2012: A Year In Review (Or at Least a Self-Reflection).

It’s another year, and although generally I don’t write blog posts about shit like this I think in the case of the 2012-2013 year, I have to make an exception.

So much has happened in the past year. I rang in 2012 in New Jersey, spent the vast majority of it in Boston, and exited the year in Auckland. I’ve held a bunch of jobs — my article at the Suburban News (yes, still), an internship at a literary agency, two telecommuted social media jobs, and a sales assistant position at Lush — and have done a lot of things that I’m proud of, and a lot of things that I’m less than proud of. Because this year was an enormous (if not cliché) rollercoaster of a year, I want to similarly structure this post: ups, downs, ups, downs. And a little bit of waffling in between. 

I’ve discovered a lot about myself, especially in the last few months. It was probably brought on by the big move to New Zealand, but it had nothing to do with New Zealand itself. I’ve discovered that if I’m not surrounded by people who make me happy, I’m not happy. And I’ve also discovered that I’m totally unable to stick up for myself, and that it doesn’t matter how unhappy some people make me — I’ll still try to make them happy until I self-destruct into a flaming ball of despair. I’ve gone back on decisions I thought I already had in the bag, such as moving to New York, and working within the publishing industry. I don’t know exactly what I want to do anymore. I haven’t been writing and I’ve felt very unproductive and insecure recently, and I’m not sure why that is. Probably because I’m so fixated on the problems in my life that need fixing. I’ve realised how much of an overthinker I am, and how painful it is to see possibility after possibility crumble apart before my very eyes. But I’ve also realised that even if some people in my life have been totally undependable and make me unhappy enough that I spend whole days crying or miserable, I also have plenty of wonderful and amazing people — friends and family alike — who are always there for me if I need anything, at any time of day or night. 

I work really hard to keep friendships. This past year I did whatever I could to make sure people knew I would always be there no matter what. I’d make time for people even if it meant pushing things back that I needed or wanted to do. I’d bring them things if they were sick, talk to them about their problems, and edit their papers — and whenever I had problems, I felt I could go to them without question. And I came out of Boston wondering if after I left, after I moved so many thousands of miles away, I would still have these people and the relationships would last. And they have. I talk to a lot of my friends from Boston and New Jersey here. And they’re there when I’m panicking or unhappy or even if I want to tell them something exciting about my life. And I couldn’t be more grateful for those people. And when I’m feeling really lonely or sad here, I know that I have enough people who care about me that whatever I’m feeling will be okay eventually, if not right away. There is no actual level of love or gratitude that I can express better that I am right now. I love you all so dearly and I can’t wait to see you again (except Ali who I’ll see in like six hours).

I’ve made some fantastic new friends since I’ve been here; I’ve met a lot of people, and some of them have turned out better than others. I’ve ignored a lot of warning signs in favour of stupidly believing that people will change. Instead of saving myself a lot of heartache, I doggedly keep at it, defending them even when all my friends have nothing nice to say. On the other hand, there have been some amazing people who have just waltzed right into my life over the past few months. People who make me perpetually very happy, and who I don’t want to leave behind in nine months time. 

I’ve accomplished a lot of things this year. I wrote a lot of stories, I made a lot of difficult decisions, I moved all the way to New Zealand, I worked hard in every job I held and was good at what I did. Even in New Zealand I managed to do a lot. In fact, I’ve managed a lot of things I never thought I would. My goal for the first month of living in Auckland was to have an apartment, have friends, and find a job. And we did that — both Ali and me. We had a fantastic turnout at Thanksgiving, a pretty good Christmas, and even a decent birthday for me. I feel like for most of this year I’ve felt … well, more or less good about myself. We’ll be doing some traveling soon, and have done teensy day trips, and I feel like this is a step in the right direction towards the last goal of the trip — which is traveling. But for me, NZ has always been about meeting people and living here, and that’s what I’ve been doing. And maybe some of it hasn’t worked out, but the attempts I’ve made have been really impressive. At least I think so.

