Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Few Words About Words

By word count, I am halfway through the first draft of my novel. I have been writing for four months. That is not long. But I've never written this many words in such a short time. It's easy to become impatient and want to be finished! Then again, right now, I have no pressure. Nothing on the line other than my own sense of accomplishment. It's all just fun to create something out of nothing.

Have you ever found yourself saying something you have never uttered before? Like 'Stop smacking the blue monkey against your sister's leg' or 'I blew the plug of black gunk out of the tubing so the fountain would work'? There are just some moments you stop and say, Wow. I wonder if anyone has ever said that?

This is how a writer is like an artist. We strive to put words together in a new way that will convey some meaning to the reader. Then of course, they must be put into an order where the story moves along, with tension and emotion. On top of that, the words themselves must be raked over, scrapped or kept, chosen carefully, and not overused. Why do we care so much? Words are beautiful. Words are weird. We want the right ones.

Right now, I worry about word count so I can keep to my goal. Possibly, in about four more months, my very first draft will be finished. Then on to revisions- by me, by others, word by word, line by line. I'll need beta readers. These are the ones I'm most excited about! Let me know if that could be you.

Did you know that you just read 283 words? Words are powerful. And I happen to love that words are funny. What have you done with words lately?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dreaming of The Snow Child

Sometimes you come across a book that makes you think only someone who has lived here could possibly write this way. This is what I felt with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It is like falling into an amazing world where there are countless ways to describe snow and ice-- the beautiful description of this Alaskan wilderness landscape defies belief. Ivey lives in Alaska, and is truly an expert on her setting, to the smallest detail. She weaves these little gems throughout.

The story is adapted from a Russian fairy tale about a snow maiden. From the website, here is a synopsis of the book:
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for a couple who have never been able to conceive. Jack and Mabel are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone, but they catch sight of an elusive, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and leaves blizzards in her wake. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in the Alaska wilderness, life and death are inextricable, and what they eventually learn about Faina changes their lives forever.

This is Eowyn Ivey's first book, debuting in February 2012. The writing is outstanding. I loved the freshness of it, no cliches, almost as if the story itself came out of the snowy wilderness, having never read or seen another book. There is nothing about it that makes me think "I have seen this before." However, the emotions were familiar and the characters full of life. The author used an interesting technique when writing Faina's words, one which completely added to her mysterious nature.

I had to read this next section aloud to my daughter, lying next to me, just to hear the words. I will close with this for you, and encourage you to find this book.
It was like an extraordinary dream: Faina's quiet sighs and the occasional pop and crack of river ice and tree branches snapping in the cold; the stars everywhere in the broad, deep night, broken only by the jagged horizon of the mountain range. Illumination behind the peaks shot up into shards of light, blue-green like a dying fire, rippled and twisted, then spun circles into ribbons of purple that stretched up and over Mabel's head until she heard an electric crackle like the sparks from a wool blanket in a dry cabin at night. She looked directly up into the northern lights and wondered if those cold-burning specters might not draw her breath, her very soul, out of her chest and into the stars. 

When I finished this book, I felt as though I had just wakened from a long, cold, beautiful dream. My soul had been fed by this piece of perfection. 

Find out more at

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Capturing a Castle-- in Words

Maybe others, like I, had not heard of this book. It was another gem I picked up somewhere and promptly fell in love. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is narrated by 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain. She is living in a ramshackle castle in Britain with her eccentric family-- which sounds intriguing already-- and it is through her point of view as a fledgling writer that we learn their story. What struck me when I started the book is the VOICE of this narrator. It is absolutely charming and witty.

The story is set in the 1930's, when the Mortmain family's estate is crumbling into poverty. Cassandra lives with her lovely sister, Rose; her father, a novelist facing crippling writer's block; and  Bohemian stepmother, Topaz. They are struggling to maintain their day-to-day existence, but Cassandra refuses to give in to this sad state.

She gets hold of a journal and writes, "I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic, two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud."

Things begin to change when two wealthy American brothers move into the estate next door. The sisters' romantic isolation begins to come to an end, much to Rose's delight and Cassandra's dismay.

Dodie Smith published this in 1948. She of course, is most well-known for her masterpiece, The 101 Dalmatians. I just discovered that she wrote a few other books, available for e-book on Amazon. I will definitely be checking these out!

Not surprisingly, this is also a movie. There are some fabulous actors in this; I've seen them in other things, so it is on my to-be-watched list. I have some hope that it will come close to the book. 

Which movies have you seen that did excellent justice to the book on which they were based?