Saturday, July 1, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - June 2017

What ho, questing June bugs! I'm pretty sure June was struck by lightning when the particle accelerator exploded, because it went by in a flash.*

*Ahem. Lame reference to The Flash show. I couldn't resist. Also I have no idea why you are June bugs today. I had coffee this morning, so I guess you have my cup of joe to thank for the offbeat humor.

Happy Canada 150, by the way, to all my fellow Canadians!
(graphic made by little sis, lostfairy)

It's crazy! We just flipped the calendar page yesterday, didn't we? And now we have to flip it again? I'm constantly amazed at just how much can transpire in just thirty days.

The month started off with Rooglewood Press announcing their fourth and final fairy tale retelling contest: Five Poisoned Apples! I have yet to develop even a sliver of an idea, but I would love to enter later on this year. That cover is drop dead gorgeous. A few friends of mine are starting to work on some seriously incredible entries too, from what I've heard.

Some of my college classmates and I spoke at an elementary school chapel, even though college is over by now. It was supposed to be our teacher's thing, but we students had come up with the lesson before grad, so some of us decided to participate anyway, even though we weren't required to be there. Lots of fun! The best part was an object lesson involving blenders.

Afterwards, I spent the day catching up with a dear friend. Pizza in the park, rants about the trials of customer service, smoothies, and a heart to heart = my kind of outing.

I somehow managed to lose my voice, but just for a day. A stupid cold lingered all during the month of May, but then it came back over a weekend this June--a weekend I was working, a weekend the store had a big sale . . . so that means trying to talk to lots of customers. The old folks couldn't hear me, one guy asked if my voice always sounded like that or did I have a cold, and several ladies gave me tips to get rid of it (tea, sleep, a cold drink--I think she meant alcohol??--vitamins, honey, etc.). All in all it was quite amusing, although manning the till was not a good idea.

Later in the month we threw a belated party for my mom's birthday! I haven't planned or hosted a party in ages, but it ended up a success anyway, and we had the perfect weather for eating outdoors.

Father's Day also happened--rather low key this year, but still very good.

This week I took my middle sister to the city for a girls day out. We spent over an hour in a bookstore (I bought The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall and Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand--thank you for the recs, my Goodreads friends! I can't wait to read these summery slices of goodness) . . . went for pizza . . . explored walking trails in the park because when it smells like rain, it's the best time for adventures . . . and ended off the day with London fogs and macarons in a cutesy little tea shop while it began pouring outside. A lovely time!

And last but not least, I finally sent in my application for the college I want to go to this fall.

Storylines on the Screen

Once Upon a Time - parts of seasons 2, 3, and 5
Still watching it in three different groups: season 2 with all three siblings, season 3 with my parents and sisters, and season 5 with just my sisters. (I'm reminded of how Neverland is one of the best parts of the show EVER. The character conflict is spot on, and Peter Pan is fantastic.)

Rogue One
My second-ever Star Wars movie--go me! I knew in advance that this would be a feelsy movie. Let's just say it lived up to those expectations, and maybe even surpassed them. There goes my heart in a million pieces on the floor, guys. Jyn, Cassian, and Bodhi were my favorite characters, so if you've seen it, you know why I had to sweep up the pieces! And now I can't decide whether I like Rogue One or The Force Awakens best.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)
I rewatched it with my whole family. It didn't make me cry this time, but it was still gorgeous. For more thoughts, visit Subplots and Storylines - April 2017.

Storylines on the Page

The Shadow Throne // Jennifer A. Nielsen
Within fifty pages, I was scared for every single character on the good side. I loved how this book--and the whole Ascendance Trilogy--managed to be witty, intense, and still have a heart. As always, Jaron is full of sass and clever plans. At one point, when asked what he has up his sleeve, he replies, "Catastrophic levels of bad behavior." And that about sums it up.

Okay, but before I move on, it bears mentioning that while I did predict the twist at the end, I still loved this final instalment! If you're looking for a romping, sarcastic fantasy adventure with a handful of great plot twists, look no further.

The Reluctant Godfather // Allison Tebo
What a delightful, hilarious take on the Cinderella story! Check out my review for more thoughts.

The Raven King // Maggie Stiefvater

(Apparently all the books I read this month have matching titles!)

I've had difficulty reviewing all four books in the Raven Cycle, but this one was the hardest. In The Raven King, there's a sharp dichotomy between the magical prose and subtle character development (which I adore), and the frequent swearing, elements of the occult, and now homosexuality (which I cannot endorse).

Without spoiling who or what, I'll just say that one of my favorite characters was ruined by the gay relationship added to the book. It was saddening.

