Thursday, December 31, 2015

Beautiful Books #3: SlavicNovel Yet Again


Well, 2015 is almost over here in Chicago - only six and a half more hours to go until the New Year! I thought I'd end off the year with this month's Beautiful Books post - obviously not because I'm LAZY AND PUT THINGS OFF UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE, but because it's all about edits and future plans and hopes for next year.

I wanted to finish SlavicNovel by today - that was the goal - so that I could have something editable fresh for the new year, but that didn't happen. However, I'm close to the end! I just need to figure out that dang climax.

Anyway, here we go with the questions!

1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations?

Weeeell I haven't finished it yet. But it's really close to being done. I'd say right now it feels like a 4 or a 5, but maybe that's pessimistic? The ending (ish) defied my expectations because it was way more complicated than I thought it would be dangit.
But on a happier note, some of my characters defied my expectations and were way easier to write than I thought they would be - namely, Baba Yaga, Damla, and Oriana.

2. Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men.)

Dang this is complicated. Let's go for the Grisha books (by Leigh Bardugo) meet The Darkest Part of the Forest (by Holly Black) meets... something with ninjas. I dunno.

3. Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressures (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you're inspired?

Deadlines help definitely. I don't like them, but I can't deny that I am ten times more productive with them than without them. I like to think I'm self-motivated (homeschooling and all that) but perhaps that's only with academic pursuits. With writing, it's way harder.

4. How do you go about editing? Give us an insight in to your editing process.

Confession time: I've never reached that point on a WIP where I wanted to edit it. My collection is full of first drafts. But with SlavicNovel, I know I want to go farther. Here's my plan:
-Take a month long break from the novel.
-Send it to my kindle/phone and read it straight through as though it were any book I was reading.
-Make a gigantic plot outline using sticky notes and/or Scrivener
-Make the plot make sense. Cuz right now it doesn't.
-While working on plot, figure out character arcs kinda simultaneously.
-Eat a lot of chocolate after the plot is happy. CELEBRATE
-Take a break from the technical stuff for a month or so and conglomerate a ton of worldbuilding facts and fun stuff
-Somehow dive into rewrite #2.

What'll happen after that, I don't know. I'm not sure how rewrites work in my world. We'll see.

5. What aspect of your story needs the most work?

This is so hard to pick. I'm going to go with two things: worldbuilding (which is usually awesome for me *sad face*) and the conclusion/climax. I'm bad at tying plot points together.

6. What aspect of your story did you love the most?

Characters! As always. See next question :-)

7. Give us a brief run down on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they'll need changes in edits?

I have quite a few major characters because epic fantasy y'know.

Tania (my MC) - ew. She definitely needs work. She's so dang normal, and when she's not normal, she's whiny and immature. I can't seem to figure her essence out. She's supposed to be a bit of a jerk, but I can't figure out what she is when she's not being a jerk. Currently, she's pretty unlikable, which isn't good for an MC.

Stefan (Tania's unintentional friend) - pretty decent. He's kind of peppier than I though he'd be, but it's good, it balances out Tania's jerkiness.

Baba Yaga (witch) - epic sassy witch. She came out way sassier and way better than I expected she would. All the love to Baba Yaga.

Damla (thief) - wait no, all the love goes to DAMLA, not Baba Yaga. Or split it evenly between the two? Because this little marzipan ninja is my favorite of the badass women of SlavicNovel. She is perfection.

Oriana (warrior queen) - she's pretty decent, my major issue is that she's basically Damla but without as much heart and more violence. Which isn't what I want. Oriana's got heart, but it's a different kind from Damla's and I'm struggling to show that.

Koshiy (villain) - I'm trying to not make him your stereotypical dark bad boy but he very much so wants to be. I'm still not 100% sure what he's going to end up but whatever it is I know it will be fabulous. I don't have doubts with him, just unsureties.

Then there are various mermaid characters who are lesser than I wanted them to be (Laryssa, Rusalka), so I'm going to work on expanding those in the next draft.

8. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

Though I have hid many novels in dark holes forever, SlavicNovel is not destined for that path, happily. There will definitely be WAYYY more edits though, and eventually - maybe in 2017? - I'll find some beta readers. Querying and publication is the eventual goal, but that's a long while away.

