Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sorcera's Sucky First Draft

First drafts suck. And it's okay.
The first draft of Sorcera sucked, and that's okay.
I think it's really important to make things that aren't amazing. Actually, the act of making thing at all, even if it's shit, is pretty amazing. To make something that doesn't suck is even better. But at some point, all of us kind of suck, and for me, that was the first draft of Sorcera (and many other first drafts, but we can get into that later, maybe). So now, I want to share with you the shitshow that was the first draft of Sorcera, and laugh about it together. Just cuz that makes me happy.

1. The coven lived in a giant magical library in NYC, similar to Grimmauld Place.

Okay, Sorcera did start out as a 9th grader's magical fantasy, so it's kind of okay. But it was an obvious ripoff of Harry Potter, and I never even explained how they'd gotten the place. It was huge, but the hugeness was useless, as things only ever really happened in the lobby, kitchen, and bedrooms. Characters could go hide somewhere if they were mad. And the library wasn't even magic itself; it was just a regular, big building with marble walls. Which is pretty. But useless. Especially when a large space like that would be expensive and/or useless in NYC.

2. Nicole was a total asshole.

One of my main characters, Nicole, was meant to be the leader of the group. However, other than her saying she was the leader a lot, she never acted like one. And she yelled at people all the time. Originally she was based off me, so I'm really distressed about how she turned out that way. Check out this quick excerpt:
Nicole stepped backwards at the words, grimacing.
“What do you mean, we’re next? We don’t even know you!” She argued. 
Why so aggressive, Nicole? Why so annoying, all the time? She was constantly defensive, two-dimensional, and just plain boring. Luckily, I managed to fix her up in future drafts.

3. Miles existed.

If you read the first draft of Sorcera, you'd be surprised to meet a character named Miles, an entirely bland shop owner who provided Sorcera with tips and tricks for surviving Storm. Not only was Miles uninteresting, everyone who read the story kind of hated him. He also was a love interest for a character who is about as into men as cats like dogs--their relationship did not work. 

4. The villains were two-dimensional.

I had a big problem in my first draft: the coven Sorcera faces, Storm, was filled with the exact same character. A weird, twisted, but beautiful villainess who liked to tease the heroes. It was excruciating to reread, and just plain confusing when they all talked together. In my second draft, I've worked to make them more like individuals, and they've been much more fun to write. 

I decided to mention all of these because I think it's important to realize what things work and what things don't, and it's also important to be able to laugh at yourself sometimes! It was good work for where I was then, but now I've improved immensely. I like looking back and seeing how far I've come.

So what do you think of your first draft of your current work in progress? What have you changed? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to Write a Killer 5-Paragraph Essay

While I do have plenty of things to work on as a student, and of course I can always improve, I do consider myself to be quite a good essay writer–all my teachers have tended to give me quite good marks on them. So I thought that I might share some tips and techniques with you all! Under the cut you will find my method for writing essays, as well as some tricks I use to get better grades on them. :P This format works especially well for persuasive essays, literary analysis, and generally any essay you would write 5-paragraph form, though of course you can adjust my setup in a way that works for you. Hope this is helpful!

Step One: Outlining
Before writing any essay, I write a highly detailed outline. This outline might as well be the actual essay–this means that writing my essay will be incredibly easy once it comes to that. I start out with this skeleton:
  1. Introduction
    1. Thesis:
  2. Paragraph 1: [Topic/Content]
  3. Paragraph 2: [Topic/Content]
  4. Paragraph 3: [Topic/Content]
  5. Conclusion
    1. Thesis:
I find it helpful to be able to see a complete outline of how my essay will look, like this, before I begin. Next, I fill out topics and thesis. In general, it’s not a great idea to decide a thesis until you’ve accumulated enough data/information/textual evidence, but sometimes I like to have a preliminary thesis that I can revise later.
  1. Introduction
    1. Thesis: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an incredible show because of its realistic characters, suspenseful writing, and use of the supernatural to represent and resolve real-life problems.
  2. Paragraph 1: Realistic Characters
  3. Paragraph 2: Suspenseful Writing
  4. Paragraph 3: Use of the Supernatural
  5. Conclusion
    1. Thesis: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an incredible show because of its realistic characters, suspenseful writing, and use of the supernatural to represent and resolve real-life problems.
From here, I begin to write any relevant information on all three of my main topics under paragraphs one, two, and three. Your informational bullets can be full sentences or just phrases and words that will jog your memory as you’re writing your essay–whatever works for you! You can also fill your conclusion and introduction sections with things like your introductory and concluding transitions and sentences.
Part Two: First Draft
I don’t have much to say on this topic other than use your outline! It’s okay to revise and cut things from your outline now and then to see if it makes it more readable. Don’t stress about how long or short your first draft is, since it’s a first draft. Just write!
Part Three: Second/Third/Fourth Draft
After you have a rough draft to work with, you can revise your essay to your liking. Here are some quick tips on how to revise–they’re tried and true!
  1. Read your essay paragraph by paragraph from the end to the beginning–you’re more likely to catch mistakes.
  2. Print out your essay and read it. Use a red pen!
  3. Have someone else read your essay.
  4. Read your essay out loud.
  5. Put your essay through Hemingyway App, an app that picks up long or confusing sentences and helps you fix them!
  6. Use PaperRater’s free paper grader.
Be sure to look over your work at least ONCE before turning it into your teacher or prof. However, also be sure not to over-analyze or over-edit! 
Welp, that’s all I have to say for now! If you have any questions, or if this helped you at all, feel free to comment below. Good luck!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

