TCWT Blog Chain: A Letter of Titanic Proportions

Well. This is it. My last Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain post.

That’s right. Next week I’m turning (brace yourself) twenty-one.

While I gain the ability to have a right-side-up driver’s license next week, I also become ineligible to participate in things like the TCWT blog chain–because, you know, not exactly a teenager anymore. (Woe is me. I always knew that dastardly John would put me out to pasture eventually.) I’m still going to be an admin and writer for TCWT blog though, so I’m cool with getting booted from this one activity.

This month’s topic is a fun one: “Write a letter to a fictional couple.”

There are a lot of fictional couples I’d love to write a letter to. I have very strong opinions on a lot of fictional couples. But because Titanic was on ABC Family the other night, and Jack and Rose are by far the worst part of an otherwise amazing movie, guess who I’m writing to.

**********

Dear Rose and Jack,

This is going to sting (much like the icy waters of the Atlantic), so let me preface this letter with this: I love you. I’ve loved you guys since I was too young to understand that (literally) steamy scene in the back of the car and used to make everyone shut up every time “My Heart Will Go On” came on the radio.

But you’re two of the biggest idiots to ever grace the big screen.

Especially you, Rose. I mean, Jack is an idiot for going along with your idiocy. But you’re the one running this whole circus of crazy.

I get it. You’re oppressed. Your fiance is a d-bag and your mother makes the Thenardiers look like caring parents. But is that really reason to throw yourself at the first cute, decent human being to cross your path?

And I know, I know. “Cute” is an understatement when it comes to 90s Leonardo DiCaprio. I probably would have thrown myself at him too. But you don’t know him. You guys had, what, one real conversation? During which you insulted each other and got on one another’s nerves repeatedly? I’m not saying “don’t have a fling,” because all the power to ya if you wanna go for it. But let’s not be all “you jump, I jump” and “I’ll never let go” about it. You’ve known each other for what, two days? I can understand some affection for one another, but this undying love and devotion is unhealthy and honestly a little bit creepy. You’re actually kind of lucky that ship sank, as far as your relationship goes, because no way it would have lasted.

Speaking of the ship sinking: The two of you LITERALLY SINK THE ENTIRE SHIP. If you weren’t so busy running around distracting people from their jobs, the iceberg spotter people would have been able to see the iceberg in time and the engine room people would have been able to do their engine room stuff more effectively, and the ship LITERALLY WOULD NOT HAVE SUNK. (You know, in the movie. Don’t worry: I get that in real life the ship did not sink because two passengers named Rose and Jack were distracting the iceberg spotter guys by making out on deck.) (As far as we know.)

If anyone on the RMS Titanic deserves to drown, it’s the two of you. Yet we root for your survival until the end as characters much more deserving of life bite it all around you. Why? Obviously not for your flat personalities or selfish natures. I think it comes down to two reasons: (1) You’re the main characters, so duh we’re going to root for you. (2) You’re both ridiculously attractive and Hollywood has conditioned us to believe that pretty people deserve to live more.

But honestly–despite your protagonist status and on point hair, it gets hard to keep cheering for you by the time we reach the climax of the film. This is when you really reveal how idiotic you are, Rose.

The ship is sinking. You know the ship is sinking. You have decided you don’t want to die. Jack has already showed on multiple occasions that he is willing to give his life to save yours–yet you still get off the lifeboat to be with him. He doesn’t WANT you to get off the lifeboat, Rose! In fact, you’re making it harder for him to survive, because having you around means gun-happy Cal is pissed and also now Jack is obligated to drag you around with him and put you first instead of saving his own butt, and wasn’t the point of getting off the lifeboat to help him? What kind of messed up logic led you to conclude that getting off the lifeboat would help anyone?

And DON’T GET ME STARTED on when the Titanic actually sinks! Jack was so kind as to find you that lovely door to lie on, dear Rose. WHY DIDN’T YOU SEND HIM TO FIND HIS OWN FURNITURE-FLOTATION DEVICE? Or hey, when the ship was in the process of going down, WHY DID NO ONE THINK TO TAKE AN AX TO SOME OF THE FURNITURE AND DOORS IN THE SHIP TO MAKE MORE FLOTATION DEVICES SO MORE PEOPLE COULD SURVIVE? Come on, now! The Titanic took a billion hours to go down. Surely you could have spared five minutes in all your drama to lay some insurance for your survival.

