Road Trip Wednesday: Best Book of January

{Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This week’s question: What was the best book you read in January?}

First of all, I can’t believe that January is gone, let alone have a “best of” for it. I’ve been so tunnel-vision-y with My Plan to finish this draft of WIP2 (which is still not done, ahem) on top of the everyday fires I had to put out responsibilities that I had to take care of for the paythebills job (main reason why WIP2’s current draft isn’t done yet), that even though I wanted to read so. Many. Awesome. Books. I just couldn’t.* I had to do the Grown Up Thing and Prioritize. *pout*

So, despite acquiring a bunch of books, most of which were sponsored by my friends and family via birthday presents (THANK YOU ALL!), I only really read three books: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake; Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver; and The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. (If you KNEW how quickly I devoured books you would be shocked, SHOCKED by this paltry number!)

I know this is a cop-out answer, but considering I prioritized my life to read these books, I would say ALL THREE were truly awesome. Plus, since they were distinctively different genres/styles, they all fed different Book Cravings that I’d been jonesing for.

If I must, MUST choose one, I would HAVE to choose The Fault in Our Stars, since that book is so life-changing AMAZING. (The fact that I’m choosing to spend my meager pennies to buy another copy to giveaway would ALSO be a great indicator to how much I loved it, I would imagine!)

I will eventually come to the point where I can read more science fiction and fantasy, the genre of my heart, but I am waiting till this draft is winging its way to my crit partners before I indulge. (See how Grown Up I am? See??)

So, what was the best book YOU read in January?

[*Waiting in the wings for me to finish WIP2 are Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi, Legend, by Marie Lu, 77th Shadow Street by Dean Koontz, Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I. So. Can’t. Wait!]

My Road to Simplicity

A Short Epiphany, That is Explained By a Long Ramble…You Have Been Warned

So, I had an epiphany this past weekend.

I realized that I was stuck in my story, and that I haven’t really moved forward in it.  (No, that’s not the epiphany part of things.)  Because of this “block,” I was forced to analyze my story, and untangle why I was so stuck, and believe me, I really didn’t want to, because I knew the answer before I even wanted to acknowledge the problem.  I was stuck in my story because I didn’t have the amazing plot outline that I thought I did.  In fact, in the universe of plot outlines, mine would have been that barren asteroid that astronomers overlook as kinda boring and useless.  (They’d probably assign it a boring number, too.)

What I was resisting before my epiphany, I realize that I actually have to face and do: I needed to get back to the drawing board.

Back to the Drawing Board

"Well, back to the old drawing board".

What I mean when I say, “Drawing Board,” are those lovely things that other writers may have realized and completed long before they even started their story.  You know, those little things like Character Biographies, World/Culture Building, and all the other lovely background informational resources necessary to make one little street in The Story seem like a vast and habitable universe to The Reader.

I think I would be more frustrated with myself and my writing talents if I didn’t know deep down that I needed to do this, and that this was something that I have almost consciously ignored.  I knew that I needed to do this from the start.  I did this to myself.  I created this “writer’s block,” and so this whole situation is a lot easier for me to swallow.  (Not easy, just easier than what it could have been had this been an unintentional, unconscious act.)

I ignored this planning stage originally because, well, honestly, I simply didn’t realize the magnitude of usefulness that an information repository would be, and also in part because I didn’t sort out my goals beforehand.  Let me explain the second part first, because it deals with my mindset.

I have explained mindset before, and how important it is for me to have the proper mindset, and this scenario is a great example of that (Not that I like admitting how slow I am on the uptake sometimes.  I should probably create a category on here called “Face Palm Moments” celebrating my obstacles, and the overcoming thereof.  Always stress the “overcoming.”).  🙂

“Write…”

I love road trips.  Each year, I need a really good road trip to quiet that restless drive inside me that tells me to keep moving.  I have discovered in my road adventures that there are several ways to get to a particular destination, and that I have to plan my route depending on the random sites that I wanted to visit along my way to that destination.  Each stop had a purpose.  Each route was chosen for a specific reason.

