Monday, November 29, 2010

National Novel Writing Month Finale

This will be my last post on my National Novel Writing Experience this year. I have learned a lot, even though I didn't officially complete the challenge. In fact, I came in quite far below the 50,000 word challenge.

Would I go for the challenge again? Probably. I can see that in the future I might actually be able to arrange things so that I could reach the final tally. I liked having a goal to shoot for, and I wrote a lot more than I would have if I hadn't been aiming high.

What are some things I learned? I reaffirmed how much I enjoy writing. By pushing myself harder than normal, I was able to discover a realistic expectation for daily writing. I also learned how much I really need to get some post pre-written for this blog. I have been writing posts as I go, but would like to have a few posts ready to go for busy days.

Overall, NaNoWriMo was a good experience for me. I learned a lot and accomplished more than I would have otherwise.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Young Adult Books: Themes and Adult Readers

Typically, a YA book will deal with growing up, coming of age, or being misunderstood by adults. Is this storyline what draws adults today? Are we, as a culture, seeking for a vicarious coming of age because we are confused about what the exact path is to adulthood?

Our culture is lacking in rites of passage, and the way to become an adult is unclear. Ask five people when a person is an adult, and you are likely to get five different answers. Young adult books may outline a path to adulthood, or it may simply follow a young persons quest of becoming an adult. This is a prevalent them for this type of book. When adults are drawn to books with this kind of theme, it does seem to suggest that they are looking for answers themselves.

Another theme typical for YA books is young love or early dating experiences. Can this be part of the allure of young adult books? Could this be an indication that we desire those early romantic relationships, and value those relationships above stable, long term relationships?

The upswing in the popularity of YA books could be a sign that our society is feeling greater attraction towards infatuation. In many of the books, it does appear that these young relationships are going to be long term, but that is all in the future. Balancing other life experiences with love over the long term is not a common theme for YA books.

Maybe it is these themes, or others, that is attracting so many people to YA books. What is this trend saying about the people who are reading these books?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Groups in my Life

I have been part of several different book groups. Right now I am a member of a great book group, but I have had both positive and negative experiences in the past. In a late post, I will go into more detail about what is great about the current book group, but now I want to focus on past experiences.

Some of the negatives have been because of differing expectations for a book group. In one group that I briefly joined, the chosen book was going to be the only reading some of the group members did that month. Most of those members wanted something light and fun. The commitment was keeping them motivated to read, and they felt that one book a month challenged them enough. The group discussions were much like the books, light and popular. There was little disagreement during discussion and, for me, no challenge in reading the books. The book choice was often a book without a lot of depth. During this experience, I recommended a deeper book. Many of the women in the group simply refused to read the book and didn't come to that discussion session. This was disheartening for me, and I think I only went back to two meetings after that.

Another book group that I was part of was good for the most part, but there was one individual that could not tolerate differences of opinion. She would simply talk over anyone who disagreed with her. This led to discussions that were sometimes rather shallow.

Some of the positive experiences I have had with book groups were helped by good book selection. Some books lend themselves to deeper discussion, and more topics for discussion. The book Life of Pi is an example of one of the great book club selections from one of these positive experiences. It includes some of the following topics for possible discussion: religion, coming of age, zoos and animal treatment, how people can be like animals, emigration, being orphaned, India and Canada. This is just one book, and the list doesn't include every possible topic from it.

Another positive experience was with a small group that fluctuated between four to six members. We rotated the book selection and hosting. This worked well because we were all choosing books with multiple possible discussion topics. We were able to read a good variety of books before the group members moved or had scheduling difficulties.

Book clubs can be a wonderful or frustrating way to share what we are reading. More on this topic to come!

Friday, November 19, 2010

National Novel Writing Month Update Week 3

Yes, I am still writing for NaNoWriMo. I realize that my last post about NaNoWriMo was a bit gloomy. It wasn't really my intention to be negative. I am still working on the book, and it is progressing.

I won't be making it to 50,000 words. I have a greatly modified number of words that I am shooting for. I realize, after reading some of the "Pep talks" sent out by the NaNoWriMo website, that many people feel that the final count is what matters. But that was never really the entire point for me. I wanted to see what it was like, and what the hype was about.

I plan on attempting this project again in the future, with 50,000 words as a definite goal. But this time I was going for more of an experience. And I am definitely getting it.

What I've learned: I am not at a point in my life that a number goal of 1600 or so words a day makes sense. I am a homeschooling mom of four kids ages 3 to 12, and I can't take a month off to write at this point. I can actually fit anywhere from 500 to 1000 words into my schedule every day. I am pretty sure I could do this indefinitely. It would mean reading less, but I think I can do that. I have things that I want to write and I want to get them written and out into the world. I am glad that I attempted NaNoWriMo, and I am continuing to write the novel I started for the project. I'm learning a lot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Limit

Kristin Landon has done a great job creating a believable future world, in which if your family exceeds their debt limit the oldest child can be taken to a workhouse to work off the debt. The main character in this young adult novel is a boy named Matt. He is smart, but his parents aren't good with money. They go over their limit and Matt is taken. His contact with the outside world is blocked and he discovers that all is not as it should be.

I found this book to be fascinating. Landon has introduced a few ideas that seem like they could actually happen in the future. It's clear from the beginning of the book that the people agreed to this program, but the government has begun pushing it further than the original intention. This idea seemed eerily familiar to me.

I highly recommend this book. Young adults and adults alike will enjoy this book. It was fairly fast paced, with interesting characters and a unique science fiction world. This might be a good introduction to science fiction for younger readers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Experiment in Reading: The Quick and the Dead

A while ago I read Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'amour, and realized that I had never actually read any of his fiction books. So, it went on my mental to-do list, and languished there for a few months. However, that has now been remedied. I read The Quick and the Dead.