This letter’s getting pretty long, so I guess I’ll end here. But if you ever want some more berating, you know where to find me. (I’ll be the one sobbing on my living room couch while watching Titanic for the billionth time.)

Love you guys. See you when you wash up on shore in Inception, Leo.

I’ll never let go,

Julia

**********

Like this blog chain topic? Check out the rest of the posts throughout the month.

5thhttp://www.adventuringthroughpages.wordpress.com/

6thhttp://www.theworldofthewriter.wordpress.com/

7thhttp://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/

9thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/

10thhttp://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

11thhttps://introspectioncreative.wordpress.com/

12thhttp://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

13thhttp://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/

14thhttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

15thhttp://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/

16thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.wordpress.com/

17thhttps://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

18thhttp://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/

19thhttp://from-stacy.blogspot.com/

20thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/

21sthttp://themagicviolinist.blogspot.com/

22ndhttp://www.pamelanicolewrites.com/

23rdhttp://arielkalati.blogspot.com/

24thhttp://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/

25thhttp://theboardingblogger.wordpress.com/

26thhttp://allisonthewriter.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://stayandwatchthestars.wordpress.com/

28thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/

and http://abookishflower.wordpress.com/

29thhttp://gallopingfree.wordpress.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Book-Gap/603228309718111

30thhttp://hautehealthhails.blogspot.co.uk/

and https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

Wordy Wednesday: The Fault in Our Popcorn

It’s the second to last week of the semester and I’m exhausted.

It’s a good kind of exhausted, though. I was up until two last night because I had a screening for a film class that ran kind of late, followed by pitching a huge project I’m really excited for to a student org on campus (and they’ve agreed to move forward on it, so I will probably be gushing about that come next school year) (!!!), followed by writing a guest post for the 2015 Ch1Con Blog Tour, followed by just trying to figure out what exactly my blogging schedule is for the foreseeable future (over twenty posts on seven different websites over the course of six weeks; I’ll share a schedule once stuff starts going up), followed by editing a blog post for another TCWT author, followed by lying in bed unable to sleep. Endlessly.

I’m not (too) worried about getting everything done on time though, and it’s been really gorgeous out lately, so that’s helping keep all of us here sane during this last stretch of the semester. (Plus Hannah and I spur-of-the-moment went swimming Monday night and next week a group of us are going kayaking, so thank God for people who like to do random physical activity with me.)

One last thing before we get to this week’s Wordy Wednesday: my friend Hannah (not Roommate Hannah, one of the other many amazing Hannahs in my life) is signed up to do a two-week liberal arts study abroad program in London this August and it sounds amaaazing. Like I would be all over this opportunity, if Ch1Con weren’t during it. But they don’t have quite enough students right now, and if they don’t get six more kids registered by May 1st, the program’s off. IF YOU’RE A COLLEGE STUDENT AND LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO DO THIS AUGUST, YOU SHOULD GO ON THIS PROGRAM. And make me jealous. Because liberal arts and London. You can find more information on it here and here.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is another of my creative writing class’s short story rejects. (Sorry I only ever post the worst ones, these days; the less terrible stories go in submissions to contests and lit mags. Still, I think these guys are fun and deserve a little love.)

**********

Shovel the popcorn. Squirt the butter. Shove it at the customer.

Shovel the popcorn. Squirt the butter. Shove it at the customer.

Shovel the popcorn. Squirt the butter. Shove it at the—

“You don’t have to be so robotic about it.” Tommy leans against the back counter, broad shoulders propped between the hotdog warmer and grumbling slushy maker. He crosses his arms and curly, golden brown hair falls across his eyes in that way that gets him at least three girls’ numbers a shift. Occasionally a guy’s.

I wrinkle my nose. “It’s not like they care, as long as they get their food before the previews are over.”

“You’d be surprised how many more Thank Yous you’d get if you tried smiling once in a while.”

“Tommy.” I laugh. “You’re not getting Thank Yous because you smiled. You’re getting Thank Yous because you look more like a movie star than half the guys they’re going to ogle on screen for the next two hours.”

I’ve learned a lot from working at the local AMC the past year and a half. For one: You can totally eat all the popcorn on the job you want and the manager never notices. Also: Nobody cares if you make an effort to be nice while preparing their food. I’ve actually gotten scowls in return for my smiles, and one particularly pleasant woman told me, “Yeah, right,” when I said to enjoy the Pixar flick her six year old triplets were dragging her to.