Of course, there are also the things I didn’t accomplish that I said I would. I haven’t made things totally right in a few respects. I’ve lost a bit of my direction in life. I haven’t finished — or even come close to finishing — my novel, and I’ve not written as much as I should have, and I haven’t had as much of a drive to do so. I’ve spent so much of my time drowning in the negatives of my life that I am distracted from things that should make me happy. I want to go back to trying to think positively. Because for a while, that worked. Maybe I didn’t get what I wanted out of it, but at least I was trying to change my outlook on life — or at least trying to stop overthinking every little thing and focusing on all of the negative things happening. 

I’m not sure if I want to make any official resolutions — I always do it and it never works out — but what I will say is this: I’ve found out more about myself this year than any other, and I’m going to try to fix the things that aren’t working. I’m going to work on thinking more positively; I’m going to work on saving my energy and time for the people who think I matter, not just the people who matter to me. And maybe I’ll be able to write more and read more and do other things that could just be the deep breaths I need between my daily moments of anxiety and excitement. I don’t know if it’ll work. I may look back on this post in three weeks and laugh and say, “Jesus, what the fuck was I thinking?” But … here’s to hoping that I won’t.

Happy New Year’s, kids kids. 

 

051. Review of GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin. SPOILERS ABOUND.

I’m not really into writing reviews for each book in a series, but since this is the first novel, I will definitely do so — my comments for the other ones will be much more abbreviated (hopefully). Also, warning — SERIOUS, SERIOUS SPOILERS. I am not kidding.

Game of Thrones was something I wanted to read for some time, but it was so damn long that I never really got around to it. Finally, I obviously did. And I don’t regret it one little bit.

Of course, the book has its problems. The names, for starters, are unwieldy, and even Martin himself, I’ve heard, has trouble keeping them safe. I do understand completely that he’s trying to create a world, and in many high-born families, names are repeated over and over again due to tradition. This works in real life, but is very hard to pull off well in a book, because with such a huge volume of characters to begin with, there are too many repeated Jons, Roberts, Eddards, and Brandons. There are also too many names that are similar in sound: Jory, Joffrey, and Jorah come to mind, as do Varys, Viserys, and Aerys. I understand he was trying to build a world in which lineage and honoring via name is important, but in a book, it’s more important to distinguish characters from one another than it is to build a namesake chain.

Another problem is POV. I actually love the way the book is structured — a chapter given to each POV character in third person, jumping around from setting to setting. But the POV distribution is terribly uneven. The POVs in Game of Thrones are as such: Ned, Catelyn, Bran, Jon, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, and Dany. Now, the problem I find with this is that the POV is heavily weighed towards Starks, and in fact, the only non-Starks are Tyrion and Dany (and technically Jon, but I consider him part of the family even if he IS a bastard, because he has the same viewpoint and up until a point, lived with them. Dany and Tyrion are the only two people who share a different “viewpoint.” What I mean by that is this: The Starks are loyal to the Starks. The Starks all fear and dislike the Lannisters and are loyal to the king. In the beginning of the book, every POV character except Dany & Tyrion are in Winterfell. By the middle of the book, Catelyn, Bran, and Jon are in the North and Arya, Sansa, and Ned are in the South. Only Dany is in a different location, and Tyrion may be in the North or South, but his perspective at least differs, in terms of philosophy and in terms of familial ties, to the Starks and Jon.

This is a problem for me for two reasons: 1) The book is too heavily weighted on the Stark side, and makes it feel like Dany and Tyrion are the odd ones out and 2) it takes literally FOREVER to get back to anything that Dany is doing. The same thing is true for any character, because it’s not like Ned narrates every chapter, but the problem is that Dany is the ONLY window into what’s happening in her area of the world, whereas when Ned is not speaking, Sansa is, and when Bran is not speaking, Catelyn is. I felt that the POV distribution was too uneven in that sense, and either Martin needed to up Dany’s parts a little more, or he should have included a second POV from her area of the world. I fear that in the next few installments, this problem will extend to Jon as well, because he’s now embarking on a very different sort of quest, and his setting and storyline will be like Dany’s: different than all the others. One POV character has already died, so he’ll have to be replaced, and I hope dearly it’s by Robb, but the problem is that will still leave for a highly uneven distribution. Alas.