NaNo is a GO

So,  after much deliberation, I've decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. Life is a mess and I'm constantly stressed,  but I've realized something. Doing things I love (like writing) helps my depression. So I should be doing those things--and writing 1,667 words per day sounds like a pretty good way to keep me happy, creative, and getting things done.
Writing-wise, here's where I'm at. Sorcara's second draft is done and currently being read for critique (I wanted to start editing it in early October, but obviously that didn't happen). I've written about 1,500 words of my new WIP, Girls and Galaxies. The next logical step is to use Girls and Galaxies for NaNo, yes? Yes!
I have no idea how I'm going to pull it off. Then again, I guess that's always been part of the fun of NaNoWriMo! It's risky, it's busy, and it's so SO exciting!
Here's a synopsis of Girls and Galaxies, for anyone interested:
Kalani Paoa's grandmother was the one who first made extraterrestrial contact, after a school dance in Kalapana, Hawaii. Now Kalani, graduating high school, has to rethink her life goals when she's placed on a commercial space cruise liner instead of an exploratory vessel for her internship position. On the ship she finds worlds she could never imagine, friends she never would have befriended, and an intergalactic love with a certified space alien princess.
Sound exciting? I hope so, because I'm really thrilled about this story! I know it's going to be a wild ride that I'll really enjoy taking!
If anyone wants to add me as a writing buddy, click here. I'm happy to chat about our novels and cheer each other on! Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

5 Book Genre Outfits for Fall

Hey everyone! I've been quite busy lately, but I wanted to do something fun and a little different for the blog today. So I decided to come up with 5 different casual-wear outfits for anyone who wants to dress like their favorite book genre! These are all made with polyvore. Without further ado, let's get started!

1. Romance

2. Science Fiction

3. Historical Fiction

4. Fantasy

5. Horror

I hope these are cute! They're all a little fall inspired too. Which one would you wear? And what's your favorite genre! Comment below!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Keeping Her Secret: Review

Hi everyone! I heard about Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas on Twitter, and knew I had to pick it up because it had two of my favorite things: girls in love, AND summer camp stories! Two days later, I bought it on my kindle, and finished it in one whirlwind of a night.
Keeping Her Secret tells the story of two girls, Riya and Courtney, who used to be best friends. After a kiss between the two, followed by Riya moving away, their friendship falls apart--until they reunite at summer camp years later. Riya, openly bisexual and working hard for a volleyball scholarship, is surprised to see that Courtney is the camp heart-breaker, who is still pushing aside her dreams to please her parents. Starting with a rousing prank war between the two, their friendship (and possibly relationship?) begin to grow again. But will Courtney be able to accept her attraction to Riya, and learn how to follow her dreams? Or will Riya be left heartbroken once again?
It's always a testament to a book when I finish it in one night--I am usually exhausted when bedtime comes around, so staying up until midnight to finish a book is huge! But I just couldn't put Keeping Her Secret down. First of all, I strongly related to Riya; she's a strong, smart, openly bi girl who is determined to follow her dreams. I love her perspective. I also love how she has her own flaws to work with throughout the story. Courtney herself is delightfully infuriating--you understand her struggles, but also wish she would JUST KISS RIYA, DAMMIT! The two girls have a chemistry that pops off the page, keeping you interested.
The side characters are also fun and interesting in their own rights. Riya's best friend and Courtney's brother are also exciting to watch, and have their own sweet little storylines. Every character in Keeping Her Secret is a sweet cinnamon roll that you want to protect at all costs!
I also love how the book tackles the girlxgirl relationship in this book gently and with awareness. Early on, Courtney doesn't know what bisexuality is, and it's gently explained to her (and the myths are busted!) by Riya and one of her friends. When Riya is angry at Courtney for not coming out, she's reminded of how difficult coming out can be for many people. Courtney's brother is always sweet and understanding--the fact of Courtney liking girls, especially Riya, has never been an issue for him. I love when books aren't afraid of LGBT issues. It's important for YA to keep being diverse and loving, showing kids who read them that they're valid.
All in all, I give Keeping Her Secret 5 stars. It's a light, frothy read that makes you smile--I felt like I should have been reading it out on the beach with some ice cream in my other hand! Next time you want a sweet love story to devour, pick up Keeping Her Secret.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wildness: The Magic of Walden Day