When people are nice to Tommy, it’s not because he’s being nice to them. It’s because he’s made everyone from my best friend to my grandmother swoon. While squirting three-day-old artificial cheese on their nachos.

Still, he dramatically brushes the ringlet of hair from his eyes and turns his dark gaze to the ceiling. “Well, if you insist it’s because I’m just that attractive.”

I roll my eyes, but can’t help a grin. “Did you just start this whole thing for the pure sake of getting me to compliment you?”

“No.” He smiles with half his mouth, which is his way of saying yes. “Never.”

“Well, let’s test your theory, then.” I nod towards a group of pre-teen girls, exhausted mother in tow, who are currently prancing squealing across the lobby. I’d wager a week’s earnings that they’re on their way to see the latest John Green movie. “I smile, you just be yourself, and we see who gets the business.”

Tommy’s smile extends to the other half of his mouth. “You’re on, Sammy.”

“Ugh. For the last time. It’s Samantha. Only my friends can call me Sammy.” I twirl a lock of straight black hair around a finger in a perfect impression of our coworker Debby (sorry, “Deborah”) and he bursts out laughing, flashing teeth that are even as white and straight as a movie star’s. It would be easy to hate Tommy if he weren’t such a goof.

He pushes off the counter and joins me at the cash registers.

“Hey there!” I call with all the cheer of Barbie in the second Toy Story movie. “Interested in some refreshments for the film? Let me guess: you’re about to go cry your eyes out at a John Green adaptation.”

The girls barely even glance at me and my toothy grin before making a beeline for Tommy’s register.

I throw my hands up in the universal gesture for Raise the Roof. “Boom. I win.” He doesn’t seem to hear me over the squeals of the tweens attempting to flirt while ordering soft pretzels and blue raspberry slushies, though.

While Tommy is distracted—and distracting ever customer in a twenty foot radius—I slip into the back room and let myself fall back into one of the old theater chairs that have been stored back here, “waiting for repairs,” since I interviewed for this position. And likely before.

I yank my laptop from the crush of text books and notebooks in my backpack and pull open the document I’ve been working on every spare moment since I started here.

I told my doctor mom and lawyer dad senior year of high school that I wanted to go to film school and write screenplays for a living. They told me I could—if I paid for college myself.

So that night I borrowed my best friend’s car and drove the two hours to what would become my university, picked up applications from every movie theater close enough to walk to from campus, and now here I am: a sophomore, paying my way through college with the smell of hotdog grease permanently clinging to my hair and customers spoiling every decent movie before I have a chance to see it, but I’m doing it. I’m majoring in film.

And I’m writing my first screenplay.

I don’t care about what the customers think of me. I don’t care if I smile at them and they scowl in return, or they fall all over themselves trying to get Tommy to fall for them (by the way: he’s in a committed relationship—he and his boyfriend have been going strong for a year now), or I only get time to write in stolen moments between classes and popcorn rushes.

The point is I’m doing it. I’m actually doing it.

I get almost a whole page written before Tommy shouts from the counter, “The people coming in for the eight o’clock showings are going to start arriving any minute now. Want to put some more hotdogs in the warmer?”

“Only if you admit I was right and you were wrong.”

Tommy pokes his head into the back room, rolling his eyes. “Fine. You may have won the smiling-at-customers battle,” he raises an eyebrow, “but I, dear friend, will win the war.”

I shove my laptop back in my backpack and hop up from the creaky old chair. I pat his cheek as I pass, heading back to the counter. “Just keep telling yourself that.”

“Oh.” His tone darkens. “I most definitely will.”

“Keep pretending to be a super villain and I might add you to my screenplay.”

“It would be an honor to be written by you.”

“You say that now. Wait ’til I kill you off.”

“Not what it sounds like,” Tommy tells the horrified-looking older couple lumbering up to the counter. “Sammy here is writing a movie. Just wait. It’s going to be a huge blockbuster and someday we’ll sell out of popcorn from all the people coming to see it.”

“Shut up.” I bat his arm, but this time I can’t help but smile. The couple chooses to have me scoop their popcorn.
**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

TCWT Blog Chain: Music and Writing

The prompt for this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain is:

“How does music relate to your writing?” 