The ending was also kind of anticlimactic after all the buildup, but in a way it was supposed to fall a little flat. And yet because of that, it didn't fall flat enough for a long enough time, because by the very end it felt like pretty much everything was solved. The sacrifices made didn't have the lasting consequences I expected. Certain threads weren't wrapped up satisfactorily, either.

But the things I did like are Blue's very relatable longings/frustrations, her developing relationship with Gansey, Gansey's backstory, more explanations for magical things, and the way that Maggie Stiefvater made me feel things without outright telling me what to feel. Her prose, while not quite to the level of the previous three books, is downright amazing. Plus the cover is gorgeous.

In conclusion . . . I don't really have a conclusion. This book left me feeling something, left me thinking about it long after I closed the cover, which is the mark of an impactful book. Now if only I could figure out just what kind of impact it had.

(for a few more thoughts, including some spoilers, check out my Goodreads review)

Storylines on My Own Pages

This was the month I planned to add 50,000 words to The Brightest Thread! To keep myself on track, I logged my progress both in words and in time spent writing. This month, I spent over 43 hours on TBT and added 29,238 words to the manuscript. This brings it up to 62k . . . not quite what I'd aimed for, but it was still the best writing month I've had this year!

I continued going through TBT from start to finish, basically retyping a mix of the very first novella draft and the polished novella draft, while adding in new stuff along the way. Buuuut by the time I reached the end, the story was still only 55k long. So I took half a week to read over what I had so far and gain a wider perspective. And then I jumped right back in, working on some spot cleaning sort of editing here and there, incorporating a few small subplots, etc. That's where I'm at right now.

I originally wanted to get this novel up to an 80-90k length, but considering how I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas at the moment--and considering the fast approaching deadline called Realm Makers--I'm aiming for 70k.

It seems a bit low for the genre, but I've been scouring lists of typical industry standard wordcounts. YA, it seems, ranges anywhere from 55-80k, though some lists mention the genre is tending to run longer these days. Fantasy in general ranges from 90-120k. My questions is: what about YA fantasy??? A 70,000-word novel ends up under 300 pages, if I estimated that correctly. And I can't remember the last time I picked up a fantasy novel that small. However, I think that for the sake of having something to pitch at the conference, a 70k novel isn't bad, and if an agent shows interest but suggests lengthening the book, that can be done at a later date.

(For all of you nonwriters, I'm sorry for the boring stats and wordcounts. Such is the writer life.) (I also apologize for taking longer to reply to comments this month. When I'm focused on something, I'm obsessively focused.)

Anyway, it's been a very intense month of patchwork writing/editing, and I really, really hope that the result turns out well. It would be nice if I had time to send the story to beta readers before I leave for the conference, but that will have to wait until afterward. In the meantime, my July writing plans are to:

  • write those last 8,000 words
  • do a quick round of editing
  • prepare a pitch (along with written material such as a query letter to hand out)

Farewell to June and hello to July

The first three weeks of July will be full of TBT work and conference prep, and then at last I shall fly to Nevada for Realm Makers!

And here on the blog, I'll be posting mostly on Mondays instead of Saturdays, because a certain special thing is going on in July, and you all get to be a big part of it!

That's right, it's the second annual Silmarillion Awards!

I would explain all the rules here, but this post is getting long enough. Come back on July 3rd, however, and the fun will begin! In the meantime, start thinking of all your favorite fantasy characters!

How was your June? Is it just me, or is summer just flashing by? (Oops, another Flash pun. After finishing the second season last month, I must be suffering withdrawal.) How many of you will I see at Realm Makers? How many of you are pumped for the Silmarillion Awards?!


  1. I'm really excited for the Silmarillion Awards :D I can't wait. And I'm so jealous of all of you who get to go to Realm Makers. Maybe someday. :(

    1. Me too!!! I wish I could spill all--but my lips are sealed for a couple more days. :) I hope you make it out to Realm Makers one day too! Trust me, I remember very well the jealous feeling. That was me last summer. *hugs* One day!

  2. Yesss happy Canada's Day, Tracey! Good luck on all the writing and tell us all about Realm Makers when you get back (if you have time of course)!!! Also can't wait to see this Silmarillion Awards thing later (because I think I've read about it here before but I don't remember anymore...???)!

    1. Happy Canada Day! Thanks so much, Lisa--I will most DEFINITELY give you all a recap of Realm Makers, though it may be a week or two after I get back. :D

      Yes yes yes, you will looooove the Silmarillion Awards! Stick around and you'll find out more!