Okay, problems aside: this book was highly addictive. Those are literally my only two issues with this entire book. The prose was good (I guess? I have no idea, I wasn’t even paying attention — and that should tell you a hell of a lot), and the characters (except Sansa. Dear god she needs to not narrate and also die) are engaging and interesting. Of course, I have my favourites (see: Robb, Tyrion, and Dany), but I don’t dislike many characters — at least from a writing perspective. What I mean by that is yes, Joffrey is a horrible human being, but I think he’s a good character. I do hate some characters and want them to die, but the only one I find really unengaging is Sansa, and unfortunately she gets a whole freaking POV. Sigh. The story is really well written, and the concept and world is totally immersive. Martin has a way of pulling you in, and then you get to an end of a chapter in the South, and you want to know what happens next — but then he takes you back to The Wall, and something else interesting is happening there. Sure, you itch to find out what’s going to happen in each storyline, but I didn’t feel that I was being cheated and kept from knowing things — no storyline was vastly more interesting than another. Of course, I’m particularly partial to Dany’s storyline, and I’m dying to know about the Others, but I also wanted to know what was happening in Catelyn’s journey, and how Ned and his daughters were faring in Lannister central.

The last thing I want to touch upon here is character death. I was shocked to find out who died. From a reader’s perspective, I was weepy and horribly mad, but from a writer’s perspective, I was totally appreciative. Here is a man that is not afraid to kill his babies. And he’s not doing it to piss off the reader, nor is he doing it for fun. He’s killing off characters that need to be killed for one reason or another, and isn’t shying away from the hard, cold truth of reality; that no matter how great or evil a person is, they will die eventually, and sometimes the people you love won’t live, and the people you think deserve death will still be sitting around long after the good ones are gone. So am I upset that Ned, Drogo and Lady die? Yup — you bet. Am I pleased Viserys kicked the bucket? Sure. But I think Martin knows what he’s doing and he’s doing it beautifully.

I’m terrified about the death toll in the upcoming books, but I have to read. I just do. And you should, too.

050. How to Use Twitter & Not Alienate People (Or: The Things I’ve Learned on Twitter).

In late February, I had the privilege of being hired as a social media intern for two separate authors.  Intern is a relative term; I get paid approximately $12 an hour to tweet, which I find somehow ridiculous but amazing all at once.

I won’t really go into my responsibilities, but suffice to say, I’m in charge of both writers’ Twitter accounts. I also take care of other social media platforms for Author #1 and supply my input on various marketing ideas, but the point is, I’ve been exposed to many a Twitter faux pas since I’ve been working here.

I’ve seen the Follow Friday meme (#FF) blow up from its purpose as a thoughtful recommendation of people you want to promote for their inspiring or funny or interesting posts, into a willy-nilly recommendation of half the people you follow without explanation. They post not once,  suggesting one or two tweeters, but seven or more times, suggesting ten or so tweeters — however many they can fit in the strict 140 character limit — in each post. And it has almost lost its meaning.

I’ve seen self-published writers (and others, but these are the biggest culprits) tooting their own horns, spamming incessantly instead of using Twitter the way it’s supposed to be used. Twitter is social media, not marketing media, and to use it accurately as a promotional tool, you must pretend it is not a promotional tool at all. I’ve seen people try to get retweets by saying “Please RT,” which, of course, makes people want to retweet you even less. The only reason to ever do this is if you are raising money for a dying child, because then and only then is it so important, and people will actually want to spread the word. This is especially bad if it’s said in conjunction with everything you post. As if unconcsiously trying to back me up, FakeEditor (@fakeeditor) just tweeted, “When I see a self-promotional tweet that starts with ‘Please RT,’ I assume the person meant to type ‘Please unfollow me,’ and I do.”