Music is such a big thing for me. These days I pretty much always write to movie scores, because they help get (and keep) me in the mindset to work, and they can be great for getting me in the mood for writing certain things. (So like if I need to write something sad, you know what’s wonderful for that? HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2.) My favorite composer is Hans Zimmer, but I also listen to a lot of scores from James Horner and James Newton Howard.

I’ve posted before about how when I work on a novel, I generally end up with a single score that I listen to nonstop while writing (check that post out here), but there are also a lot of scores I listen to that aren’t connected to a specific novel.

They’re all great for their own reasons, so I figured I’d share some of them today.

The Theory of Everything by Johann Johannsson

This is one of the two movie scores I’m currently obsessed with. The entire score is beautiful, but I’m especially in love with the opening song here. I love how playful and almost desperately hopeful it is, and the way the music feels like it, I don’t know, blossoms. I especially love how listening to it reminds me of how being at Oxford felt (which makes sense, since it’s about Cambridge).

Interstellar by Hans Zimmer

This is the other score I’m currently obsessed with. I wasn’t a huge fan of it the first time I saw Interstellar, but after the second time it got stuck in my head and now I can’t stop listening to it. This track (“Stay”) is especially good. It makes me want to write desperate, scared, hopeful things.

The Amazing Spider-Man by James Horner

I mainly love this score because it sounds so similar to my favorite of James Horner’s scores, Titanic. I wrote the novel I’ve been working on the past few years to Titanic, and have kept listening to it during the billions of rounds of revisions since, so it’s nice to have another score to fall back on that’s still similar but also different.

The Dark Knight (Rises) by Hans Zimmer (and James Newton Howard)

So really just all the music from the Dark Knight trilogy is fantastic. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaborated in composing for the first two films, then Zimmer did the last one alone. These scores are great for really intense stuff, especially action sequences.

“Aurora” by Hans Zimmer

Not an actual film score, but so heartbreaking and haunting. Zimmer wrote this after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado opening night of The Dark Knight Rises, with proceeds going to the victims’ families, and it incorporates motifs from the Dark Knight trilogy.

The Hunger Games Series by James Newton Howard

I’m honestly not a huge fan of a lot of these scores. I thought the first was excellent, then it’s been downhill from there. But each movie does have some really great parts, especially when the arena collapses at the end of Catching Fire. These scores are wonderful for emotional, action-y stuff.

The Chronicles of Narnia Series by Harry Gregson-Williams

These were the scores that first got me into listening to scores. Gregson-Williams’s work on Narnia is absolutely gorgeous. Light when need be, heavy and pounding in the battle sequences. I used to listen to these on long car rides heading up north to ski, notebook open across my lap and farm fields frozen and sparkling beyond the windows.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Howard Shore

I don’t actually write to The Lord of the Rings scores that much, but these are AMAZING for homework. It makes writing papers feel like going on adventures.

Do you like to write to music? What kinds? Do you have any favorite movie scores to recommend?

Like this blog chain topic? Check out the rest of the posts throughout the month.

6thhttp://jasperlindell.blogspot.com/ and http://vergeofexisting.wordpress.com/

7thhttp://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.com/

9thhttp://www.freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/

10thhttps://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/

11thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/ and http://www.pamelanicolewrites.com/

12thhttp://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/

13thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/ and http://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

14thhttp://kirabudge.weebly.com/

15thhttp://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/ and http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

16thhttp://theedfiles.blogspot.com/ and http://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/

17thhttp://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/ and http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

18thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/ and http://from-stacy.blogspot.com/

19thhttp://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/

20thhttps://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

21sthttps://stayandwatchthestars.wordpress.com/ and http://arielkalati.blogspot.com/

22ndhttp://loonyliterate.com/ and https://www.mirrormadeofwords.wordpress.com/

23rdhttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

24thhttp://themagicviolinist.blogspot.com/ and http://allisonthewriter.wordpress.com/

25thhttp://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/

26thhttp://awritersfaith.blogspot.com/ and http://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/ and http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

28th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

~Julia

TCWT Blog Chain: Friendship in Fiction

The prompt for this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain is:

“What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?” 

I’m going to focus on something that I think is generally written poorly: People whose lives aren’t defined by romance.

I get it. We all love the attractive love interest. Being in love is beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with writing romance.

But I hate this idea we seem to have fallen into that our stories need it in order to be good.

Relationships can be meaningful without including sexual tension. Look at our day-to-day lives. How many of us have a boyfriend in high school versus how many of us have a best friend? And while, yes, even us eternally single people probably lust after someone once in a while, the people who are truly important in our lives are the ones who are consistently there, who we can tell anything to, who are with us through both the bad and the good: our friends.

