My Writing Space

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“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”  —Stephen King

My humble writing spot. I’d love to see photos of yours!

Writing Inspiration: Quotes

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As a writer, I’m constantly asked: “Where do you get your ideas?”

I can’t say where my ideas come from. From life, from other stories, from the interests I’ve naturally developed over time … They start out as a vague idea (nostalgia!) and then develop out from there (a teenage girl, World War II, a chateau with secrets…) Most of the time I just have bunches of ideas that only get fleshed out as I write (I’m not an outliner).

In the beginning, I like to collect quotes that inspire me and have something to do with the theme and tone of the book I’m trying to write. Does anyone else do that? So I thought it would be fun to share the quotes I currently have at the top of my Word document work-in-progress. See if you can guess where they’re from:

1. “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

2. “Over time, the ghosts of things that happened start to turn distant; once they’ve cut you a couple of million times, their edges blunt on your scar tissue, they wear thin. The ones that slice like razors forever are the ghosts of things that never got the chance to happen.”

3. “You can throw yourself away, missing what you’ve lost.”

4. “But don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”

5. “All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way—if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.”

6. “The point was for one place in their lives to be impregnable. For just one kind of love to be stronger than any outside thing; to be safe.”

7. “Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does.”

8. “I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”

9. “They know that tragedy is not glamorous. They know it doesn’t play out in life as it does on a stage or between the pages of a book. It is neither a punishment meted out nor a lesson conferred. Its horrors are not attributable to one single person. Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing. That is what the children know.”

(Answers below. Photo found here.)

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

MK’s Book Reviews: The Mortal Instruments

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So I’ve finally finished The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. (I say finally, but really it took me less than 2 months, with a couple other books in between. That’s not bad for six 500+ page books).

The Mortal Instruments is modern urban YA fantasy, about a teenage girl who discovers she’s actually a demon hunter, and is immediately drawn into a secret world of demons and angels and vampires and werewolves and magic. People draw a lot of parallels to Harry Potter, and I can see why (Clare actually started out as an internet-famous Harry Potter fanfic writer) but it’s definitely got a jibe all its own. It’s much more of a love story than HP ever was–the drawn-out sexual tension was one of the best things in the entire series–and it’s skewed to a slightly older audience. However, unlike Harry Potter, there were a jumble of things that weren’t particularly well-explained or well-plotted. Nevertheless, Clare is a beautiful writer, and this series was like crack to me–I could not stop reading.

This review covers all 6 books of The Mortal Instruments. I have NOT yet read the Infernal Devices (though I’m really looking forward to them!) so please don’t spoil anything for me in the comments I have read The Infernal Devices, and loved them even more; you can find my review of that series here.

Spoilers after the jump…

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Friday Things

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As everyone else bitches about the cold, I’m really trying to savor winter, despite the fact I don’t live in a place as lovely as this. Staying in and writing, drinking hot toddies, bundling up in scarves, watching snow fall–is anyone else with me?

Here are some things that made my week:

1. This chart of how old best-selling authors were when they “broke out” is helping me feel loads better about my (non-)burgeoning career.

2. A teenager’s view on social media. So, so interesting and helpful, especially for those of us who are writing for teens. (Although this is the reason I set all my stories in the ’90s/early ’00s–social media changed everything.)

3. When I’m seeking inspiration, I always go back to stories that have blown me away. Those stories are not always in the form of books. Last night I rewatched a couple of Buffy episodes, and started sobbing, as always, at one of the most beautiful speeches in TV show history:

“I’ve been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I’ve seen things you couldn’t imagine, and done things I’d prefer you didn’t. I don’t exactly have a reputation for being a thinker; I follow my blood, which doesn’t exactly rush in the direction of my brain. So I make a lot of mistakes. A lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred plus years, and there’s only one thing I’ve ever been sure of. You.

Hey, look at me. I’m not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it’s not because I want you, or because I can’t have you–it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try… I’ve seen your kindness, and your strength. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You’re a hell of a woman.”

Have a wonderful wintry, inspiring weekend!

Photo found here.

Wanderlusty Wednesday: Dreaming of St. John

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Confession: I like winter. I really do. I like Christmas and I like snow and I like hot cider (even better when spiked: this recipe is amazing) and I like staying in under cozy blankets and writing and drinking tea. But yesterday as I was walking home from the subway, the wind off the East River in my face, my fingers frozen even through my gloves, I found myself dreaming of warmer climates.