9. Share a favorite snippet!

Hm. To a sharp eye this might technically be spoilers but oh well....

10. What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

Drafts #2 and #3 of SlavicNovel! Start a fresh WIP (not sure which one yet). Write a couple short stories because I'm awful at that. Write around 100 words a day (small and therefore manageable).

Now it's your turn! Tell me about your editing process! (Any advice for me?) And what are your plans for 2016? Writing and otherwise?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter by Marissa Meyer // in which i cry because this beautiful series is over


 Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?  


I haven't written a review in AGES, it feels like, but now I'm BACK! And ready to flail about The Lunar Chronicles again!

Marissa Meyer has solidified her position on my bookshelf as one of my favorite writers. It takes skill to pull off such an excellent, excellent conclusion, and she DEFINITELY has that skill. Winter blew me away. I can honestly say that it was my favorite out of the entire Lunar Chronicles!

Let's talk logically about what was so awesome about this book (otherwise I'm just going to dance around flailing about WHAT A BOOK GO GO CINDER YOU BADASS AND EEEE CRESS AND THORNE I CANT STAND THE ADORBS AND OH IKO IKO MY BABY and then dissolve into a puddle of sadness that the series is over).

Because this is a final book, everything sort of ties together here. As the series progressed, the amount of main characters increased and points of view multiplied - and in Winter, we have the most sub plots yet. However, Marissa Meyer deals with this masterfully, and I never really felt confused. The many plot strands and character arcs twist together into an entirely cohesive and solid story with an extremely satisfactory ending. I struggle with plot in my own writing (as I have complained many times), and so when someone produces something like Winter where there are SO MANY plot bits that somehow just FIT like puzzle pieces, I stand in awe and wonder. Highest commendations to Marissa Meyer.

Characters! The characters in the Lunar Chronicles are always so well written, and so distinct, and the "new" ones we get in Winter (namely, Winter and Jacin) are no exception. Winter is such a darling ball of clouds and sparkles and dreams and I just want to wrap her up and protect her from everything. (Which everyone else kind of does too, actually.) Jacin, even though we've met him in previous books, gets fuller development in Winter, and I grudgingly began to like him. Actually, I think he and I would make a good Winter-protection-pair.

Talking about Winter - I adored the scenes with her and Scarlet! Their friendship is the most wonderful thing. I love how they have their own little endearments they call each other. And the scene with the mutants showed both their strengths kind of wonderfully.

Wolf! I loved meeting his mother. Also, tears. For him and for his mother. For everything that happened and happens to his family. Gosh, he has a hard life.

It seems that Kai has grasped his role as Emperor, and finally is being super proactive. He's grown up! Eee I'm so proud of him.

There's so many shippable things in this book, and Cress and Thorne are my favorites. I'm so glad they got their happily ever after finally, and both of them just make my heart so joyful. Cress is just so huggable and adorable (and I relate to her most of all the characters). And every time words come out of Thorne's mouth, they're funny, no matter how serious the situation. I really want this made into a movie or TV show so that I can see Thorne brought to life because - dang!

Oh, and Iko! She requires a book of her own. She doesn't get an official ship but - mwahaha - I have one for her. And I want it to happen!Displaying IMG_8237.JPG

The only think I think that could have been improved a bit was the logistical and political side of things. I'd have liked to hear more about the Cinder's thought process during the rebellion. In Cress, she talked about how she wouldn't want to be a ruler of a country/planet/moon, but by Winter it seems she has fully resigned herself to this fact (even though by the end she does make appropriate governmental modifications). I want to see her struggle with choosing to be a leader, and we didn't get enough of that in my opinion.

But that's just minor stuff. This book was fantabulous and I can't wait for Stars Above in February because I don't want the Lunar Chronicles to end! *cries*

Have you read Winter? Who's your favorite character? (Who's your favorite ship?) 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Beautiful Books #2: SlavicNovel again

So yes, I missed Beautiful Books last month. BUT I WAS WRITING FURIOUSLY so HA I have excuses. NaNoWriMo is the ultimate excuse.