Nobody likes a self-promotional beggar. I repeat: Nobody.

The most successful Tweeters use Twitter as a social tool, not a promotional tool. The promo comes after the social. It’s the subtext, and shouldn’t be advertised in blinking neon lights. Let’s take Neil Gaiman, for instance, one of the most successful author tweeters around. He will talk about his own work. He’ll certainly tell followers when a new book is coming out, or when he’s having a reading, but he won’t post it 5+ a day (in fact, he’ll only do it once), and most of his Tweets are personal in nature. He shares links he finds useful, interesting, or important; he responds warmly to fans; he engages in adorable conversations with his friends and wife (Amanda Palmer, another A+ Tweeter); and he feeds the ether personal tidbits that are, more often than not, funny and interesting.

Of course, not all your Tweets can appeal to everyone. Twitter has that annoying reputation of being “overinformative,” but for celebrities, authors, chefs, musicians, etcetera, it has the unique ability to connect these people with the fans who look up to them. It offers a glimpse into these people’s lives, into their personalities. You feel you know them. And this personal connection, this personal investment, makes you more interested in learning about them and what they do and purchasing whatever product they may be selling — a book, a film, a fancy five course dinner, an mp3.

It is inevitable that people will misuse Twitter, and these are the people that give this platform a bad reputation. The people who lack a personal connection with their followers won’t do as well as the people who do make and foster this connection. The people who tweet twenty times a day talking about how wonderful their self-published novel or brand new album is comes across as what my roommate so deftly labeled “cacophonous noise.” And then, conversely, there are the people who spend every waking moment on Twitter, updating with dull, insignificant details: “I am drinking coffee,” or “Today, I’m going shopping with my sister.”

For your tweets to be interesting, you have to be you. What defines a good tweeter is not what he or she says, but how he or she says it. At the exact same moment in time, Nathan Fillion and fifty other people in the world could have left their coffee on their cars and driven to work. But the way he wrote this experience made it him and made it special, and as of now, this tweet has over 850 straight-up retweets — and that’s not including favourites, retweets with comments, or replies: “Dear Morning Coffee, how was your ride to work on the top of my car? Glad you made it. But now you’re iced coffee. Nathan.”

Moral of the story: Twitter is a social tool. Use it to be social, not as a marketing tool. Be you first, and then if people like you, they’ll be more likely to be interested in whatever you’re selling. If you aggressively self-promote, no matter how great your book or movie or charity OR WHATEVER ELSE is, you’re more likely than not going to alienate people. You’ll get followers, sure, but the number of followers you have does not (shock and surprise!) directly correlate to the number of people who are interested in what you have to offer — and most of these won’t give a flying fuck about whatever you’re promoting.

And, hey, if you’re not sure of the best way to use Twitter, look at the tweeters you watch the most, and see what the hell they do that makes you love them so damn much*.

Next week: The strangest people I’ve ever found on Twitter. Seriously, I don’t know how these people exist or have followers…

 

*In case you’re wondering, my top tweeters are Rob Swire (@rob_swire), Nathan Fillion (@NathanFillion), Gareth McGrillen (GarethPendulum), Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), and Laura Vincent (@hungryandfrozen).

049. Why I Have a Problem with Cassandra Clare & Why You Should Too.

I have a bone to pick with Cassandra Clare.

Actually, I have a whole skeleton to pick with Cassandra Clare, but that sounds a little more excessive than is needed.

Originally, when Clare, originally known as Cassandra Claire in the Harry Potter fandom, announced she was getting a trilogy published, I was ecstatic. As a huge, longtime fan of her hilarious and in-depth Draco Trilogy, I knew I absolutely had to read the first book of her trilogy when it came out. Of course, back then, I was woefully uneducated about a lot of things. I wasn’t terribly familiar with classic television shows, and because of this (and probably because I was never fully entrenched in the Harry Potter fandom and simply flitted around the outskirts), I completely neglected to realise that everything I loved about Clare’s wonderfully written trilogy had been stolen.