  3. Happy Canada Day!

    Looking forward to the Silmarillion Awards! Those were such fun last year.

    1. Happy (late) Canada day to you as well!

      Yes, I'm really enjoying the Silmarillion festivities. :D

  4. I imagine most of the YA fantasy books you read aren't first books by their authors (though they might be), so it would make sense that they could be longer than the suggested low-range. The way such books are printed can make them seem like they contain more words than they really do, though I agree that 55k sounds really small.

    29,000 words in June sounds great to me. I managed around 9,000. My June went pretty well. My productivity is up closer to what I'd like.

    I'm curious to hear about this college that you're applying to. Is it a "standard" undergrad program?

    1. That's true! Many of them are also instalments in a series, which tend to get progressively longer with each book. I'll still aim for 70k and see where I go from there. :)

      Good job! Sounds like you're making good progress.

      Well, before we even talk about "standard programs," there's the difference between Canadian and US colleges to consider. Canadians differentiate between college and university (the former has smaller class sizes and tends to be trade-focused; the latter is much larger and is academic-focused). As far as I can tell, Americans call both options "college," though feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, to answer your question, yes, the one I applied to is pretty typical. :)

    2. Ah, I see. And what would you like to study? You're right in that Americans tend to call everything "college." In the U.S., a college only offers lower degrees, whereas a university offers graduate degrees as well. But we usually call them all "colleges." I believe you could technically attend a branch-campus to a university that doesn't offer graduate degrees, to muddle it more. I attend the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, which is a branch-campus on par with the state universities throughout Pennsylvania. It has around 3,000 total students. Being in the Humanities, most of my classes are small, between 6 and 28 students.

    3. I applied for a business course. Seems like something that would be helpful as a writer (marketing and all that fun stuff) as well as something that would provide a better income in the meantime.

      Haha, that does seem a bit muddled, but I think I got it. 6-28 sounds like a really good class size, in my opinion. :)

  5. So I smiled like crazy at the Flash reference, my sister and I are almost done season 2. I love these posts by the way, I enjoy reading about all the things! I agree Pan was one of the high points of season three. I understand your misgivings about The Raven King, my feelings are the same on that particular character. I will have to try to do a review too.
    Yay! For all your work on The Brightest Thread, I hope you finish in time. I will be praying for you!

    1. Hahaha, glad somebody appreciated the Flash jokes! XD Oh my goodness, just wait until you finish that season...! (So. Much. Happens.)

      I'm happy to hear you enjoy these posts! I often wonder whether I'm just blabbing on about myself (which...I guess I am XD) or whether people find them interesting or not.

      YESSSS PETER PAN. <333

      I'd love to read your review of TRK sometime!

      Thank you SO much, Skye! That means a lot. *hugs*

  6. Happy Canada Day (a bit late, whoopsy), my dear Canadian buddy!!! :D

    Okay, that Inigo pic is so perfect, I can't. XD

    I'm so sorry you had a cold and lost your voice. And at the worst time possible it sounds like. Ugh! I hope all that awfulness is completely out of your system! (But that's so funny about all your customers giving you advice. XD)

    I love all the fun, summery things you've been doing. Pizza in the park, smoothies, taking your sister out for book shopping. All such happy, fun summer things! ^_^

    I haven't seen Rogue One yet. Sheesh, I haven't even seen The Force Awakens!!! *shakes head* But I have heard Rogue One will destroy the feels so...I'm trying to brace myself. Heh.

    I've got to get my hands on this Ascendance Trilogy. o.o It looks really good!!
    I'm sorry The Raven King gave you mixed feelings. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to read these books (as much as I wanted to), but once I learned there's homosexuality in them, I decided for sure I'm not going to. That plus all the language equals a no for me. Which is such a shame... Why must all the best books have so much icky content? *sniffs*

    Oh my goodness, Tracey, YOU WROTE 29K IN A MONTH????? YOU ARE A WRITING MACHINE. And, honestly, I think 70k sounds like a good and comfortable size. Though I, too, have been wondering for years if when one is writing YA fantasy, do they go by the YA wordcount charts or the fantasy ones?? It's so confusing!!! But, it seems like to me anyway, these days people kind of want shorter, quicker reads. So I think 70k is perfectly acceptable! And, like you said, if it needs to be lengthened at a later date, I know you can totally do that. I wouldn't stress the length. Just write the best story you can, which I totally know you are! I think that's really what matters.

    I'm so excited about all your July plans!!! So much awesome stuff going. I hope everything goes wonderfully and you have the absolute BEST July!!!!