I never used to think of myself of a Caribbean-type person; my travel-style has always been more adventure-inclined. However, there is something really nice about a trip where you’re supposed to just lie on a beautiful beach all day. If you’re up for one of those, I highly recommend St. John. It’s a quick flight (from the East Coast), tiny, not touristy, made up entirely of beautiful beaches, breathtaking sunsets, and painkillers (the best cocktail ever–and it doesn’t taste the same if you make it at home). We stayed at Gallow’s Point half the time, and the rest rented a beautiful house up in the cliffs where we could look out over this inlet.

It was a different kind of travel experience for me, to be sure, but isn’t that what wanderlust is all about–trying new things?

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Novel Interruptus

It’s time to talk about Novel Interruptus. I found this ingenious term on another writing blog and now I can’t remember which one, so if you know, please tell me so I can give the author credit.

Novel Interruptus is the term for the inevitable break in your writing flow during the holidays, which is something I think a lot of us experience. No matter how many years in a row I resolve to wake up early and write before I’m sucked into present wrapping, cookie decorating, or gift returning, I never do it. The holidays are just too filled with people and activities for me to get much time to myself.

So! How to get back into that writing groove you were in before all the mulled wine and candy canes muddled your brain? Here are the steps I take:

1. Reread I normally advise against too much rereading of what you’ve already written–before you know it, you get sucked into your beautiful prose and you’re spending your precious writing time reading instead of writing. But if it’s been a few days (or a week) since you’ve so much as glanced at your manuscript, you need to read through at least the part you were working on to get back into the mindset of your setting and characters. I’ve also found a quick reread of the beginning and any key scenes helps, too.

2. You don’t have to pick up where you left off Most likely, you stopped mid-scene or chapter. It can be hard to get back into the exact mindset you were in at that point–so don’t! Pick up the story again at whatever point feels natural for you.

3. Look through your notes Not every single one you’ve ever taken, but I’ve found the ones I’ve jotted down recently to be the most helpful. Even if I’m not working on my novel constantly during the holidays, I am thinking about it (and you should be too). In between present-opening, I’ll be jotting down thoughts or bits of dialogue in the notes section of my phone. These notes help immensely when starting back up again.

4. Pick a section and just dive in! I write in a somewhat roundabout fashion–thank God for computers, I don’t know how people write longhand–so after taking the above steps, I just start writing again. Don’t think too hard or long about it–time you spend thinking is time you don’t spend writing, after all.

5. Don’t feel guilty There are probably people out there who’d advise you to skip family time in lieu of writing. I am not one of them. Spending time with the people you care about is more important than your burgeoning writing career. Don’t feel bad about that.

6. Stick to your New Year’s Writing Resolutions (provided they were measurable and manageable) For me, I’ve upped my writing word count goals to 11,000 words per week. I’ve found that a weekly schedule works better than a daily schedule, since there are inevitable days when I’m swamped at work and I’ll fall behind, but that just means I have Saturday and Sunday to devote to several-hour writing frenzies. I’m happy to report that 2 weeks into 2015, I’ve exceeded my writing word count goals each and every week!

Does anyone else have any tips for dealing with Novel Interruptus? I’d love to hear them!

Above photo found on Pinterest with no link to it. If you know the source, please let me know in the comments.

Friday Things

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Happy Friday!

1. I’ve already posted about the deliciousness that is sage tea, but I’ve now found something that makes it even better: raw honey! If you haven’t tried it, you should: it’s healthier and more delicious than regular honey. (Downside: it’s a lot pricier!)

2. I made this soup last night and it’s AMAZING. In general, I’m always blown away by Angela’s recipes, she’s become my go-to food blogger. Check her out if you haven’t already (even if you’re not vegan–I’m not, and I love her food.)

3. I am about one chapter away from finishing The Mortal Instruments series, but I haven’t read all the accompanying series, like the Clockwork ones or the Magnus Bane Chronicles. I think I may need a break before diving into those. But I have so many questions and things I want to discuss about the first series, yet I’m afraid of googling for fear of spoiling the others. Does anyone else want to start a Mortal Instruments discussion group that covers just the first series?? Is there one I can join?

Have a wonderful weekend (and if you’re on the east coast, stay warm!)

Image found here