Okay, technically, everything had been stolen because it was fanfiction. But even though it’s fanfiction, the same rules of literature still apply. You may be borrowing someone else’s settings, premise, and characters, but the writing and concept within your own fic is supposed to be wholly original. Cassie Clare’s was not.

True, if anyone remembers reading The Draco Trilogy online way back in the day, you’ll also remember that Clare posted disclaimers about quotes she’d taken from sources like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Blackadder. But if you Google Clare’s name, you’ll find countless sites, blogs, forums, and even wikis devoted to explaining how she plagiarized most of her work — and then got herself published on the basis of this plagiarized work. And they’re not wrong. Although as far as I am aware, the plots of her fanfiction were still her own (or at least mostly), the writing, which was snappy, witty, and often laugh out loud hilarious, was often not hers. The hysterical quotes my friends and I would giggle about were most often taken (and changed very slightly) from other books, films, or television shows, and often whole chunks of dialogue and description were taken from these sources, with only a line or two attributed. In one chapter, Clare would use countless references and claim them as her own — or at least not specifically explain that they weren’t hers.

Fast forward a few years: Clare befriends Holly Black, who reads her work and refers her to an agent. Clare gets a book deal for her trilogy, The Mortal Instruments. I probably still would have read at least the first one had I been more aware of the plagiarism problem, but not due to excitement. But back then, I only had an inkling that Clare had done something wrong, and at that time, I was inclined to believe fandom was wrong, lashing out at someone who had done great things since her time in Harry Potter land because they were jealous.  But when I read the first book of her “original” trilogy, I was positively floored by how similar it was to The Draco Trilogy.

Granted, the plot’s pretty different. But as we all know, a good book relies on much more than plot and premise, and unfortunately, the characters were straight out of The Draco Trilogy. Of course, Cassandra Clare’s Draco, Ginny, Harry, Hermione, etc. were not exactly canon representations, and she did make these characters something of her own. But Hermione Granger still always retains a bit of Hermione Granger, no matter how garbled an interpretation of her is (and let me tell you, although Clare had a lot of faults, I thought that her interpretations of the Harry Potter characters were, though not totally accurate, both compelling and interesting). When I opened the book, I knew that Clary was Ginny. Alec was Harry. Isabelle was Clare’s version of Blaise (who back then was not officially male or female, and could therefore be interpreted by fandom either way). Valentine was a strange mixture of Lucius and Voldemort. And Jace, of course, was undeniably Draco.

Jace is so Draco, in fact, that it’s impossible to see him as his own character. The way Clare characterizes Jace is the exact same way she characterized her Draco. They share lines (the ones she didn’t steal from Buffy, of course), they share nervous tics, they share appearances, and they even share memories. The second I read the scene in which Jace tells Clary the story about the boy and the falcon, I felt an unpleasant jolt of recognition: that story is one Draco tells in one of the Draco Trilogy installments. I couldn’t remember which one. I couldn’t even remember who Draco told it to (Harry? Ginny? Hermione?). But I knew it was if not word for word taken from her fanfiction, it was very, very close.

The frightening thing about The Mortal Instruments series is that its plot is nowhere near as interesting as the plot of her original fanfiction trilogy, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the characters in The Draco Trilogy were familiar faces. The plot was better. The premise was better. And just to give you an idea of how much I mean this, I sometimes yearn to read the original Draco Trilogy, even with all of its horrible problems. I have still not read the third book of The Mortal Instruments, and I refuse to read anything past that.

But my problems with Cassandra Clare don’t stop there. My problems just begin with the fact that once she’s stripped of her witty references to other writers, she becomes a mediocre storyteller. My next problem stems from the fact that Cassie Clare is being paid to be a one trick pony, and is selling out because I’m almost entirely sure at this point that she has no moral compass.