Wildness exists. We see it in the scorching sun, the changing leaves, the torrential rains coming down in voluminous, grey sheets. We hear it in the hiss of snakes, the crack of thunder, in our own voices when we are angry, upset, joyous. We taste it in fresh water, crisp autumn air, in a home-cooked recipe passed down for generations. There is wildness in everything, in all of us. Take a moment; breathe. The wildness is still inside you. Let it stretch. Let it survive. Let it sing. 

I wrote the above in the woods today, when me and the rest of our small, introspective senior class went to a nearby pond for the day. Today was "Walden Day", a senior celebration that has been happening at my school for over a decade, inspired by the experiences and writings of Henry David Thoreau. We go, we read quotes from the book Walden, and we write responses to questions that Thoreau himself seemed to be asking when he wrote the book. The question I was meditating on above was: "Does wildness still exist?" Here's the end of the passage I wrote.

Do not smother wildness in fear that it will overtake you. We are easily overtaken creatures. Embrace it. We are too fond of lines and structure. Let yourselves be messy, and hurt, and excited. It's not quite as scary out here as you think. It is wild, but you are wild too. There is where we all belong.

I went to a poetry reading last night (something I'll also write a blog post on soon!), so I was feeling quite lyrical when writing. It was very powerful to be able to sit with myself in nature and think, then let the words spill out onto the page. It sometimes felt that the whole of the forest was pausing in contemplation with me. Here is my answer to the question, "To what extent do we find only the world we look for?" My answer is kind of meandering; I apologize in advance.

We have tunnel vision. Wake, eat, work, eat, work, eat, sleep. Each day is exhausting, so we push forward to the next exhausting day. We hardly think of the roses, the water, the earth beneath our feet and between our toes.  For us, it is forward, forward, forward. We lament our lack of time, space, and contentedness. If we stop and look around, we can see it's all there, waiting for us. Breathe. Walk around in it. It is yours to move in: the curiosity, the unseen. 

After each writing time, we would come back together and read. It was great to hear that many of my classmates were feeling the same way I was, often responding to the questions similarly but with insights I had not thought about before. It made me realize how much I truly appreciate my senior class. I'm very lucky to be graduating with the people I'm graduating with! The final question was a hard one, and one that was especially relevant to us, since we're all graduating in seven months. "How will you live deliberately?"

Stop. Breathe. Go. It is not as simple as you think. At the same time, it is exactly as simple as you think. You are more than the sum of your parts: you're a body, a soul, and a heart. I'm here, and I will not go gently. I will not allow my anxieties to keep my from my dreams. I will not let distractions hurt my confidence. If I want to love, I will love. If I want to travel, I will travel. If I want to write, I will write until the words no longer sing to me. I promise to be true to my feelings, to listen more, to spend more time in the moment. Here. Right now. I can feel my wildness. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blessed Be: How Witchcraft Helps Calm My Mental Illness

About a year ago, I learned that witchcraft is actually a thing that people do. Like, in real life. People create spells and potions and sigils, they bless and craft and curse, they live in a reality where magic truly is real. As a person who has always loved the more whimsical side of life, I delved into research right away, and found that witchcraft was actually a great meditative form by which you could use your energy to influence your life. So after a while of research and thought, I started doing it. And the results were awesome.
I only do little things--I stir my tea clockwise to attract positivity, I meditate and ground when I'm upset. I do "bubbling" when I'm anxious and need to tune out the world. I bless whoever's hurt when I hear sirens in the streets. I create productivity sigils and draw them on my notebooks. I read my tarot. However, these little, intentional changes in my life have made a world of a difference.
I live with anxiety and depression, and they often cloud my mind, making it near impossible to do the things I want to, to get my life to a space where I feel together and healthy. I take meds, I go to therapy, I have coping mechanisms--but witchcraft is becoming one of the most helpful coping mechanisms I have.
Because witchcraft is intentional thinking. Witchcraft is a space I can go into where I can trust the universe will listen to me. You know how people say to visualize the first day of school if you're worried about it? That's basically what witchcraft does for my mind--it makes me feel confident and excited about life in a way things rarely do these days.
Witchcraft makes me feel happy, special, and productive, even if all I do is send positive energy towards everyone at school. Even if all I do is put a protective bubble around me and my loved ones. Because with witchcraft, I become the person I want to be: someone who even on their worst days can do a little good in the world, or do a little good for themselves.
And I think that's pretty magical.