There are so few stories in which the central relationships driving them aren’t romantic. Like the only ones I can think of off the top of my head are Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, and the Harry Potter series. (Noting that those all do still include romance. Romance just isn’t absolutely, 100% central to them.)

And you can’t tell me that non-romantic relationships can’t be entertaining or exciting or fulfilling. I banter with my roommates as often as I do with guys I’m interested in; while I didn’t have adventures in Amsterdam with Augustus Waters, over the summer I did with friends; and there’s something to be said for how fulfilling it is to put on a play, or go to a concert, or just drive through empty streets at two in the morning with falling snow sparkling beneath the street lights, singing at the tops of your lungs with people you really care about who really care about you.

I can’t speak for everyone’s teen experience, obviously, but friendship defined mine.

I’d love to see more stories that focus on relationships that aren’t romantic. Stories about our parents, our siblings, our neighbors, our classmates. Stories about the people who play the most integral roles in our lives.

Stories about you and me and how you can love someone without being in love.

And I think that’s something that’s beautiful, too.

Like this blog chain topic? Check out the rest of the posts throughout the month:

5thhttp://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

6thhttp://jasperlindell.blogspot.com/

7thhttps://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/ and http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/

9thhttps://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/

10thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/

11thhttp://kirabudge.weebly.com/

12thhttp://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

13thhttp://maralaurey.wordpress.com/

14thhttp://dynamicramblings.wordpress.com/

15thhttp://theedfiles.blogspot.com/

16thhttps://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/  

17thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.com/

18thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/

19thhttps://gallopingfree.wordpress.com/

20thhttp://www.alwaysopinionatedgirl.wordpress.com/

21sthttps://deborahrocheleau.wordpress.com/

22ndhttp://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/

23rdhttps://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

24thhttps://introspectioncreative.wordpress.com/

25thhttp://wanderinginablur.blogspot.com/

26thhttps://anotefromthenerd.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com

28thhttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

29th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Balancing College and Writing

Things going on right now:

1.) Ch1Con activities will be starting back up again in the next couple weeks, so watch that blog (here) for info on live chats, writing sprints, etc. Also keep a lookout for conference-related announcements! Registration and the speaker list should be going live really, really soon.

2.) My first post is up on Teens Can Write, Too! I talk about why critique partners are awesome. Check it out here.

3.) The bot chose the winners for my third blogiversary giveaway and I’ve been in contact with all of them. Congrats if you won, and thanks anyway if you didn’t! I wish I could give a book to everyone who entered.

Classes started today and while I’m nervous about being able to handle everything I need/want to do this semester, it’s also really nice to start getting back into a rhythm. I work best when I’ve got a routine and deadlines, sooo. Yay school, I guess?

The biggest thing is about finding a balance between all the different things I’m doing. So, for this week’s Wordy Wednesday: some of the ways I do that.

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Keep Several Types of Schedules

I personally use a planner to keep up with my day-to-day activities, especially homework and events I’ve scheduled with friends. But I also usually have a weekly to do list on my computer, a day-to-day to do list on a white board on my wall, and if I’m in the middle of a writing project, I’ll have a separate schedule written out for handling that as well.

The more detailed my schedules are, the more easily I can stay on task and keep up with everything I need to do.

Dedicate Time to Writing–And Dedicate Time to Not Writing

This is one I have trouble with a lot, but basically what it boils down to is this: It’s not healthy to write for long stretches without breaks. (And I’m talking mentally, not what sitting around all day on your laptop does to your poor defenseless abs.) So even when it feels like you don’t have time to get everything done that you need to, it’s important to take time away from working to hang out with friends or catch up on your favorite TV show or whatever.

HOWEVER, it’s also important to take time to write. A lot of people don’t see writing as a real job, but we need to treat it that way if we want to get anywhere. Set aside time to write each week and don’t let people take that time from you.

Don’t Write During Class

It can be really tempting to write during class, especially in those really boring three-hundred-person lecture hall gen ed classes, but DO NOT GIVE IN. By writing during class, you miss what the professor’s saying, then end up having to take more time later to look up and learn that info on your own. So what little time you save by writing during class, you lose two fold later on.

Instead: Pay attention in class. Don’t procrastinate on your homework. Then reap the benefits of all the free time you suddenly have.