Once The Mortal Instruments series was over (or, at least, I thought it was), I felt that perhaps Clare might be able to leave her old writing behind and embark on something brand new. I was willing to believe that she was hung up and in love with these characters she had created when she started writing The Draco Trilogy long ago. I get it — the Draco Trilogy was a beloved staple of fanfiction, and it took YEARS for the whole thing to be written. It was a long effort, and she made absolutely no money off it. I can understand the impulse to want to be rewarded for pleasing so many people for so long.

But Clare didn’t stop. She didn’t try something new. Instead, she left The Mortal Instruments and started writing a steampunk trilogy set in Victorian England. About — you guessed it — the world she created in The Mortal Instruments. Shadowhunters are still the main characters. It’s still the same formula: girl who is not a Shadowhunter meets Shadowhunter who is sexy and snarky (like Draco/Jace, only with dark hair and Victorian sensibilities), and becomes entangled in that world and, of course, a love triangle. And then in addition to all of this, Clare — horror of all horrors — decided to extend her original trilogy to six books instead of three.

I understand that there is money involved. I do. I also understand that she loves her characters. I am a writer. I get attached to my own creations pretty easily. But the thing is, as a writer, you also have to know when to let things go. Television shows have this problem. It’s called “jumping the shark.” Granted, I don’t think her original series was that great, but still, it was supposed to end in three books. She ended it. And then, all of the sudden, she starts it again. But the problem is that the trilogy is already self-contained: the love triangle has been settled. The plot has been resolved. There is nothing left to happen with these characters that has not already happened. And yet Cassie Clare still does it because she has such a huge fanbase (most of whom, strangely, never read her fanfictino) and she can’t quite seem to let anything she writes go.

So let’s talk now about the books Cassie Clare has out (and is currently writing) now. She has her “trilogy” (which has now become, supposedly, six books about Clary, Jace, and company). She has her steampunk trilogy, which is also about Shadowhunters, but does not relate to the characters in The Mortal Instruments series. And now, according to Publisher’s Weekly, she’s just gotten at least a seven figure advance for YET ANOTHER three-book deal. And it’s about Shadowhunters. Again. With new characters, and, hey, now it’s set in Los Angeles! Newsflash, Cassandra Clare, changing the setting and the names (but not personalities) of your characters does not make a book different from the last one you wrote.

So what’s really my problem? My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare is a marginally talented writer who has one story and one cast of characters up her sleeve, and yet somehow she’s sold millions and millions of books based on this. My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series was partially copied from her fanfiction trilogy, which copied a plethora of other authors, not even including J.K. Rowling, who provided her with the characters, premise, and setting for her beloved trilogy. My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare is in the authorly equivalent of a time loop, and has come full circle. My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare is, in essence, writing fanfiction of her own work, and it is getting published and she is getting paid bank for it, when other far more original and talented authors are getting absolutely nothing for their hard work. I may despise Stephenie Meyer and the world she’s created, but at least Twilight and its accompanying works are her own original product; at least she deserves to reap the benefits of the crazy fandom she’s inspired.

So dear Cassandra Clare: write a new goddamn book — one that isn’t a copy of a copy of a copy.

048. Review of Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

I’m a big fan of Kelly Link. She’s beyond imaginative, a unique and very talented writer, and I feel, sometimes, as though the essence of my writing and hers isn’t that much different. I absolutely loved her second collection, Magic for Beginners, and although I liked some of the stories in Stranger Things Happen, as a whole it didn’t have the same sort of impact that other book had for me.

I particularly loved “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose,” “Flying Lessons,” “Vanishing Act” and “Survivors’ Ball, or, The Donner Party.” But some of the others fell short to me. And even some of the stories I rather enjoyed had some of the same pitfalls I noticed in Link’s other stories when I first read Magic. One such pitfall is Link’s inability — or refusal — to wrap up most of her pieces. Not to say that everything should be neat and tidy with no loose ends, nor should everything work out perfectly and be completely comprehensible, because, as Link is clearly trying to show us, life isn’t that way. And if stories are meant to echo life, they can’t be that way either.

