The (Mostly) Uncensored, Scattered Thoughts of a Pillow Head

I haven’t made a post in days. I promised myself I would blog more this year, but I’m totally sucking at it. I don’t really have a set topic to write about, so I’ll just write about what I’m feeling right now, a sort of stream of consciousness, but edited a bit to keep this blog pg-13 and to keep my reputation intact (as if).

It’s almost midnight and I’m listening to “400 Lux” by Lorde. A couple of years ago I played this song on repeat while writing a book about a girl dealing with anxiety and a boy struggling to keep up with all the work at school. It was a very personal book for me and, maybe it’s hopeful thinking, but I believe this book is going places.

I live in California and it’s summer, so I’m trying not to melt into a puddle of sweat. Although it rained today, which weird. But I liked it because I could make myself a cup of hot coffee, put on an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, and pretend it’s fall.

I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness. I’ve been thinking a lot about pain and happiness. It’s hit me recently that everything is temporary, which can be seen as both a curse and a blessing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and it terrifies me. I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and it excites me.

I want to move to San Francisco and rent an apartment with someone I love. I want to have cats named after literary characters. I want to paint the whole place a soft pink and buy lots of pillows and drink lots of coffee. I want to go to a used book shop and drink in the smell of things old. I want to go to the beach at night. I want to buy a ton of sweaters and wear all of them. I want to sleep in on a Saturday and spend the rest of the day reading good books. I want to be happy.

I should add more pictures on here.

I wish I was good at the thngs I love.

Tomorrow the retrograde ends. I’m hoping for good things. Not only for me, but for all of you too. Sorry for the scattered thoughts. I promise I’ll write something a bit more coherent soon! I’ll probably go watch Orphan Black right now and go to sleep at two in the morning. We’ll see.

– MS

How Do You Write a First Draft?

I’m recently finished working on a first draft and it was exhilarating, frustrating, and it made me want to kick and break things, but I also got butterflies every time I thought about my idea. So because of that I thought I’d make a little post about my usual method of approaching a first draft.

1. BRAINSTORM

My ideas usually start with a character and then it evolves into plot, setting, etc. So I always start with a character brainstorm. Who is this person? What are their greatest fears? What makes them unique, interesting? I usually just kind of use the vomit approach when it comes to this. Meaning I type down everything (character traits, plot points, plot twists, etc) down on a document as it comes (no, I do not vomit on my drafts. That’s icky).

During this part, I like to become acquainted with my characters, so I do weird things like:

– I imagine what a day in their life would be like. I literally sit down and go through a day in their life. It is fascinating.

– I listen to music they would listen to. For my novel PILLOW HEADS, I listened to a lot of indie music (think The Neighbourhood) when fleshing out Riley. It helps A LOT.

– I talk to them. Seriously ( I know this is weird. Don’t tell my mom).

2. PILOT

In T.V., pilots are meant to set up the world and introduce characters and setting. It doesn’t give away what the show’s completely about, but it gives you enough to keep you watching.

Before I throw myself into the drafting process, I write a “pilot,” which consist of the first few chapters of the novel. Usually, these scenes don’t actually end up as the opening chapters of my novel, but they help me a) explore what my book will be about, what the mood will be and b) recognize if this is something I can write. If my “pilot” pages are boring and hard to move through, I know something – usually the voice – isn’t working.

In January, I started working on this book I really loved. But upon writing the “pilot” pages, I found the main character’s voice to be clunky, forced, and just overall uninteresting. It didn’t flow the way I wanted to. So I moved on to the next idea.

With this one, which I started brainstorming in March, the “pilot” pages flew out of me easily and they actually ended up somewhere in the middle of the book. But they were SO helpful in determining whether the book was going to work out in the long run.

I actually just finished this novel recently (85,000 words, woohoo!), so you can see that, for me, this was a good way to access the write-ability of the novel.

3. OUTLINING

I started out writing a couple of years ago as a total pantser, but as I grew and developed as a writer I realized that plotting a novel works better for me for various reasons (which I will outline in an upcoming post. Get it, outline? *pauses for laughs*).