Be Flexible

You can plan and schedule and work ahead all you want. Things will still get in the way sometimes.

Be flexible. Write in the little moments. Stay in to work instead of going out with friends sometimes (but also still go out with friends sometimes). Take a break from doing homework by writing and take a break from writing by doing homework.

And more than anything: Do what feels right for you. Sometimes it’s going to be hard to fit writing in with school, but if you want it badly enough, you can do it.

**********

Thanks for reading!

Are you back in classes this week? How’s that going? (Please tell me it’s warmer where you are.)

~Julia

TCWT Blog Chain: Learning by Example

The December Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain topic is:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

I’ve talked about this a little before. The best way to learn about writing is to pay attention. Pay attention to what you like or don’t like about the books you’re reading. Why you react in a certain way and how to either achieve the same effect or avoid it.

As writers, the books we read are our text books. And you don’t necessarily only learn from books in your genre. All reading you do teaches you in some way.

So, here are some books I’ve learned from and what they taught me.

**********

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Break Boundaries

Like a lot of people, I hadn’t read anything, really, in first person, present tense before The Hunger Games. It’s funny because it feels so natural to read it now, but at the time it took some getting used to. But I was also really happy to see it, because that’s the POV+tense combo I’ve always naturally written, and pre-Hunger Games I felt like it was something I wasn’t supposed to do.

Basically: The Hunger Games taught me that if it’s what feels right to you for your story, go for it. Even if it seems unusual. (And now look at us. EVERYONE writes in first person, present tense. Don’t be afraid to be the person who knocks that barrier down.)

Harry Potter by JK Rowling: Plotting & Planning

JK. ROWLING’S. PLOTTING.

I’ve never seen anyone else do so much work laying the groundwork for later plot developments and twists. Not to mention how much development she put into the world-building. The Harry Potter series taught me planning ahead is worth it. (And even the smallest hint in book one, brought back to be something huge later in the series, can make the reader all warm and glowy and happy inside.)

Also that growing up the book series alongside the reader is a really awesome thing to do.

Also a million other things because Harry Potter.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: Hard Doesn’t Mean Impossible

Major spoilers on this one if you haven’t read it: Before I Fall taught me it’s okay to kill your protagonist at the end. I’ve seen so many of those unsatisfying “saved at the last second” endings–and endings when the protag DOES die at the end, but in an unsatisfying way–that it’s nice to see one that just feels Right. Before I Fall proves that killing your protag in a way that doesn’t piss the reader off is possible. END SPOILERS

Before I Fall also taught me your main characters don’t necessarily have to be “likable” for the reader to like them. Sometimes it’s the worst people we find the most fascinating.

Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan: You Don’t Always Have to Be Serious

The Percy Jackson series taught me that books don’t always need to be “serious” to be good. Sometimes your narrator can be super sarcastic and a little egotistical and it can be hilarious and that in itself can qualify as good.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: Line-by-Line Pacing

This book is such a fun action-y romp. I was rereading Divergent while working on revisions a while back, trying to figure out what made the line-by-line writing so rapid fire, and I realized it had a lot to do with the sentence length. VRoth is a master of the short, punchy sentence.

After making that connection, I reread some of my other favorite action-y books, examining their sentence structures as well.

As mentioned in last week’s Wordy Wednesday: Shorter sentences make writing run faster, so they’re better in your more intense, action-packed stories. Longer sentences make the reader slow down and pay more attention to the language, so they’re better in more literary, look-how-beautiful-this-imagery-is pieces.

Divergent was the first book to make me really think about how sentence length is an actual, active element in writing.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: There’s More than Romance

This book is all about friendship and it taught me you don’t have to tell the traditional romance-centric story to still have strong, beautiful relationships the reader will fall in love with and root for.

Waltzing the Cat by Pam Houston: Fiction CAN Feel Real

You’ll notice this one isn’t a YA novel, which just proves my point about learning from a variety of sources. Waltzing the Cat is a book of short stories, all starring the same narrator, I read for my first college creative writing class. And although it’s not something I would have picked up on my own, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve never read something that feels as real as this. Like I thought it had to be a series of short memoirs while I was reading it, but nope, fiction.

If you want to learn about character and setting development, Waltzing the Cat is the way to go.

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So, there you have it. Some of the writing-related lessons I’ve learned from books.

