Books I Read This Month - December 2010

Hello friends! Welcome back! I got a new layout. What do you think?

How were your holiday breaks? If you got one, that is.

Due to some what of an epiphany I had during my nice little week off, I think I will be moving to Monday, Wednesday, Friday, if any of my twenty-five followers care. Starting in the new year, that is. Call it a resolution. I have decided to really get my writing habits down, since I've been slacking over the past few months and blaming it on writer's block, which is a condition that is totally made up. Making time to write everyday is a difficult task, but writing is my favorite thing to do in the whole world (besides reading maybe) and I get really frustrated with my life when I don't do it. So there. I am making a big shift away from wannabe writer to professional writer. But not "professional" per se. Because I probably won't make any money off of it for many years. But you know what I mean.

I suppose this means Story Saturday is discontinued. That's okay; I didn't really think that was a great idea anyway. But if I write something I think is worth sharing, I will definitely post it for you wonderful people to read!

Alright. Enough about that.

My friend Aleeza wrote a great blog post last week about being a Pakistani-American. You should head over and read it if you have the time. It is very insightful.

Now for the real post.

I've decided to start this new thing. On the last post day of every month, I will discuss the books I read that month. Pretty simple and pretty fun. Maybe you guys will learn about some new books and find something up your alley to read. Yup. Here goes.

P.S. I read a lot.

The Forgotten Man - Robert Crais
I had to write a report on this for that detective fiction class I told you all about. It was pretty good, very suspenseful and a quick read. The writing wasn't that great though. There were some spots that seemed like the editor might have missed, but overall, it was an okay book. Enjoyable for a fun read but not for its literary value.

The White Cheyenne - Max Brand
A western, not something you see around very much these days. It was published in the 1930s, and I have to say it was pretty entertaining, though the plot was slightly difficult to follow. That could be because I was ready it kind of quickly and not very thoroughly...

Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
I really I have no idea what to say about this one.

K-Pax - Gene Brewer
I saw the movie for this first, and I have to say, it followed the book pretty well. The book is probably better though because the acting in the movie was not very good, except for Kevin Spacey, who was absolutely brilliant, as always. This book and the movie are very entertaining and intriguing. It goes in depth in pondering the way the human mind works. I would recommend this book, as well as the movie, to all of you. It's definitely not on my top ten favorites, but it's still really good. I think the author might be a little nuts though. This is a fiction novel, and he used his own name for the name of the main character, a psychiatrist. It's creative, and maybe he based the character off himself, but it seems like kind of an iffy thing to do. It's like a Kurt Vonnegut type of thing, only the author is the main character instead of an observer. Not sure what that says about this guy's mental health... But I guess it's reasonable; lots of writers are kind of crazy.

The Boat - Nam Le
This book is a collection of short stories. The author was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia. The diversity of the stories is amazing. Two took place in Vietnam, one in Australia, another in Tehran, one in the U.S. and the last one took place on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I would recommend this book to you guys. The writing is beautiful!

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
This book, as you know, is really famous. Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 (I think). I've also read For Whom The Bell Tolls, and I have to say I liked that one better than this book. Still really good, though, obviously.

Watership Down - Richard Adams
Sorry, talking bunnies just aren't my cup of tea.

The Identity Man - Andrew Klavan
This book was a nice change of pace compared to others in the genre of crime thriller fiction. The writing was spectacular, very different from other quickly-written, fast-paced page-turners. I could tell that the author spent a great deal of time sorting through his writing, forming the prose so the syntax reflected the tone and the theme of the novel. The theme was another very interesting thing about this book. "Identity like stain." Places and the characters' races are never stated out right, but through the writing, the reader can just tell who, what, and where. There was a scene where the main character was watching some black and white movies, and the author did not give the titles of the movies, but by the description, I could tell what they were and why the author chose to use them. The whole book was like that. I would definitely recommend this book to you guys. The author, Andrew Klavan, had one of his novels turned into a movie and directed by Clint Eastwood, so you know he's good.

Freedom - Joseph Franzen
There is a lot of hype about this book. It just came out this year. And I can see why everyone liked it. First of all, it was the first book the author published in a long time. And secondly, the writing and the plot and the characters were great. Franzen has a similar writing style as David Foster Wallace, who was awesome. Have any of you guys read this new book? Do you think it deserves all the hype it got?

I'll see you all next Monday on my new schedule!

Peace, Aimee

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

This was my first year participating in National Novel Writing Month, and all around I was completely unsuccessful. I think I went a good four days writing 2000 words a day, then got a week behind a decided to quit. I don't have any good excuses really, except I was kind of busy, though I'm sure there are more people who succeeded, yet were much busier than I was. I am going to spend December and January, and probably much of February writing the first draft of my new novel, which has a completed outline and about 4000 words. It's an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for about a year, and it's sort of a science fiction romance type of thing, a genre that is WAY outside my comfort zone.

So there's my little update. Here, I have complied a list of the top ten things I learned from participating (or not) in NaNoWriMo, some of which I already knew.

1. Writing is hard. It takes a lot of discipline to get to your word count in only 30 days, while simultaneously battling your inner editor.

2. Having so many people around participating in the same thing is very encouraging and makes it so much easier, plus it's fun to have competition.

3. When you don't meet your goals, it's very discouraging, yet it makes you more determined to do better next time.

4. After giving up and taking the rest of November off from writing is very cleansing. Stepping back from writing and just doing the regular day to day things gives a new perspective on writing and what it means to you. You should try it sometime.

5. Sometimes outlines bog you down rather than help you. I think that is part of the reason why I quit part way through. I think I'll give the seat-of-your-pants thing a try after I'm finished with the first draft of my next novel.

6. When faced with the decision to quit or keep going on something that gives no rewards whatsoever, it is actually much more difficult than you'd think. Even though you're not losing anything, you still feel disappointed.

7. If you are given a deadline, your writing usually sucks. This is another reason why I quit. It was probably a mistake for me to read through what I had written so far because I suddenly got writer's block and couldn't finish since what I wrote sucked so badly. Just writing the first draft then going back and reading later is the best way to go, unless your plot is ridiculously complex and you can't risk making continuity errors. This is what I did with the last novel I write. I got the whole first draft down without reading it because I knew I would get nervous and stop if I did. Unfortunately, I have not had the change to read it yet, as I took November off from my writing. I'm definitely going to get to editing that, probably when I've finished this new novel.

8. Not every word you write counts. Though each word takes you closer to your goal, not every word is going to stay where it is once you've finished. Odds are that when November is over and you decide to edit this short, sucky novel you've written, you're going to rewrite most of it. This is something I should have realized earlier on. Maybe then I wouldn't have given up. It's not like you're obligated to publish the thing right after you've written it.

9. When put under pressure like this, you learn a lot about yourself and your writing. In the four days that I participated in NaNoWriMo, I thought I could definitely do it, but then the weekend came with lots of distractions, so I got behind. But when I was on a roll, I really had faith in myself. I did learn, though, that when I write very fast like that, my plot sucks. It's something that's fixable though. And the story I chose to write in November was an idea that I'd had for a while but hadn't gotten around to writing. I thought it was great and clever, but once I started writing, I realized it wasn't, which is probably good for future reference.

10. Writing is fun! But I knew this already. That's why I do it, of course!

Peace, Aimee