December is much less busy than November, so I will do both last month's and this month's. Here are November's questions! The December official post comes next week. :-)

1. Is the book turning out how you thought it would be, or is it defying your expectations?

Well, yes to both, kind of. Parts of it are exactly as I expected. Parts of it are totally different. Baba Yaga for one is a lot sassier than I expected her to be, which is AWESOME. Damla is a lot sassier too, which is DOUBLE AWESOME. Tania is a lot more obnoxious, which is NOT AWESOME and may get toned down in draft two.
I also thought, because it was so well plotted, there would be no major surprises. BUT WAIT. A random dude showed up and started making eyes at Damla, who isn't supposed to have a love interest. Stay away, Martin! She's a sass-master now.

But a lot of it is just a mish-mash of plots and scenes, and, frankly, right now it feels like a giant mess. Is there a central theme? Is there a proper path of events? Is it the grand epic I imagined? Who knows? Probably not.
But that's the fate of the first draft.

2. What's your first sentence (or paragraph)?

I shared this in my last Snazzy Snippets, actually. (Even though that probably won't be the real beginning in the final version.) So I'll share the first paragraph of Part Two of the book.
Damla looked around the empty alleyway and, with a small grunt of effort, pulled herself onto the balcony above. Pulling out a small, sharp, pin-like tool from her pocket, she knelt down by the lock on the balcony door and bit her lip. The lock was a little more complicated than she’d expected, but it was definitely very old, and so with a few twists of her pin, she heard the satisfying click of it opening.

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever tried both methods and how did it turn out?

I am a PLANTSER. A hybrid. Because YES I have tried both methods, and I am about to relate to you the (not so) fascinating tale of how that turned out.

IN THE BEGINNING... I thought I was a hard core planner (even though I wasn't). I would lie on my bed and plan all the novels, and write out extensive plots. But I never finished books. I'd get bored. My first NaNoWriMo novel was partially planned. At about 10,000 words, my plan DIED. So I pantsed the rest and it was awful. "Never again," I said to myself. "I must stick to planning or else it will collapse like The White Rose (aka Sophia's NaNo 2012)."

So I plotted out everything for NaNo2013, which was actually going to be an utter rehaul of a teensy thing I had written in my babyhood called Kings and Traitors. And then, on the evening of October 31st, 2013, a thought struck me. A scene, an image, a character. "Dang, I should write that," I said to myself. So I discarded any thoughts of writing Kings and Traitors that NaNo, and instead entirely pantsed my way through the mad and hilarious mess of a space opera called The Ulianthra. I reached 50,000 words at the climax, which was good, because I had no idea what to write next. So the beautiful horror that is The Ulianthra sits on my computer, unfinished, never to see the light of day.

For NaNo2014, I plotted out EVERYTHING - well, almost everything, except the ending, because I am bad at endings. Which can cause problems. Also, I grew bored of NaNo2014 (which you lovely folks know as VeniceNovel, or Masked Souls), and quit before I reached 10k. Good going, Sophia. (It was my first year of university, cut my some slack!)

And then suddenly, this year, I had an epic plot, with twists and things that ACTUALLY MADE SENSE, and I wrote it out immediately and dove into it just in time for NaNo2015 and then it just worked.

So really, when I say I'm a plantser, what I really mean is I don't know what the heck I'm doing with this noveling thing I just go with what the voices in my head tell me to do.

4. What do you reward yourself with after meeting a goal?

Sleep. All the sleep. Because I usually meet my goal at 11pm at night. (At least that's how it turned out this NaNo.)

5. What do you look for in a name? Do you have themes and where you you find your names?

Ah, names. I have a love-hate relationship with names, and I name my characters a little haphazardly depending on the genre and the story. Some characters have names that Mean Things. For example, apparently Damla means "Water Drop" in Turkish. Others, not so much. In SlavicNovel, many of my secondary characters have names because - oh dang he needs a name that's vaguely Slavic so how about Misha?

6. What is your favorite to write: beginning, middle, or end - and why?

I like middles. But early middles. And beginnings. Because I KNOW how they're going to play out, and can see the entire scene in my head.

7. Who is your current favorite character in your novel?

I knew I liked her, but I didn't know she'd end up being my fave. But she has! Damla has the most perfect mix of sass and badassery combined with a really sweet heart, pretty excellent morals, and a nice dose of common sense. I couldn't ask for a better character!
(Dang, my favorite character isn't my villain? Applause for me. Maybe I'm normal after all.)

8. What kind of things have you researched for this project, and how do you go about researching? (What's the weirdest things you've researched?!)

I reasearch with The Almighty Google, and so far I've researched lots and lots of Turkish culture (and a bit of Slavic culture too, to fill my knowledge gaps). BUT.

The weirdest thing I've ever researched was for this project - mermaid sex. Think about it! Actually, maybe don't. Googling this was an interesting experience, to say the least.

I also had a long discussion with my mother about mermaid sex, nymphomaniacs, and sex slaves. It was surprisingly chill. I wish equally chill mothers upon all you writer friends.

9. Do you write better alone or with others? Do you share your work or prefer to keep it to yourself?

ALONE. I cannot write when there are people.

And I DO share work - I have been sharing work more lately, actually - but only teeny snippets. No big works. It's still super scary! I don't want to share my babies until they're perfect! (And we all know they'll never be perfect.)

10. What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I don't have super set writing habits. I particularly enjoy writing on a certain couch in my front room, though (featuring our just-decorated tree):

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It's such a nice little sunny spot during the day! And the couch is super comfy and reclines with a foot-rest. <3

I write best in the afternoon, I think, but rarely do I actually write then. I usually end up writing in the evening or early in the morning on the train to school.

NO MUSIC ONLY SILENCE and the occasional coffeeshop chatter if I'm feeling like it.

I eat whatever my mom gives me when she fears for my survival because I've been sitting in the same position on the aforementioned couch for too long. Usually it's fruit, nuts, and cheese. Sometimes it's tea. And on lucky days, my dad throws me a chocolate bar.

What are your writing snacks? Are you a plotter or a pantser? And what's the weirdest thing you've ever researched for a novel? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

November // NaNo + Denmark

November seems to be the month when everything happens to stop me from blogging: NaNoWriMo, exams, preparing for finals in December. So that's why I was only able to blog twice in November. I also didn't read very many blogs, which is why I'm skipping the "What I Liked," and "What You Liked" parts of the recap this month.


I haven't finished the story yet, but it's coming along marvelously. I hope to finish it by the end of December, and then have it ready for edits in the New Year. Have I mentioned how much I FREAKING LOVE THIS NOVEL? It's my fave.

Now that NaNo's over, it's time for some BIG NEWS.

I am going to Denmark for four months!

If you've been following me on Twitter, you probably know already, but yes - I am going to be studying abroad in Copenhagen for the spring semester (January - May)! It's kind of freaky, but also overwhelmingly exciting. I know I'm going to miss my Chicago friends... but COPENHAGEN. EUROPE. BEAUTIFUL DANISH PEOPLE.

So what does this mean for Ravens and Writing Desks? 
First of all, I'm going to keep blogging while I'm in Denmark, for sure. No question. BUT, I'm going to be blogging much less (ha, much less than two posts a month? Nice one, Sophia). So if you would like to write some guest posts for me in the coming five months, let me know! Comment below, or send me a twitter DM, and we'll coordinate stuff! 

Another thing: I'm going to be blogging my adventures! Not here, obviously - this blog is relegated to book stuff. But if you hop on over to Seeking Souls, you'll be able to follow my traipsings through Europe. Check it out! I'd take you all in my suitcase, but since I can't, taking you along virtually with a travel blog was the second best option.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - I rarely read graphic novels but this one looks lovely (and I've heard excellent things about it too)

(Photos link to their instagram versions.)


(Yes, I met Marissa Meyer. AGAIN. It was epic.)

How was your November, my lovely friends? Tell me in the comments! Did you do NaNoWriMo? If you won, congrats! If you didn't congrats! You wrote words, which is more than I can say for myself, most days. Have you read Winter yet? And - would you like to guest post for me? Please say yes. I will give you all the chocolate fudge. You will have a mountain of chocolate fudge. *puppy dog eyes*