If you want to check out the other posts from this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain and see how other people approached the topic, here’s the schedule:

5thhttp://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

6thhttp://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/

7thhttps://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://introspectioncreative.wordpress.com/

9thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/

10thhttp://kirabudge.weebly.com/

11thhttp://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

12thhttp://randomosityofeden.wordpress.com/

13thhttp://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

14thhttp://www.alwaysopinionatedgirl.wordpress.com/

15thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.wordpress.com/

16thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/

17thhttp://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/

18thhttp://unironicallyexcited.wordpress.com/

19thhttp://theboardingblogger.wordpress.com/

20thhttp://stayandwatchthestars.wordpress.com/

21sthttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

22ndhttp://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/

23rdhttp://lilyjenness.blogspot.com/

24thhttp://oliviarivers.wordpress.com/

25th – [off-day]

26thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/

28thhttp://www.pamelanicolewrites.com

29thhttp://jasperlindell.blogspot.com.au/

30thhttp://maralaurey.wordpress.com/ and http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/

31st – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

What have you learned from the books you’ve read?

~Julia

On Endings

One of my favorite people, Kira Budge, posted on Teens Can Write, Too! last week about what she’s accomplished in 2014, divided into categories, and I thought it was a really great idea. A year’s a long time, and by the end it’s easy to forget the things you did a couple months ago, let alone back in January.

So as I procrastinate from studying for finals and get ready to move home for winter break, I figured I’d look over what I did in 2014, too. I’ve kind of really loved this year.

Personal

  • Made it through a rough patch winter semester.
  • Taught myself to (very poorly) play ukelele.
  • Went to lots of great concerts, plays/musicals, and advance screenings with lots of great people.
  • Made some vlogs with Hannah.
  • Went to BookCon and a little bit of BEA!
  • Within the US, traveled to the Florida Keys, New York City, and Chicago.
  • Ran the 2014 Chapter One Young Writers Conference.
  • Outside the US, traveled to Amsterdam, Paris, and around England and Wales with friends/my study abroad program, and around England, Scotland, and Paris/Versailles with my family. (So many great things happened during my two months in Europe, I’d never be able to list them all. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for this summer.)
  • Met so many amazing people I’m beyond grateful to have in my life now.
  • Met some of the people I look up to most in the world, including but not limited to Lauren Oliver and our queen JK Rowling.
  • Moved into my first apartment with some of my best friends.
  • Joined the Teens Can Write, Too! team.
  • Accomplished my goal of reading fifty books in a year.
  • Started actually maybe working out once in a while and actually eating somewhat healthily. (Except also I just had macaroni and cheese and Golden Oreos for dinner, so maybe not.)

Educational

  • Over winter semester, completed a remote internship with an awesome literary agent.
  • Also over winter semester, got back into performing a bit by joining one of the university choirs. (Continued to sing with them this semester. We even got to perform at halftime at the Big House!)
  • Didn’t kill my grades too terribly much. (My GPA’s not as high as I’d like, but after how much I’ve challenged myself by taking courses outside my comfort zone–SO MANY SCIENCE CLASSES–and going to Oxford, I’m okay with it.)
  • Speaking of which: Studied abroad at St Peter’s College (via Magdalen College), Oxford over the summer! I took a six credit literature course on the Oxford Inklings and wrote a two credit bonus natural science research paper on the effect of the Welsh environment on the Inklings’ writing.
  • Declared a Screen Arts & Cultures minor!
  • Only have one grade back so far for this semester, but it’s an A+ in creative writing, so whoooo. (*cough* We’re graded on participation. *end cough*)

In Writing

  • Lots of Top Secret stuff I’m not sharing. But also:
  • Won a Hopwood Underclassmen Fiction Award.
  • Won the Arthur Miller Award.
  • Participated in the 2014 Cafe Shapiro Anthology. (Besides one of my short stories being published in the anthology itself, I also got to read at a special reception thing at the undergraduate library, and all the anthology participants were featured in a slideshow shown on the monitors there for a couple weeks.)
  • Got to write at the Elephant House cafe in Edinburgh, where JK Rowling used to write, and at the Eagle and Child pub, where the Inklings used to meet.
  • Wrote many songs and poems and short stories (and, you know, blog posts).
  • Won NaNoWriMo 2014.

Aaand so much more, I’m sure, that I’m not thinking of.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my mind around how a year is somehow both so long and so short.

