Saturday, October 24, 2015

Beautiful Books #1: SlavicNovel


Well, it's that time again - Cait and Sky switch up their normal routine and change Beautiful People into Beautiful Books in preparation for NaNoWriMo!

Today I introduce you to what I am (rather unaffectionately and boringly) calling SlavicNovel:

1. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

Approximately... three? four? years ago, I was thinking about my culture, and how fun it would be to write a novel about the creepy dark things of Ukrainian folklore. I was also thinking about how little I remembered of the folktales my grandmother would tell me when I was little, and how the only ones I remembered involved (a) so many anthropomorphic animals or (b) retellings of western European fairy tales with a bit of Slavic culture thrown in. Someday, I thought, I'll write a story about a girl who disappears into the forest and has to face the demons and mermaids and Baba Yagas that live there.

And then I forgot about it.

Approximately... two? three? months ago, Cait mentioned she was writing a Slavic fantasy. Yay, more Slavic fantasy in this world! I thought. Then, more recently, she mentioned she needed culture-help, and I inundated her with a rather long comment, since, if you ask me, I WILL SHARE THE STORY OF MY PEOPLE. I mean, seriously, cultures are cool, and I love sharing mine (and hearing about yours).

And then I thought - wait. I know a crap ton about Slavic culture. I've been wanting to write some high fantasy for a while now. And I still have that tiny plot bunny hopping around in my brain whispering darkness! forests! magic! evil! folklore!

And NaNo was approaching. So here I am.

2. Why are you excited to write this novel?

Many reasons:
- MY CULTURE (see above)
- Dark magic
- Badass women
- Sexy mermaids (i.e. badass women)
- Witches (i.e. dark magic combined with badass women)
- Warrior queens (i.e. badass women)
- Lots of Ukrainian-style food (pierogie, fluffy bread, cheese-butter, and possibly the only delicious ways to eat beets and cabbage)
- A splash of Turkish culture (which I have no idea about HALP)
- Clever thieves (i.e. badass women)
- A dark sexy immortal villain

Also, I plotted out approximately 80% of this novel in a single weekend. This is a RECORD for me, people.

3. What is your novel about, and what is the title?

Well, this novel is about the things I bulleted above. It also involves people falling in love with the wrong people (and occasionally with the right people), a neglected youngest prince, and a lesbian mermaid who wants to seduce women, instead of men like the rest of the mermaids do.

I'm gradually realizing I don't really have a good summary, just a lot of exciting components.

I also have no title. The Raven King would actually be quite a perfect title, no lie, but I'm not trying to compete with Maggie Stiefvater here.

4. Sum up your characters in one word each. (Feel free to add pictures!)

Characters are possibly my favoritest thing in the world so I kind of went overboard on this one and threw nine at you. Enjoy!

Tanya (my darling MC) - confused
Baba Yaga (Slavic Folklore) is from the Slavic regions and is sometimes viewed as an evil witch or a female demon.  She is supposed to travel around flying in a black cauldron or on a freaky animated house that traveled on chicken legs!  She would prey upon travelers and other unsuspecting folk with her huge mouth that was reported to stretch to the corners of the earth.  Her form was that of an elderly wicked looking woman.  As a side note the word 'baba' in Russian is short for grandma.    ...:
Baba Yaga (old lady of the forest) - manipulative
medieval warrior  vLadimir KALINSKi:
Oriana (warrior queen) - blunt (in word and deed)
Middle Eastern Beauty 1 by Ryan Bayer on 500px:
Damla (adorable thief) - underestimated
Stefan (neglected youngest prince) - enthusiastic
Koshiy (SEXY VILLAIN) - perverted (what? he is! the creep)
Rusalka (mermaid queen - aka SEXY VILLAIN #2) - vengeful
Laryssa (lesbian mermaid) - longing
A man's age is something impressive, it sums up his life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man's age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
Tania's grandpa  (as yet unnamed) - solid

5. Which character(s) do you think will be your favorite to write? Tell us about them!

Laryssa's my sad little lesbian mermaid, and I'm very excited to write her. However. I think my absolute favorites are going to be Oriana (my badass warrior queen) and Damla (my quiet, sweet, adorable, cunning thief). Actually, I think my favorite thing to write is going to be the dialogue and scenes involving them both. They have some fun conflicts in store - both with words and with weapons.

Stefan is adorable and mildly snarky too, so he may quickly rise in my favor. We shall see.

6. What is your protagonist's goal, and what stands in the way?

My protagonist is Tania, and she's possibly the only character I don't have fully fleshed out. She's a little foggy right now, but ultimately, she wants the safe adventures of the fairy tales - as in, adventure without danger, where she can return to her grandfather and tell him all about it. (She doesn't realize that yet.)