My outlines usually consist of all the scenes in the novel, while still giving myself some room to explore. I use Katytastic’s 3 Acts, 9 blocks method, which has proven to be EXTREMELY helpful when it comes to outlining.

4. YOU SIT IN FRONT OF YOUR COMPUTER AND YOU BLEEEEED

Or handwrite it, if that’s what tickles your pickle. But this is the part where I take everything from before and just write. I put my playlist together with songs that fit the manuscript and work night and day (mostly night, because I’m a vampire.). This usually takes me 2-3 months since I already have everything planned out. During my drafting, I don’t go back and edit, but I do jot down notes in a different document regarding changes I’d like to make once the manuscript is finished.

So if you’re planning the emotionally draining journey of writing a first draft, or if you’ve already written several before, here, have some kittens, a tub full of Oreos ice cream, and a DVD copy of Sex & the City movie. You’re going to need them.

– MS

PILLOW HEADS: CONTEMPORARY YA, THE WRITER’S VOICE ENTRY

I’m so excited to get the chance to participate in The Writer’s Voice contest for the first time. Thank you to the organizers for the opportunity! You can read more about the contest here.

QUERY:

Just a while ago, reality T.V. fanatic Riley Waters was making progress, totally kicking her anxiety disorder’s ass. Until a sudden relapse brings her back to square one. Now, Riley is convinced that there’s no hope for her: the safety of her home and the Kardashian marathons she has with her only friend, her cat, are all she will ever know. But her brother’s graduating from college soon. And her mother’s more wanderlust than ever. Now Riley’s feeling like everyone’s moving forward with their lives…except her.

And then along stumbles Ryan Wesley, who quickly becomes Riley’s only human friend. For Ryan, life has been turned upside with the arrival of junior year. The advanced program Ryan enters leaves him with endless hours of work and little time for anything else. Suddenly, all these so-called “best years” of his life make him want to do is sleep, or die, preferably both.

Together, with the help of lots of sleep and some seriously special coffee-filled nights, the two try escape the real world and all its real life problems. But the future still looms ahead, approaching way faster than they’d like, and all they can do is hope they don’t get left behind.

Told in dual point of view, my contemporary YA novel PILLOW HEADS (77,000 words) may appeal to readers of Stephanie Perkins’ ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER and Ned Vizzini’s IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY, due to its portrayal of teenage romance and mental illness.

FIRST 250 WORDS:

riley

I could be wrong, but I think the boy sitting on my right just took a picture of me.

I grip the edge of my seat with one hand, holding my book open with the other. It’s Catcher in the Rye, a.k.a. the bible of the socially inept teenager, a.k.a. me. I mean, I keep telling myself I’m not anti-social, I just really love cats. But there comes a point when the reality T.V. episodes pile up, you realize your only friend is a cat, and that you haven’t gone out in like forever. I don’t know about you, but none of that exactly screams out-going to me.

Also, my anxiety also doesn’t help at all. It’s why I’m here.

The boy snaps another picture. I turn and there it is, the lens of the camera jabbed toward me, his face – brown eyes, brown hair – barely visible behind the black monstrosity. Another click.

My heart is in my throat. “Don’t do that again.”

He looks at me with flushed cheeks. “Sorry.” He angles the camera toward the line of doors in front of him. “I didn’t mean to – I should’ve asked for permission. Sorry.” He snaps a picture.

I say nothing in return, but he still talks to me:

“So why are you here?”

“Hell won’t take me back.” I’m staring at the old copies of People on the coffee table, trying not to laugh at my own joke because that’s stupid and probably socially unacceptable. But how would I even know?

Thank you for reading.

– MS

Nice to Meet You, Where You Been? I Could Show You Incredible Things…

One my biggest pet peeves is the way some people disregard romance in literature, especially in Young Adult literature. I mean, sure, for some people, romance isn’t their cup of tea – or in my case, coffee. That’s totally fine. High fantasy and (most) science fiction isn’t my thing. And that’s okay.