2014’s been really good to me. I’m more than a little scared for 2015, because I don’t know how anything could live up to this year, but I said the same thing last year too. So, ready or not: 2015, I’m coming for you.

What did you accomplish in 2014? Share your awesome with me. 🙂

Oh, also! The 2014 Project for Awesome campaign’s Indiegogo has launched and they’ve got some kickbutt perks again this year, so make sure to check it out here.

~Julia

NaNo Day 20: Being a Teenager [TCWT Blog Chain]

So, today I’m participating in the Teens Can Write, Too! November blog chain.

Prompt: Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager.” 

Because I’m defining what being a teen is like specifically to me, I’m using all my own pictures. So bear with me if/when I edit out some things for the sake of privacy.

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Theatre

Performing

We Are Awesome

Fandom

Community

Katniss Costume

Narnia and EnglandJK Rowling Autograph

Hogwarts

Exploring

Finding My Rhythm

OneRepublic Concert

Sammy

Prom

Writing

Blogging

Blogging at BookCon

Write It

Traveling

Learning

New Buffalo

Crown Fountain at Night

Snowdonia

Moving Forward

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If you want to check out some of the other posts from the blog chain this month, here’s the schedule. They’re all brilliant.

5th – http://vergeofexisting.wordpress.com/

6th – http://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/

7th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

8th – http://freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/

9th – http://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

10th – http://www.pamelanicolewrites.com/

11th – http://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/

12th – http://www.kirabudge.weebly.com/my-blog

13th – http://semilegacy.blogspot.com/

14th – http://oliviarivers.wordpress.com/

15th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/

16th – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

17th – http://maralaurey.wordpress.com/

18th – http://quirkyteenwriter.wordpress.com/

19th – http://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/

20th – http://www.juliathewritergirl.com/

21st – http://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

22nd – http://paperdaydreams.com/

23rd – http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/

24th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

I’m seeing Mockingjay Part 1 at 11:00 PM, so SIX AND A HALF HOURS!!! (I’ve heard such mixed reviews, but you can’t make me not excited for a Hunger Games movie.)

No writing planned for today because of classes and movie!

Goal for today: 0 + Wednesday’s leftover 2,000 + Monday’s 2,000 + Sunday’s 1,000

Overall goal: 38,000.

Current word count: 36,123

~Julia

NaNo Day 9: Miles to Go

When I woke up this morning, I finished my Fangirl reread and did a quick writeup on it, because I’m a Literature major.

Later today, I need to rewrite a short story because the other half of my major is Creative Writing (it’s one major, with an “and” in the middle), and sometime in the next couple days I need to do my film history reading and a project for another film class (because I’m a Screen Arts & Cultures minor).

After finishing Fangirl, I immediately got to work on Ch1Con stuff (because besides being a college student, I also run a writing conference that’s about to launch an Indiegogo campaign), and in between Ch1Con things I’ve been replying to critique partner questions (because I’m an aspiring author), working on stuff for Teens Can Write, Too! (because I’m an admin), and staring longingly at my NaNoWriMo novel (because I’m a NaNo addict).

I’ve also been eying study abroad applications and internship information and winter semester course guide descriptions. I’ve been considering if I should add another minor and if I should clean the revision notes off my white board and if I should make my bed.

If I should be spending more time with friends. If I’ll have a chance to see Interstellar before it’s out of theaters. If I should be reading more books.

I want to go for a run, and I want to see my dog, and I want to turn everything off for five minutes. Write a song. Cook an elaborate meal. Stand in the shower while the water runs cold then hot then cold again with Bastille blasting through my iPhone speakers.

Sometimes I feel like I do way too much, and other times I feel like I do way too little, and I’m honestly not sure I will ever find a balance.

But I’m having a good time of it. And that’s what matters.

After this post, I’ll finish my Ch1Con work for the day, then maybe write a little on NaNo, then hopefully write a lot on my short story. I’ll eat something halfway decent for dinner and watch One Upon a Time with friends. I’ll get a few pages further in The Cuckoo’s Calling.

I think ultimately it’s less about how busy you are, as much as how much fun you’re having. And as exhausted as my brain is, it’s a happy sort of tired.

In Fangirl, Cath quotes a line from a Robert Frost poem that I also relate a lot with:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Welcome to week two of NaNoWriMo 2014. Let’s spin those miles into words and those words into miles. We can sleep when it’s December.

Goal for today: 1,000.

Overall goal: 17,000.

Current word count: 18,524.

~Julia