Physically, she wants to find Koshiy, steal the golden box which holds the secret to his immortality, and bring it back to Baba Yaga, so that Baba Yaga will clear her of her commitment to work for Baba Yaga. It's complicated, and all kind of goes back to Tania's mother not realizing what happens when you make deals with the dark things of the forest.

A lot clearly stands in the way. Koshiy himself, for one. Also, a lot of politics surrounding Koshiy - both magical and non-magical politics - that Tania doesn't know about. There are many people/things who want Koshiy dead, but they can't agree on how/who gets to kill him/why the heck this mortal girl is involved in the whole mess.

Also, her grandfather can't really take care of himself so she can't be away from home for too long. So many complications.

7. Where is your novel set? (Show us pictures if you have them!)

It's kind of a fictionalized version of Ukraine/the Black Sea/Turkey. I'm slowly making a crappy map on microsoft paint. Here's what I have so far.

Told you it's crappy. But hey, it's functional.

8. What is the most important relationship your character has?

I'm guessing this is about the main character? Tania is super close to her grandfather, but he's not present for a lot of the book, even though his well-being is the driving action for a lot of Tania's decisions. A second relationship that is important for Tania is a growing friendship between her and a stray prince named Stefan who is really not cool with being a youngest son and so decided to run off.

Everyone in Tania's village is kind of suspicious of her since her mother had dealings with the forest folk and Baba Yaga. Because of this Tania has put up barriers to close relationships in order to stop herself from being rejected. Friendships aren't an option in Tania's mind-world, so when Stefan comes along it really requires a lot of lessons to be learned on her part.

(I'm still deciding if I ship them or no... Do I want it to remain a friendship? Hmmm we shall see.)

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

She has a friend now - yay! She discovers that her agenda isn't the only one - her "quest" overlaps with someone else's "quest." And as cliche as this is: she learns teamwork actually works and sometimes working alone can be selfish.

10. What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

Some potential themes (though these are hard to determine for me before the book is actually written):
- selfishness destroys things
- revenge destroys things
- breaches of trust destroy things
- racisim and ethnocentrism destroy things
- don't destroy things.
- dark things have reasons for being dark
- there are always two sides to the story - sometimes three

By the end of the book I want readers to be interested in Slavic (and potentially Turkish*) culture. And I want them to feel mildly creeped out but simultaneously alert for adventure every time they enter a forest.

*if I actually do the Turkish parts right OMG HELP ME GUYS SERIOUSLY

BONUS! Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.

Okay *deep breath* here goes:

1. DON'T EDIT - yet. I feel like everyone says this but it's worth saying again. November is for word-spewing. December is for editing. Repeat after me. DECEMBER IS FOR EDITING. If you don't write the thing you can't edit the thing.

2. Tell the people you see habitually that you are doing This Thing. Then maybe they'll forgive you if you disappear from all social life for a month to write your NaNovel. But seriously - it's awesome to have a support group that understands and can encourage you. My dad is totally into me doing NaNo and is the best cheer-er-on-er. My mom is a bit more hesitant but is cool with it as long as I tell her I won't let my grades fall and I won't destroy my eyes by staring at a computer screen too long. So if I disappear into my room for an hour or two - she knows what I'm doing, and will bring me grapes and cheese and water. That got off track - basically the people you tell will either support you (great!) or know to avoid you (still great!).

3. Consider taking a social media break. Yes, I know it's hard because part of the NaNo experience is Twitter with it's word sprints and encouragement, and the NaNo forums with a little bit of everything lovely. But think about assigning a certain amount of time where you turn off the wifi and just write. After your time is up, you can hop back onto Twitter or the forums and announce your newly-increased wordcount - won't that feel lovely?

SO FRIENDS! Tell me about you writing projects! Are you doing NaNo? (Add me as a buddy if you are.) Do you have any advice for other NaNoers? And do you have any insights into the Turkish culture? (seriously I need help here so badly.) 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

#WritersLife Tag // secrets! woes! grasshoppers!


Last month, Cait at Paper Fury tagged me for this lovely thing. Time to talk about the struggles and joys of a #writerslife!

WRITE FUEL: What do you eat/drink while writing? 

I will probably eat anything that is placed in front of me. Seriously. I am not a picky eater, and when I am in creative mode (or just reading a good book), I sometimes forget that food is a thing that is necessary for survival. My mother kindly saves me from a death of starvation or thirst, and brings me water, fruits, and occasionally lovely tea. What will I do when I move out of the house?

WRITE SOUNDS: What do you listen to while writing?

The sweet sound of silence. When I am listening to music, my brain says, "OH! This music is stupendous! Listen to the nuances! Listen to the instrumentals! Listen to the lyrics! Don't pay attention to anything other than the music!"