In some of Link’s stories — and in fact in a lot of them, particularly in this collection — it’s very hard to grasp the essence of the plot or of the story she is trying to tell. And although I don’t believe endings should be neat, I do think that the reader should be left with questions — not gaps in understanding. And sometimes, here, I felt that I simply wasn’t able to find the connective tissue or the point hidden underneath all those lovely words and brilliant ideas. I think sometimes, whether or not this is the truth or the way it’s conveyed to the reader, Link’s ideas are great but not quite complete. Half-baked. In the best way, possible, of course. I think some of her stories are novels and novellas yearning for expansion, and others are in need of pruning.

Some of her stories are delightfully odd, some of them are bafflingly bizarre. But I enjoy them. I get a feel for her characters, except when she deliberately makes things too confusing, like in “Louise’s Ghost” or “The Girl Detective.” I think if Magic for Beginners was fabulous, this book, her first book, was the work of an unpolished artist who hadn’t yet learned that there is a difference between keeping a mystery and an air of wonder about a story and deliberately withholding information that could help clarify the end result.

But more often than not, you get the point. There’s a feminist angle, a whole lot of fantastical elements that are meant to be enjoyed as much as they are to inform about some aspect of society or life.

I love Link. I really do. And I recommend her to anyone who thinks fantasy is stale. But I don’t know if I would recommend this particular collection in whole. Magic is my go-to, and it will remain that way.

047. Six Resolutions for the New Year

Now that we’ve hit the fourth day of the new year, it’s about time I wrote down my resolution and goals for all to see.

1. Finish my novel. This is a pretty big goal, but it’s a doable one. Originally, following on the heels of National Novel Writing Month, I’d thought I’d be able to get my first draft done by the end of December. That didn’t happen. But my goal of finishing my novel (not just the first draft, but the revisions as well) and beginning to send out to agents by the time I head to New Zealand in September still stands.  My goal is to really finish the first draft by February, edit until May or so, and then write a query and send out over the summer. It’s my main goal this year, and I think I can do it if I buckle down and follow some of my other resolutions.

2. Write every day. This is something that practically every writer resolves to do. I’ve resisted it so far, because I don’t believe that a writer must write every day in order to be successful. One of my favourite authors rejects this idea completely. But the fact of the matter is that over the past few months I’ve really failed to write as much or as diligently as I need to. And in order to ensure that I do better with this, I really need to try to write every day. I know that for me, writing the same novel every day will be a nearly impossible feat. If I force myself to do it when I really, really feel I can’t, it will come out muddled and awful, and that’s not my goal. My goal is to write well and often — I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. So my goal instead is to write something every day: whether it’s a blog post, an entry for Brigits Flame, a random scene, backstory, or part of my novel. My goal now? To try and write my novel three or four times a week, with at least 1000 words done per day. It’s a doable goal, and as I grow more comfortable with the plan and the routine, I’ll increase the writing time and the word count.

3. Read a book a week. I want to try to read for at least one hour every day, but I think more importantly is reading at least one book per week. It’s less rigid than giving myself a length of time I must read per day, but it will certainly ensure that I’m reading (or rereading) at a good pace. Because as a writer — and as someone who wants to be an agent or editor — it’s absolutely essential that I continue to read with as much passion and interest as I write. I’d also like to vary my subject matter, alternating rereading books to choosing new books in a variety of genres — not just fiction, or even the genres of fiction I tend to gravitate towards. I will, of course, write reviews as well.

4. Go to the gym more. I want to go three times a week. Not twice. I really want to get into better shape, and going to the gym three times a week will really help with that — especially since it’s going to start getting too cold to simply walk everywhere instead of taking the bus or the T.