It was an interesting experiment, considering it brings my Western novel consumption to a grand total of two books. I found the book to be a good, quick read. It had lots of action and was about what I expect from a Western: lone gunmen, groups of unruly men, semi-helpless women, etc. But it just isn't really my thing. There wasn't enough of what I love: character development, compelling relationships, and unique plot.

I read this book as a way to broaden my reading range. I have great respect for Louis L'amour because of Education of a Wandering Man. However, I think I just don't really enjoy Westerns. I might be interesting in reading one that has more of the things I enjoy in books. Any suggestions are welcome.

Friday, November 12, 2010

National Novel Writing Month Update Week 2

I can't do it. I am not keeping up with the requisite word count. I want to, and I have ideas. Lots and lots of them.

It is the time commitment. I am still writing, still plunging forward with this experiment. However, I am not writing the full number of required words. Forget getting ahead. I can't even keep up.

This isn't the same as term papers written, invariably, in the hours before a class. The words do not just flow out easily, as they did for most school work. I am drowning in a sea of words.

Also, one of the major downfalls of NaNoWriMo is apparent--there is no time for research. This is pretty unfortunate for me, because some of my plot revolves around a medical condition. The rich details that I would love to add are missing because I simply haven't the time to do the research necessary to add them.

So here is my revised goal: Continue, with high hopes. Also with the recognition that I may not make the full 50,000 words. But I will have a lot more words written at the end of the month than I would have if not for this experiment.

P.S. I plan to do research when the month is over so that I can add the needed details.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brown Ink

I recently read a book that was printed with brown ink. I have noticed a number of current books are beginning to be printed with the brown ink. It does remind me a bit of old sepia toned photographs, and I think the idea is to create an aged look to the book. This can help set the tone of the novel, subtly transporting the reader to a different world or time.

After reading the book and considering the brown ink, I began to realize how much a book's aesthetic really does make a difference. Certain fonts are more difficult to read, and tend to scream "self-published" to me. Also, the type of paper and the largeness of the print can contribute to the pleasantness of reading a particular book. Even the largeness of a particular book can limit the readability. (Trying to read War and Peace lying down, for instance, isn't something I can recommend.)

Books aren't just about the words on the page. There is something that contributes or detracts from the experience that is part of the physical nature of the book.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Young Adult Books: Attracting Large Adult Audiences

Young adult (YA) books are rising on the bestseller's list, and many adults are gravitating to these books. Why are adults so drawn to these books that are written primarily for a younger audience?

At this point in my life, I read children's, juvenile, young adult, and adult literature. My children's reading levels are diverse enough to justify the entire spectrum of reading. I don't shy away from much when it comes to reading, and I think that the lines between these categories are often blurry. I enjoy books written for every level.

Often young adult books are cleaner, with less swearing, violence, and sex, which could be attractive to a number of adult audiences. However, this has been changing, with some YA books becoming quite graphic in both language and content. (Much to my surprise when I randomly picked up a young adult book a few months ago, intending to preview it for my advanced 11 year old reader. It didn't make the cut.) Most of the YA books that are selling to adults are on the cleaner side.

I think this could be part of the reason for the popularity of Young Adult books among adults. I also think it is partly for other reasons as well. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on this topic.

Friday, November 5, 2010

National Novel Writing Month Update Week 1

It is day five of National Novel Writing Month. My first thoughts on this experience: this is a thing only crazy people do! But here I am, still plugging along. I even have a story that is, if I do say so myself, compelling. I can't wait to see where my characters are going to take the story. I do have a rough outline of how I think it is going to go, but I have already had some surprises when actually writing.

I am gaining greater respect for novel writers. It is a lot of fun, but also work.

Most days it has been difficult to find the time to do the writing. Evidently, the computer is like the phone. When I use it, my children see it as a signal that I must be talked to right that second.

Also, I am not reading as much as I normally do. Writing is taking away from the time I usually read. Which is fine for a month, but I am starting to miss it.

One thing I am worried about: Thanksgiving. Its a big deal for us. We go to my husband's parents, and Black Friday is a big deal for the women in the family. Maybe I can do some extra writing ahead of time, so I have less to write those few days.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Boxmaker's Son

This is the story of an LDS man remembering his father, his hero. The memories are from many different ages, but the respect for his father continues throughout the book. What I loved most about this book: the gentle, lyrical language. The memories are related in a way that evokes nostalgia. I also liked that it took place in Oregon, an area that I am familiar with.

This book is a short read, yet tugs at the heart. It sure to stir memories of childhood and fathers. I felt that seeing the father through his child's eyes was a bit like living with a father like that myself.

Read this book for a short, sentimental journey through the eyes of a man who adored his father. This book will appeal to those with a need to see positive relationships between a parent and child.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Books Finished October 2010

Almost Sisters by Nancy Anderson, and Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldan
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Codex by Lev Grossman
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Drive: The Surprising Truth about What motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Instead of Education by John Holt
Raising a Family Up to the Lord by Gene R. Cook
Spend Well, Live Rich by Michelle Singletary
The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
The Boxmaker's Son by Donald S. Smurthwaite
The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes
The Dead-tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
The God Engines by John Scalzi
The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket
The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
The Quick and the Dead by Louis L'amour
Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble
Unexpectedly Milo by Matthew Dicks
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

*These are books that I have finished reading. This list does not include books that I have skimmed. The list does not include picture books that I have read to my children, nor does it show all the other reading I have done. These books were finished in this month, but some may have taken considerable time to read, bit by bit.