And thus I cannot be productive in anything other than silence. Coffee-shop chatter, though? That's totally fine.

WRITE VICE: What's your most debilitating distraction?

Oh, I have plenty. But my most debilitating one is probably plot bunnies and character ideas for new novels. I hop around from idea to idea like a spastic grasshopper.

WRITE HORROR: What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you while writing?

I... don't have a lot of bad things that have happened to me, luckily. No mysterious losses of writing. But the worst think is probably some horrific cases of writer's block I get, especially when it comes to plotting. My mother sometime finds me collapsed on the floor with a piece of paper and a pen, trying to scribble some kind of plot diagram and bemoaning wildly that I somehow made the younger son ten years older than the elder. (Note: I am not exaggerating. This is 100% true. Ask my mother, she will corroborate.)

But that just comes with the territory of being a writer. So, no, so far, nothing too bad.

WRITE JOY: What's the best thing that's ever happened while writing or how do you celebrate small victories?

Here are a few best things:
  • I finished a NaNovel in 2012 for the first time. This was the first time I had actually finished a novel in general. So many tears and misspellings and magic.
  • I wrote a flash fiction story two months ago -and it was actually good! I seem to never be able to write short stories of any kind. 
  • I plotted 80% of a novel in a weekend (two weeks ago, actually). For those of you who don't know, I am possibly a contender for Worst Plotter Ever. My (rather excellent) characters wander around in a haze of uncertainty. So this is Very Momentous.
Here are ways I celebrate:
  • Dance around the house.
  • Express joy to my (kindly obliging) family members.
  • Grin stupidly for the rest of the day.
  • Plan my book signing events for when I am rich and famous and beloved by all.
WRITE CREW: Whom do you communicate with or not communicate with while writing?

I tweet a bit. I express my general woes (usually concerning plotting) to my (now not so obliging) family members. But that's basically it. I have no writing buddies of any kind.

(However, I now have a few friends in college who are writer-nerds and fangirls and with whom I can discuss my writerly plans. I'm even attempting to tempt one to join the madness of NaNoWriMo this year... and apparently I got her out of a two-year-long writer's block so she at least owes me an effort to try NaNo, right?)

WRITE SECRET: What's your writing secret to success or hidden flaw?

But for you, my lovelies, I will reveal ALL.

Here are my secrets to success:
  • Carry a notebook around EVERYWHERE. Scribble plot twists, character inspiration, disjointed scenes. Draw maps. Sketch 
  • Use your favorite writers as INSPIRATION. Not as comparisons. The instant you start comparing yourself to published authors (especially your favorites), you have condemned yourself to the Pit of Despair. 
  • Eat a lot of chocolate. Good chocolate. Quality is key. You cannot get writer's block if you are filled with chocolate. This is a proven scientific fact and I know it because I am a pre med student and therefore knowledgeable about science and stuff. 
Here are my hidden (or not so hidden) flaws:
  • My plots are CRAP and make no sense. 
  • Sometimes they are entirely nonexistant. My poor characters!
  • I have never written a novel that I want to edit. (Hopefully this NaNo will change this.)
  • I hop, as I said, from plot bunny to plot bunny like a spastic grasshopper.
WRITE-SPIRATION: What always makes you productive?

Having a lot of homework. What is the correllation? I do not know. I always get super inspired when I have absolutely no time to write. 

Plot twist inspiration also help LOADS, obviously. But those are few and far between.

WRITE PEEVE: What's one thing writers do (or you do) that's annoying?

So I know I am very annoying when I bombard my mother with tales of my writerly woes regarding a certain WIP, and then suddenly the next month I'm telling her about my new shiny plot bunny.

"Don't you think you should finish some novel sometime?" she says, kindly, but obviously annoyed at my grasshopper tendencies. 

She has a point. 

WRITE WORDS: Share one sentence from a project, past or present.

I really really wish I could share something from my 80% plotted NaNovel 2015. But clearly that hasn't been written yet, so I will share something from NaNovel 2013, which I entirely pantsed, and then hid on December 1st. I rediscovered it a few weeks ago, and read it in all it's 50,000, unfinished glory. It's awful. But it's also wonderful, in an odd, messed up way. (It also has more sass and jokes than any of my other novels combined.)

I'm going to be a rebel, like Cait is, and share more than just ONE sentence. 

So that's that! Off I go on my spastic grasshopper to plot my NaNovel for next month!

Tell me about your writing life! Share a favorite sentence you've written recently (or two)(or three) in the comments! And whether or not you are one of the people below, feel free to do this tag!

Katie at Spiral Bound
Annie at Curious Wren
Skye at Ink Castles