bone, Austen¬†can tend to be a bit confusing and unreadable to me. ūüôā Who do you agree with? Do you agree with Twain that Jane’s work “is entirely impossible?” Or are you a fan of Austen’s prose? Comment below and let me know!

~ Kayla