    (Also, I'm so stoked about the Silmarillion Awards! *dances*)

    1. It just occurred to me, I totally forgot to mention the most important thing in my comment...

      YOU APPLIED TO A COLLEGE??? Did I know about this? I DON'T THINK I KNEW ABOUT THIS. EEP. TRACEY. This is so exciting! You must tell me ALL about it sometime!

    2. Thank you, my dear! And happy Independence Day to MY dear American friend! ;D

      Hahaha, that pic sums up my brain every time I sit down to write an S&S post. Plus Princess Bride quotes are perfect for any situation. XD

      It's long gone, not to worry! Made for an interesting workday, though, that's for sure. :P

      Yes, brace yourself indeed... *sniffles* My brother described it to me as a war movie before we watched it, and I'd have to agree. <///3

      I think you'd quite enjoy the Ascendance Trilogy! You do enjoy sassy characters, after all. ;)
      I knoooow, it's such a shame. *pouts* I'm hoping the Scorpio Races will be better, and I may even try her Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Just because someone with such a great writing voice HAS to have at least a mostly-clean book out there...right? One can hope, anyway.

      *falls over* Thank you! I've slowed down a bit the past few days to let myself recuperate. I'm getting to the point where the thought of a day with hours of reading instead of writing sounds rather nice. XD
      Thanks so much for your thoughts on the 70k length! It's really hard to know what the genre expectations are, right? It seems to be all over the board with YA fantasy. But you're right, story trumps it all. ^_^

      Me too! Thank you! *huggles* I hope your July is also fantastic and that you don't melt too much in all the southern heat! ;)

      As for college: I honestly don't remember whether I said anything to you! Probably nothing specific? It was literally just a few days ago that I applied. But yes, more details will head your way! :D

  7. Happy Canada Day! My dad is from Canada, so we like to celebrate Canada's day every year.
    And you bought The Penderwicks. Enjoy it!! It's a perfect summer read.
    The Ascendance Trilogy is great. And I just finished reading The Raven Cycle, too! That last book sure was a whirlwind. Oh my goodness, I don't think I've ever read a series that gave me so many different emotions (both good and bad).
    Congratulations on all the words you wrote last month. Even if it's not what you were hoping for, it's sure a lot of words! You're right: a novel can always be lengthened later (though it might be interesting to have shorter fantasy novels, too? Typically, fantasy novels are long... but I don't think that they have to be. I think each story should be as long as the story warrants. If there is a lot to say, then write a long novel. If there is only a little bit to say, write a short novel).
    I can't wait for the Silmarillion Awards!! Yay!

    1. Thanks! No way--that's really neat! You get two celebrations almost in a row, then. :)

      Everyone I know of who's read The Penderwicks really enjoyed it, so I'm very much looking forward to taking it along with me on holidays. Oh yes, TRK was definitely a whirlwind of good and bad stuff. Writing a review was difficult. XD

      Thank you so much! Hmm, good point--doing the opposite of the typical fantasy novel could be interesting. That's very true how each book should be as long as the story needs to be. Thanks for the encouraging viewpoint!

      It's so much fun! :D

  8. I'm all for shorter YA Fantasy novels. For me, I'd prefer shorter books and a series than a single fat book, especially if it is a writer's first book. I like to see what I think without making a huge investment.
    For the first bit of my writing life, I was writing over-the-top length novels, but my latest was just 55k which surprised me.
    Your word count is still impressive, even if it didn't reach your goal. And you know, June is a shorter month ;)

    1. That's great to know! If I haven't read an author before, I usually get their book from the library before committing to buying it. But that's a great point about less risk for curious readers/buyers. Thanks for that!

      Haha, mine tend to be enormous too! Good for you for writing a shorter one as well.

      LOL, but only by a day! ;)

  9. Ooh, you're thinking about entering the Rooglewood contest? I've been toying with the idea too, but maybe sometime later this year. :)

    Nearly 30,000 words is awesome!! I hope you get the word count to where you like it. My stories always end up being too *long*, and they tend to drag...So I usually have to find ways to *shorten* them... :P

    Have a great July! AND YAY FOR SILMARILLION AWARDS!! ^_^

    1. You too? Cool! I entered the first three, so I'd really like to enter the last one as well. (Partly for the sake of saying I entered them all, partly because I've loved writing my previous entries, and partly because maybe the fourth time's the charm. XD) What genre are you thinking of writing?

      Thank you, Madeline! Mine usually end up far too long as well. And the funny thing is, the original novella was too long, but now when I try to expand it, it falls short. XD

      You too! *cheers for Silmarillion Awards*

    2. *feels bad that I didn't see this until just now*

      That'd be really cool to say that you entered them all! As for my idea, I've been thinking about a steampunk, historical fiction type story, maybe with a little magic? Don't know for sure yet, but we'll see! :)

    3. (Totally okay! I'm obviously kinda late in replying to this too. XD)

      Ooooh, you had me at steampunk! Especially with a historical flavor AND some magic. Sounds like a delicious concoction! I've been idly contemplating different fantasy settings for far Arabian and Nordic are the strongest contenders, but I still haven't given it a whole lot of thought. :) Best of everything with your entry!

  10. Yay for writing progress! I had the same length problem with my latest fantasy novel. XD I'm aiming for 70K too. So excited to see you at RM! :D

    1. This is the first time I can truly sympathize with writers whose books are too short! I usually have the opposite problem, LOL. Oh well, it stretches those writing muscles, right?

      Can't wait to see you too! :D :D :D

  11. Dude!! Editing TBT sounds like SO. MUCH. FUN!!! Eeeep!! I mean, I am currently working on FINISHING drafts and MOVING ON, but I cannot wait until I get to that stage of examining and rewording and reading again and adding in stuff... it just sounds like heaven!!! Best of luck with it!!

    1. You are legitimately one of the only writers I've heard of who's expressed so much enthusiasm over editing! XD (Actually, I really enjoy editing myself, but most people seem to hate it.) Thanks, Kate! :D

    2. Ha!! I'm weird like that. I much prefer working with something VISIBLE, something ALREADY down on the page as opposed to looking at an intimidating blank page and knowing that I must fill it from scratch.

      Another thing you mentioned was the Target Wordcount... I did some research for my own novel and ughhhhhh, it is SO confusing!!!

      It's like... YA should be 300-500 pages, fantasy should be 500-800 pages, epic fantasy should be 800-1,00 pages... and I'm like WHAT IF MY BOOK IS ALL OF THOSE THINGS????

    3. It depends a bit on the story, but I'm usually weird like that too. Of course there are things I love about first drafts, but with editing it's often easier to know what your next step is, you know?

      Right?!?! YA is one thing, fantasy is another, but what if it's BOTH? What then? I guess unless someone tells me otherwise, I'm going to go with the assumption that wordcount just isn't the highest priority; therefore, focus on telling a great story. (I mean, it's obviously a problem if you're trying to publish a tiny 40,000 word novel, or a way too huge 200,000 tome. But somewhere in between? Eh, it's probably okay. XD)

    4. Exactly. I guess it's being able to see where you're at -- it can help you define the next step more clearly.

      I knoooooow. My brain pretty much exploded over all the math. ;) That's a good way to look at it... shoot for a nice middle-range or err on the shorter side if it's your first book, right???

    5. It is SO helpful to get a good look at where you are! (In writing, in life, everything.)

      Yep, that sounds like a good plan to me! :)

  12. Yay for another Bodhi appreciator!! =D
    Is it just me, or did he remind you of a certain burglar named Bilbo (from the movies, especially)?

    1. *high fives* Oh my goodness, I never even thought of him being like Bilbo! But I some ways he kind of is! XD A little awkward and self-conscious, but insistent on certain matters, and eager to prove himself. Ha, that's too funny.

  13. Heya! A delight to be here, as ever. Does your voice sound like that all the time?? XD

    Your outings with your friend and your sister sound amazing -- the pizza, the park, the bookshop, the teashop! All so dreamy. I really want to do a post like this, about Dublin and camp and generally my life. (Aren't you lucky.)

    Really want to read The Ascendance trilogy!

    Well done with your TBT progress! When is RM? I know nothing about such things, but maybe your struggle to up the wordcount is a sign it doesn't need to be upped? Maybe the story is the length it needs to be. I don't think a shorter fantasy is a bad thing at all -- we all get bogged down in those fantasy tomes, it might be quite refreshing!

    (Also lol that it's August next week ... WHAT?)

    1. Hello hello, Emily! Delighted to see you again! LOL, apparently the raspy voice is either cool or sultry or...I don't even know. XD

      They were so fun and idyllic, especially that lovely little tea shop! Yesss, you should definitely do a post like that! Wait, Dublin?? Were you there recently? Jealous! :D

      I think you'd enjoy it! Very sassy and clever.

      Thank you! I actually leave bright and early tomorrow for RM! I've pondered the same thing... Who knows, you might be right. ^_^ Either way, I think it's something that will be best answered after I let the novel rest for a little while. But yes, a shorter fantasy might be nice amongst all those books as heavy as bricks!