5. Cook more, cook differently, cook healthier. This seems like three resolutions, but for me, it’s only one. I love food. I am an enormous foodie, and I’ve been getting more interested in cooking because of this. This year, I want to make at least one new and interesting recipe a week, whether it’s a three hour roast, a simple but tasty soup, or a complicated and exotic Thai recipe. In the past, I’ve shied away from buying “strange,” expensive, or specialty ingredients for a variety of reasons. Some of them, like, say, squid, I have no idea how to cook properly. Some things, like duck, are too pricy to get on a regular basis. And lemongrass is only good for a couple of cuisines. But I think it’ll be worth it to, at least once a week, try something brand new, and at least once a month, get a more … expensive and “impractical” ingredient to work with, just to change things up. Because let’s be honest — pasta’s tasty, but it’s hardly the healthiest meal option. But if I can find ways to cook pasta with different sauces, different garnishes, etc. that may be a bit healthier, it’ll be great.

6. Save money. I’m not good at this. I’ve gotten much better about making coffee instead of buying it from Peet’s or Starbucks, and I don’t eat out too much. But I still eat out more than I should; I still spend more at bars than I ought to. I still buy things that I don’t really need, even if I’ve really done a good job at cutting down the frivolous spending. But I need to get much better at this — whether it’s getting cheaper items on menus, forgoing a latte and sticking with plain coffee or tea, or simply not purchasing things I don’t actually need. I think it’s doable — if a bit difficult.

So these are my resolutions for the new year — and hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with them.

046. The Requisite “Best of 2011″ Post.

I, like probably ever blogger out there, feel a great need to usher in the new year with a list of my resolutions and my favourite things of the year. So this first blog post will be about my favourite music of the year — in a slightly different way than most people are doing it.

What follows will be a summary of my musical loves and obsessions over the past year. Instead of listing the best albums or singles that came out in 2011, I’m going to be writing down the songs I most listened to, the albums I was most obsessed with — whether they were from 1970, 2000, or this past year.

So, without further ado, here they are, listed in no particular order:

MY 10 MOST LISTENED TO ALBUMS THIS YEAR:
1. Immersion — Pendulum
2. We The Fallen — Psyclon Nine
3. The Dexter Soundtrack
4. Lungs — Florence & The Machine
5. The Social Network — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
6. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — Kanye West
7. Hail to the Thief — Radiohead
8. In Silico — Pendulum
9. El Monstruo — The Vincent Black Shadow
10. How to Destroy Angels — How to Destroy Angels

MY 20 MOST LOVED & LISTENED TO SONGS:
1. Until Then — Benoit Pioulard & Rafael Anton Irisarri
2. Ghosts ‘N Stuff – Deadmau5 ft. Rob Swire
3. Propane Nightmares — Pendulum
4. Crush — Pendulum (here is the original version, not the radio cut)
5. Cold War – Janelle Monae
6. Alright (Ratatat Remix) — Memphis Bleek
7. Kill Everybody — Skrillex
8. Revival – Beats Antique
9. Girl with One Eye — Florence & The Machine
10. Some Kind of Nature — Gorillaz ft. Lou Reed
11. Save the World (Knife Party Remix) — Swedish House Mafia (the original, which is also awesome and nominated for a Grammy, is here)
12. We The Fallen — Psyclon Nine
13. Stripper – Soho Dolls
14. Precious — Depeche Mode
15. The Prayer — Bloc Party
16. Gorgeous — Kanye West ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon
17. Unison — Knife Party
18. The Weight – Thrice
19. MANIAC – Kid Cudi ft. Cage & St. Vincent
20. Voodoo People — Pendulum

Additionally, not including rereads, this is a list of the ten best books I read this year — an honourable mention goes out to China Miéville’s The Scar, which I reread quite enthusiastically this year for approximately the fourth time.

THE 10 BEST BOOKS I READ THIS YEAR:
1. Embassytown — China Miéville
2. Cold Comfort Farm — Stella Gibbons
3. Magic For Beginners — Kelly Link
4. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — Susanna Clarke
5.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (and the other books in the series) — Alan Bradley
6.  The Book Thief — Markus Zusak
7.  Senseless — Stona Fitch
8. The Butcher Boy — Patrick McCabe
9. Invasion of the Bodysnatchers — Jack Finney
10.  Welcome to the Monkey House — Kurt Vonnegut

Resolutions & writing updates will occur in the near future!

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