Part of my epiphany over the weekend made me realize that if I approached road trips like I did my writing, I would never have gotten anywhere that I wanted to go, and I would never have seen all the cool things I’ve seen.  My writing before this point was the road trip equivalent of me just driving, with no thought to where I was going, and basically just logging miles per day, without any real return on the gas-mileage-investment.  No real plan.  How silly would that be, right?  (Remind me to tell you guys of an 18-hour road trip to Santa-Barbara-but-was-actually-to-nowhere that my parents took me on.  Wait, I basically just told you about it.)

At least I finally did realize what I was doing.  And, the root of all this aimless driving?  I was so trying to prove to myself that I was a writer, and felt the need to constantly validate my status by writing, that I didn’t allow myself the very practical need for background work.

“…With Purpose”

Just like I’ve given myself permission to plan in other areas of my life, I realize that I needed to give myself that same permission in terms of writing.  My mindset was that my goal was “Writing” and if that was all it was, then I’ve accomplished it, given that I have been writing everyday since I’ve first held a journal and called it “Mine.”

My goal is now clear to me (and my subconscious): I am writing a Novel.  At the end of all this work, I will have a finished story in novel form.  Writing is the process for me to get that finished product; it is not the goal.  I know this may seem little, but to my subconscious, this epiphany is huge: I honestly thought I was moving away from my goal (“Writing”) and was wasting time with the background stuff, rather than seeing the background work as integral for me to accomplish my true goal of creating a Novel.

To that end, I am now taking the time to create the detailed Biographies, History, and other lovely background tidbits that are worth the time investment upfront to guide me through the middle of my story in the future. (And, allowing myself to love this process! I’m such a nerd about this sort of thing!).

Fear of Commitment

The other reason why I ignored this process initially is really quick to explain, but I’m kinda cringing about it because the reason is so stupid.  Sigh, here goes.  Truthfully, I was a little nervous about hammering down a “fixed” history of my world, because I was afraid to commit to one thing, one event, one history. Phew, there, I said it!

I have so many random pages of “background histories” that are always evolving and shifting (and, some that are freakily exact biographies and descriptions about specific characters, even though those biographies were written months apart.  Seriously.).  It’s almost like I felt that if I “fixed” them, then I was committed to it, and that there was no changing, ever, and what would happen then??  (Funny, how I never had a fear of commitment when I was with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, but my characters on the other hand…)

But, I had to come to the conclusion, oh so slowly, that having a fixed fact helps to create conflict/movement/action that my characters need to deal with.  (insert “Duh” here).  I can go on about how obvious this concept is, and debate on why I was so slow to realize all of this, but I will quickly divert attention away from my lame-ness toward some fun resources for character biographies, which can be found at Holly Lisle’s blog here, and at Natalie Whipple’s blog here.

Have I Mentioned That My 2010 Theme is “Simplify.  Focus.”?

So, one last aspect of my “Simplify. Focus.” Theme of 2010 includes simplifying this blog and the reason why I use it.

I created this blog initially because I love books: I love reading them, and writing one would be a marvelous extension of that, and would bring the love round full circle.  (But, I could totally do all that with my Moleskine with minimal effort.)

I also like being able to connect with a writing community, and hopefully find friends here with whom to bond over Worthy Nerdy Pursuits.  But, honestly, I can do that with social media.

Well, why have I kept this up, rambling on about my mindset and thought process, and basically allowing myself to look like a fool as I fumble toward my goal of creating a Novel?

Accountability.

I don’t have much accountability on my side of the laptop to keep at my words and world building.  But here, in my Happy Place, I can write about what I’m doing, and just thinking that I have other people reading and knowing about my progress (or lack thereof) motivates me to get back to work.  I can pretend that other people can glean some kind of insight from these random snippets of my everyday; that someone somewhere will be entertained by my Face Palm moments, and hopefully, can get started on better footing than I did; that I can be of value to someone else, and inspire them to act, just as other bloggers over the years have inspired me.

With that said, this blog will not be a Writer’s Resource to All Things Writerly (but if any of you find a site like that, please share!).  I can’t promise to be helpful or insightful, because to me, that would imply an authority that would be laughable for me to claim.  I can’t promise that this blog will be time-worthy in any way.

But, I hope that as I play here, in my Happy Place, that you will pull up a chair, grab some coffee (I will allow for tea), and share in my love of books, reading, writing.

Welcome, by the way, and please excuse the mess… 😉