But the people I’m talking about are those who bash romance without mercy. People who think that characters are weak or stupid for falling in love or having a crush.

Recently, I read something a writer wrote in which she claimed that the hook of her book was the fact that her main character wasn’t “like the other girls” and didn’t partake in a romance. To me, it seemed like she was bashing characters who did have some sort of romance during the duration of a novel.

And I hate this. I hate the fact that authors are looked down upon for writing romances, for taking the time to perfect kissing scenes to make them deliciously swoony, for writing about love. And this happens too much. If I had a dollar for everytime I heard someone say their favorite song/movie/show/whatever is better than all the others because “it has no romance,” it would be a profession all in itself.

I used to be like them. I used to avoid writing romance at all costs. I used to brag that my books didn’t have romance as the center, that my characters went through SO many more important things. Did that make me a better person? No. Did it make me feel better? God no.

I’ve realized as I grow up that I’m a total romantic. I used to be embarrassed of saying that I love Twilight because of the romance. I used to avoid all the lovey-dovey songs. But now I’m proud.

I swoon over Stephanie Perkins’ books, over gorgeously flawed boys (especially Josh). I totally sighed during all the cute scenes between Noah and Brian in I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson. Even during Oscar and Jude’s. I am a HUGE Taylor Swift fan (as you can tell) and I’m not afraid to admit that my favorite songs of hers are the romanitic ones. I’m not afraid to say that I have, in more than one occasion, imagined myself in some European city with a tall, sweater-wearing boy while “Style” played. I’m not afraid to say I love watching romantic foreign movies, because they’re so adorable and there’s something so romantic about having to read subtitles, so much gets lost in translation but that also means you can make up your own stuff.

I read romance. I watch romance. I listen to romance. I write romance. I love romance.

I love all the super swoony kissing scenes. I love the way that the brush of someone’s finger against your arm can make you feel like the whole world is endind. I love the touch of knees, the sharing of sweaters, the journey of discovering someone’s soul, memorizing the scent of their skin, clinging to that one pillow because it smells so much like them. I love how they soon start remembering how you like your coffee, or that you totally hate strawberry oreos, or that sports bore you so they change the channel to Keeping Up With The Kardashians every time you come into the room even though they loathe it.

I love romance. I love it in writing. I love it in movies. I love it in relal life. I love it, I love it, I love it. And I’m not ashamed. And neither should anyone.

– MS

Currently Playing: “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift. (Yeah, lots of these are going to be Taylor Swift songs. Deal with it).

awkward firsts (and taylor swift)

Firsts are always so freaking awkward, honestly. My first time kissing (yeah, I’m not going to go into detail), my first book written (again, no details, just know it was terrible), and my first blog post.

So here I am. My first blog post. And I’m not even going to hide the fact that this is awkward. The fact that I have no idea what the hell is interesting and creative enough to serve as a first post. In the blog I created when I was a Pretty Little Liars-obsessed emo kid in middle school, my first post was about this show that was to come out. It was dull. It was boring. It was awkward.

This probably is too, honestly. Which I guess is okay. Firsts are supposed to be awkward so I’m just going to roll with it.

Now to interrupt this awkwardness fest, I shall present you with my favorite firsts:

Favorite first line of an album:

“Walking through a crowd, the village is aglow, kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats undercoats.” 

“Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift from 1989

#21

Favorite first book of a series:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Favorite first scene of a movie:

Jongens (2014). A Dutch movie about a boy in a cross country team who falls in love with a teammate. Complications ensue, naturally. It opens with a shot of the main character running at dawn while “I Apologize (Dear Simon)” by Moss plays in the background. It is epic. It is gorgeous. It is perfect.

So that’s all the firsts I can think of now. I promise a (hopefully) less awkward post soon. Oh, and tell me in the comments about some of your (possibly) awkward firsts. I’d love to hear about them!

~ MS

Currently playing: “Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift.