Book Review: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

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**** Overall 4 out of 5 stars

It takes some masterful writing to keep a reader engaged in a story with two incredibly, INCREDIBLY, unlikeable main characters.  I took the star off because the characters were INCREDIBLY unlikeable.  But I read their entire damn story.

On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to find his wife, Amy, has disappeared.  All the evidence suggests he killed her.  And he doesn’t do himself many favors – he’s strangely calm and unnerved by the disappearance.  Entries from Amy’s diary tell a tale of two people falling in love, and then her husband becoming less and less worthy of that love.

Or course, it would be too easy if Nick had killed her.  It would be too easy for her to be dead at all.  So she’s not.  And that’s where things go all bat-shit crazy and the reader gets sucked in to this dysfunctional relationship between 2 people who NEVER should have gotten married.

I was very weary throughout the first half of the book.  I knew Nick hadn’t done anything to his wife, but only because, like I said above – it would have been too easy.  Yet, he was so unlikeable.  I practically hated him.  And Amy.  The pictures of Amy that Nick painted and that Amy’s diary painted were of 2 different people.  And I didn’t like either of them.  So I found it hard to stick with the book even though I wanted to see what the twist ending was I’d been hearing so much about.

About three-fourths of the way through the book, I couldn’t put it down.  I spent 3 hours hunkered down on my couch (on a Friday night, no less) finishing it.  I wanted to see what the crazy psycho characters were going to do to each other, how it would play out.  By that time I had no clue how the author was going to end it, but I don’t think I’d call the ending a twist.  I think it was very appropriate for how f***ed up the characters were, though.

Character Development – ***** 5 out of 5 stars.  I did not like the characters, but Flynn did an amazing job of drawing their characters and delving into their psyche.  The characters felt very real.

Plot – *** 3 out of 5 stars.  The story begins with an unoriginal idea, a missing wife and her husband is the main subject, but Flynn subtly adds in twists, turns, intrigue.  The characters become the plot.  And, see above for how the characters were drawn.

Writing Style/ Voice of the Author – ***** 5 out of 5 stars.  I’d give it 6.  You know how I know a book is really good?  I forget I’m reading a book.  The author just tells the story.  Keeps it simple.  That’s what this was.  I never felt intruded on by the author’s voice.  There were no flashy words or prose to distract from what was happening.

One final note.  This book was good, but from all the hype surrounding it, I expected to be sucked in immediately and to not want to put it down until I was finished.  I expected a massive twist ending.  Neither of those things were true.  The hype actually let me down.  When I started reading the book, I was a passenger on a 12-hour car ride.  Ever few chapters or so I had to put the book down and stare out the window (that’s how much I disliked the characters).  I didn’t want to keep reading, keep reading, keep reading.  And I had what seemed like all the time in the world to do so.  I was disappointed because everyone I’d talked to about the book had said how amazing it was.  I wish I had read it without hearing all of the hype, because I may have liked it even more.

A New Reason to LOVE Pinterest

I was browsing around some book blogger sites yesterday and one writer mentioned using Pinterest to create inspiration boards for her characters and books.  I thought, wait a second!  Another excuse reason for me to waste time on use Pinterest!  Sign me up!

Needless-to-say, I went on and created an inspiration board for my new WIP, Lark.  I didn’t look for anything intentional, just browsed my friends pins, the “Everything” tab, and the “Popular” tab.  And I found quite a bit of useful inspiration.  Most of it was for the MC, Honor, but I’ll probably do some more digging this weekend to collect inspiration for the other characters, namely Sedric (and Zara), Bonnie (and Caron & Lang), and Valor ( and Mabry, Shyla, & Handor).

Check out the Inspiration for Lark board HERE.  Feel free to follow that board, or all my boards, and I’ll follow you back.

Found on Pinterest - Inspiration for Honor's haircut
Found on Pinterest – Inspiration for Honor’s haircut

Resolutions

I’m not good at keeping resolutions of any kind,  New Year’s or otherwise.  So that’s why I’ve stopped making them in the past.  I just don’t have the willpower or the motivation to follow through.  If no one else is depending on me doing something, chances are, I’m not going to stick with it.  I am not sure exactly why it is.  Perhaps I spend so much of my time working- where there is always someone anticipating or needing something from me, that when it comes to myself, it’s almost a break to not expect anything.

I’ve never gone on a true diet, because the times I’ve tried to “eat healthy” have lasted all of 3 days before I succumbed to my intense craving for Ben & Jerry’s.  I don’t exercise, because I’m just too tired at the end of the day (or the beginning of the day).  I realize that this is very bad.  Very bad indeed.  I want to be someone capable of improving myself, but let’s face it, that’s not who I am.

To get to my true point though, I sort of made a resolution this year to write more.  To be precise, I made a resolution to do something writing-related every day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.  I’m not setting any kind of goals or holding myself to any kind of standard, but I felt like it was a resolution that needed to be made.  If I want to ever truly be a real writer, I need to be in the habit of writing on a daily basis.  When I wrote Twenty-Five, I couldn’t put my freaking pen down, but since then, it’s been a constant struggle to find the time and the energy to be creative.  I think I have a habit of sabotaging myself and I’m trying to break that with a new habit.

So far, I’ve been doing really well.  I haven’t spent a lot of time each day writing, but I’ve opened my computer and written something on The Death Effect every day since January 1st.  I have a brand new chapter that’s SOOO close to being finished and I find myself thinking about the characters and the scene I’m working on when I have down time (basically, when I’m driving to and from work and when I’m trying to fall asleep).  I think I may actually finish a first draft at some point.  At the rate I’m going, it might not happen in 2012, but it is going to happen.  You can check The Death Effect’s page to check my progress throughout the year.  As I’m writing this, I am up to 46, 924 words, 38 chapters written, and 4 chapters started (they are short chapters, just in case you aren’t familiar with how long 46K words is).  I’m estimating that the completed first draft will be between 65K and 80K words, with 55ish chapters.

I’m looking forward to this.  I hope I find it in myself to go through with it.  If you follow the blog and you notice I haven’t updated in a while, feel free to give me a good kick in the pants.  I’ll probably need it at some point.

Character Profile

I’ve been going back and forth with myself on whether or not I should post this, because it is part of my current WIP and I don’t want to jinx myself, but I feel like I need the opinions of others.  I have a character profile for one of my MCs and I need to know if it sounds like a real person- not like some cut and pasted character from another book or movie- and if it feels consistent within itself.  All thoughts welcome!

 

Profile for: Cara Renee Apple
Gender: Female
Race: Caucasian
Age: 25
Birthday: September 1, 1985
Astrological Sign: Virgo
Height: 5’5’’

Weight: 165 lbs

 

Basic Description: Good straight teeth, but not super special, think but not too thin lips- always wears gloss and chapstick.  Prefers Clinique over commercial brands, shops at Sephora or Nordstroms for makeup.  Has straight nose, not pointed, with slightly rounded tip.  Smooth, naturally tan complexion.  Wears moisturizer and sunscreen every day, washes her face every night, gets a facial twice a year.  Never had freckles or moles, no scars on her face, but ½ inch scar under chin where she fell and cut it on a coffee table when she was 6.  Heart-shaped face.
Hairstyle: dark brown, layered, a little past her shoulders, not thin or thick.  Usually is frustrated by the lack of body and volume.  Always wears it straight or pulled back in a ponytail or low bun.  Doesn’t dye her hair.  Dyed her hair once in high school and it turned bright orange- she’ll never try dying it again.
Eyes: 20-20 vision, dark brown, long, dark lashes but not thick
Body: approximately 30 lbs overweight, C cup breasts, almost a D cup.  hates her body.  tries to work out 2-3 times a week but struggles to motivate herself because she’s never seen weightloss results.  Wears size 10 or 12 depending on the brand.  Size 7 ½ shoe; has become very good at dressing for her body- enhancing her curves and minimizing fat and flab
Marks, Scars, Tattoos: Has a birthmark on her thigh shaped like a distorted flower.  No other scars besides the one on her chin.  No tattoos
Clothing: For work she wears business casual/ suits.  She shops at Ann Taylor Loft but only buys clothes on sale- always looks nice- knows how to dress for her body- wears a lot of black, navy blue, and grey.  On personal time, she sticks to jeans and fitted t-shirts, comfy boots or cute tennis shoes.  Doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry- has a ring from her high school boyfriend which she occasionally wears, but just because she likes it, not really out of nostalgic attachment or residual affection for him

 

Birthplace: Wilmington, NC- Mom moved girls to the Triangle when she and dad divorced

 

History: Parents divorced when the girls were 5 and 8.  Mom (Janice) remarried at ages 7 and 10.  Cara looked up to Ashton when they were growing up, but when Ashton graduated high school and moved out of the house, Cara began to look out for herself more- was always independent, but missing Ashton in that brief period solidified it.  Now she acts more like the older sister, taking care of Ashton and helping her out when she screws up.

 

Home: Lives in Durham- rents a townhouse- 2 bedroom 2 ½ bath.  She’s very neat- pays her bills on time, always hangs her jacket/ coat in the closet when she gets home.  Everything has its place, but she’s not one who freaks out when someone else makes a mess in her space.

Pets: None until Mr. D!

Personality: Very calm, very practical and rational, often told by Ashton to loosen up, but she’s capable of letting loose- just doesn’t around Ashton.  She’s confident in her intelligence and skill as an employee, confident that she is generally right, but not sour when proven wrong. Enjoys a good debate- both being part of one and observing one.  Speaks her mind, but usually softens any harsh judgments/realities.  She can seem cold, pompous to someone who doesn’t know her, but she’s really warm and caring to her friends and family- it just takes a while to get to know her, to get her to open up
Likes:
Tea, crime dramas and comedies, maps, making lists and checking things off those lists
Dislikes:
coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, commercials- especially radio commercials
Fears:
failure, being in debt forever, losing her mother and sister
Goals:
to go to law school and be a corporate lawyer for a bank or big company
Hobbies:
Reading, taking photos, scrapbooking
Occupation:
Works as a personal assistant to a lawyer @ a prestigious law firm in downtown Durham.  Duties include answering the phone, scheduling appointments and keeping track of his calendar, filing and typing briefs and other documents as well as general clerical work, pre-qualifying clients, and some light research.  Has worked there since graduating college in May of 2007.  Went to UNC, has a degree in business?? and minored in political science.  Decided not to go to law school right out of college because she wanted to work at a law firm first to find out if she still wanted to be a lawyer- also, working for a few years would allow her to save money so she wouldn’t have to work through school or take additional loans out for living expenses.
Favorite Food:
Potato soup
Least Favorite Food:
red peppers
Most Prized Possession:
a ceramic jewelry box given to her by her grandmother (her father’s mother).  She doesn’t keep jewelry in it, though.  She keeps mementos from her childhood: seashells from Wrightsville Beach collected on walks with her parents before they divorced; ticket stubs from favorite movies; photo booth pictures of her and Ashton; her first driver’s license.
Vernacular (Way of Speaking):
Thinks very carefully before she speaks- never stumbles- never says “Um,” “Well,” or “huh.”  Doesn’t use a lot of contractions.  Ashton laughs at her for speaking like she’s got a stick up her ass.  Cara doesn’t use a lot of swear words or make a lot of exclamations.
Character Behavior:
precise- everything she does is done with purpose.  She doesn’t get excited or confused easily.
Aptitude:
Easily picks up on any problem and won’t stop until she finds a solution.  Prides herself on her intelligence.
Social and Other Pressures, Problems:
She’s shy in social situations- doesn’t know how to put herself out there to meet new people.  Doesn’t particularly want to meet new people.  Confident in the relationships she already has.
Relationships (With Who and What Kind):
Most important is the relationship with her sister, Ashton.  Though Cara acts like the oldest, she knows she isn’t and has a lot of deference for Ashton when it comes to family decisions (like what to get mom for her birthday).  she loves her sister more than anything in the world and that’s why she often overlooks Ashton’s flakiness and flightiness when she wouldn’t overlook the same qualities in herself or others.

Relationship with her mother is strong.  She values her mother’s opinion and often doesn’t make huge decisions without getting it, even if it differs from her own.

Relationship with her father is strained.  She maintains it through email and the occasional phone call simply because he is her father and she’d feel guilty if she didn’t have some kind of contact with him.  She never forgave him for the divorce, though she doesn’t really understand that this is the reason for their limited relationship.  He has always wanted more, but she has turned down his attempts at closeness.

Relationship with B is growing.  She has a great deal of respect for him- sees a lot of the qualities in him that she wants to see in herself or thinks she already sees in herself- determination, focus, hard working, honest.  She doesn’t see that he has further interest in her other than employee and boss.
Belief, Superstition, Moral Value:
Is not superstitious, but values hard work and honesty above almost anything.  Slightly judgmental when people don’t live up to her high standards.
Positive Characteristics:
She cares very deeply about her family.  She’s a hard worker.  she doesn’t over-react to negative situations, instead looks for the solution; wants to help others when given the opportunity
Negative Characteristics:
Very strict in her ways of thinking, i.e. this is the right way, this is the wrong way.  Needs to be right; can be judgmental; can appear to lack a sense of humor

2011 Writing Exercise

I’ve already blogged about one goal I have for 2011- to write another book.  I’m going to write another book this year, I’m going to write another book this year!

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But I have another goal, and one that will hopefully help me reach the goal above.  I’m going to spend at least one hour a week doing nothing but writing.  No laptop and internet, no phone, no ipod, just a pen and a notebook.  I did it this past Saturday and it was amazing.  I’m hoping that eventually I’ll be able to commit to one hour a day, but I know that while I have 2 1/2 jobs, that’s probably not possible.  Eventually, the writing will be all story/novel focused, but this past weekend, and probably for the next several, it will be free-writing, plotting, and character sketching.  Saturday’s hour really helped me tap into the idea I have for my next book and the time produce 12 notebook pages of notes, questions, thoughts, and chronology.

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I’m determined that I’ll be focused and prepared when I actually start writing this book.  I want to be in a place where I want to write every moment of the day, a place where I cannot get the story or the characters out of my head.  If this method works, maybe I’ll be able to go back to one of my earlier, unfinished ideas to revamp and finish it.

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I’m not going to include any notes about the concept I’m working on right now, because I don’t want to jinx myself, but I found the exercise so cathartic, that I want to share some of what I wrote during the exercise.

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I’m sitting in B&N and I’ve decided that for 1 hour, I’m going to write.  It doesn’t have to be fiction, or a story or a poem.  I just need to write to practice.  To get back in the habit.

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I’ve set my alarm,  So here we go.

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I just checked my spot on the shelf and came across a book only a few authors over called “29.”  The blurb sounded interesting.  I need to add it to my goodreads list.  It’s almost fate-like that I’d see a book with such a similar title in a spot so close to where my book would be if it were published.  But I don’t believe in fate, really.  Because that would mean my sucky life was on purpose or something.

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Thinking about the book I’m going to write this year, I feel really connected to MDMD (title withheld for now- sorry!  and no- it has nothing to do with doctors) even though I thought UN (sorry again!) would speak more to me.  I think MDMD just has more plot and character opportunities.  I hope so because I’m about to take the plunge.

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I’ve been reading The Weekend Novelist and when it gives tips or advice, sometimes I think about how I would use them on MDMD.  I think I should just go for it.  But I’m going to be prepared.  I can’t just write willy nilly without knowing where the characters are going and who they are.  I think the biggest problem I’ve had in the past is that I didn’t know who the characters were or I had too many of them for them to be unique and real.  Not this time.  I’m going to focus the story on 2 individuals again, but flesh out the personalities and back story of the secondary characters as well so I know who I’m working with.

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I need to get a timer so I can shut my phone off while doing writing exercises.

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(4 1/2 pages of story-centered notes skipped)

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Yay!  another pen just ran out! (I know that seems weird, but I love writing with a pen until it runs out of ink.)

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I think the purpose of today’s exercise is to ask all the questions but not come to conclusions.  I’ll make conclusions the nest time I spend an hour doing this.  I wonder if I should share this exercise on my blog.  I wonder how long it will be typed up or if anyone will be interested in reading it.  Should I not give information on the book I’m working on until it’s ready for edit phase?

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(and the rest of the pages were all story and character centered)

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Does anyone have any suggestions for helpful writing exercises for me?


I’m Going to Write a Second Book This Year, I’m Going to Write a Second Book This Year

I’m going to write a second book this year.  I’M GOING TO WRITE A SECOND BOOK THIS YEAR!

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I’ve been really slack about writing for at least the past twelve months.  I lost all faith in myself and my writing abilities and I couldn’t seem to find a story where I liked the characters enough to want to get to know them.  I kept telling myself that writing Twenty-Five was a fluke and that I’d never be able to write another book because I don’t have what it takes.  That Twenty-Five was the only story inside me.

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But I’m determined.  I want to write.  I want to be someone and do something.  I’m sick of feeling sorry for myself that I’m in debt and stuck in a dead-end job and living with my parents.  When I was writing and editing Twenty-Five back in 2009, I felt like I was moving forward and doing something with my life.  I don’t know why I let that momentum slip away.  Fear of rejection and failure, I guess.  Fear that the nagging thought of “I’m not good enough” would be confirmed.

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But that’s all bull shit.  In the end it doesn’t matter if I’m never published or if no one else reads what I write.  If I’m happy with it, if it makes me happy, then everything else is inconsequential.

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In order to boost this determination and momentum that I’m feeling right now, I’ve gathered some books and tools to help me make 2011 the year of my second novel.

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Candice at I Don’t Want To Write! posted a character profile a few days ago that I’m hoping will help me develop real, complex characters.

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I’ve started reading the weekend novelist by Robert J. Ray and Bret Norris and while I don’t plan to actually use it only weekend by weekend, so far it’s giving me some great tips on plotting and I’m only on page 34.

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Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger.  I began reading this last year, but never finished.  I think I found it too much work, honestly.  But I know that’s what it takes to create an unforgettable character.  Work.  Hard Work.  So I’m going to work harder.

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On Writing Well by William Zinsser.  I haven’t read any of this book yet, but I’m excited to!  It’s meant for nonfiction, but I think the techniques for writing good nonfiction are the same as writing fiction, but nonfiction is more difficult!  Hopefully if I can master nonfiction than fiction will be a breeze!

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And for fun, I bought How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely.  It’s a fictional account of how one man tries to become rich and famous by writing a best-seller.  I wouldn’t mind being rich and famous (obviously) but I don’t think I ever will be.  I bought the book because I’m hoping it will help me see writing with a more comical and lighthearted view and not take myself so seriously.

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I also plan on reading extensive fiction this year, classic and modern.  You can be my friend on Goodreads to follow my progress.  My screenname there is rach_elle19.

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I’m really excited to read My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares, which was recommended to me by my friend Jaclyn.  (Maybe this mention will get her to finally COMMENT on my blog!)  Here’s the blurb:

Lucy Broward is an ordinary girl growing up in the Virginia suburbs, soon to head off to college.  As she prepares for her last high school dance, she allows herself to hope that this might be the night her elusive crush, Daniel Grey, finally notices her.  As teh events of the night unfold, though, Lucy discovers that Daniel is much more complicated than she is imagined, and perceives that there’s something going on here that she really doesn’t understand.  Why does he call her Sophia?  And why does it make her feel so strange?

Daniel Grey is no ordinary young man.  Daniel has “the memory,” the ability to recall past lives and recognize the souls of those he’s previously known.  And he has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl.  Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Lucy (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together — and he remembers it all.  It is both a gift and a curse.  For all the many times they have come together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart.  A love always too short.

As we watch Daniel and Lucy’s relationship unfold during the present day, interwoven are glimpses of their history together.  From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes tortuous path of seeking each other time and again.  But just when Lucy begins to awaken to the secret of her past, to understand her relationship to Sophia, and to understand the true reason for the strength of her attraction to Daniel, the mysterious force that has town them apart in the past reappears.  Ultimately, they must confront not just their complicated history, but a persistent adversary as well, if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

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Sounds pretty good, right (if you ignore the cliched language, which I really hope is from the publisher and not the author)?  You guys know I’m a sucker for a love story.

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So everyone, please cross your fingers for me that I don’t crap out!  I really want to write a second book this year.  I’m GOING TO write a second book this year.

The Books I’ve Read This Year, Part 2

My original plan was to post this on New Year’s Eve, but it’s getting kind of long and I need a 98th post and don’t really have a topic for one, so here’s PART TWO of the Books I’ve Read this Year!  If I get a chance to read any more- which seriously might not happen because I have 3 weddings coming up in the span of 6 weeks, and that’s a ton of work, and I’m also thinking about giving NANO another shot this year, so November is out for the most part, plus polishing Twenty-Five and posting it here, well, you get the idea- then I’ll post a part three.

Quick Stat update before I get into the books:

This is my 98th post.  There are only 11 days left until my one-year anniversary!

My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands. Read for the first time.  Finished 7/11/10.  I’m sure there will be some readers out there scratching their heads- why is the virgin reading about one night stands?  Well, I blame (and thank) my sisters.  My older sister and I went to Charlotte for the July 4th weekend because that’s where my younger sister and her husband live and it was her birthday on July 5th.  While we were there we somehow made an agreement to each buy one of Chelsea Handler’s books and we’d read them and write notes to each other in the back and then swap.  Younger sis got Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea, older sis got Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang, which left My Horizontal Life for me. (I’m the middle sis, I pretty much just do what I’m told) It’s probably appropriate seeing how I’m the only one still capable of having a one night stand (since they are both married).  Sadly, I have no desire or inclination to act upon this power I possess.  Which is how I know that Chelsea Handler and I could never be friends.  No matter how funny I find her.

The Choice: Read for the first time.  Finished 7/12/10.  This book wasn’t bad.  But it wasn’t as good as I think it should have been.  I normally love Nicholas Sparks, because I love love stories.  But I feel like he put all of the good stuff in Part One of the book and half-assed Part Two.  I just didn’t feel emotionally connected to the characters at the end of the book.  This sparked a conversation with my mother who believes that I don’t enjoy reading anymore because I’m reading everything through a writer’s eye.  She’s partially correct.  I definitely read differently now that I’ve spent so much time reviewing and making suggestions of other people’s work and having other people reviewing and making suggestions about my work.  I hate getting reviews of my work, honestly.  I know I need it, but I hate it.  It usually makes me feel like no one understands me and it is so frustrating.  But anyways, back to the point.  My mom loved this book.  I thought it was okay.  I would have written it differently- and therein lies the problem.  Everyone who writes would have written it differently- would write my book(s) differently, very often suggest that I should write my books differently.  And I think that’s why I’ve stopped working on my books.  I’m sick of being told to write it differently.  So, maybe I should stop imagining how I would write someone else’s…

Bleachers: Read for the first time.  Finished 8/6/10 (on the flight to Buffalo).  This book was really good.  I enjoyed the simplicity of it.  No crazy complicated plot or characters.  Just real life people dealing with real life stuff- only fictionally.  I wasn’t sure if I’d like a John Grisham story that wasn’t based around lawyers or a courtroom, but it worked.

Same as it Never Was: Read for the first time.  Finished 8/9/10 (read during the trip to Buffalo, on the plane ride home from Buffalo and in my house when I should have been returning emails after I returned from Buffalo) LOVED LOVED LOVED this book.  Claire LaZebnik! I’m so happy I bought one of her books at random and was able to discover her beautiful stories.  Why can’t I write like this?  Did I mention that she sent this one to me?  And autographed it? But that’s not why I loved it.  I just couldn’t stop reading it.  And I’m such a sucker for a love story.  I want a love story!

Also read for the second time.  Finished 10/2/10.  I couldn’t help myself.  I really wanted to read it again.  And I’ve been so good this year about repeats, that I let myself.  Besides, I had to get in Claire LaZebnik mode so I could read her NEW book. (See below!)

Other People’s Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See: Read for the first time.  Finished 8/20/10.  This was a collection of actual real-life love (and some hate) letters written between couples.  Some of the letters were so sweet I actually teared up.  I saw this book when I was in Buffalo (visiting my grandparents) at a store in the mall and I really wanted it, but it was like $23!  Which I feel is a ridiculous price to pay for any book.  So I found it later on Amazon for cheaper and I’m so glad I bought it.  It’s going to be my go-to “I need a smile” book from now on.

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang: Read for the first time.  Finished 8/21/10.  The second round of my sisters-bonding readathon.  I liked this book better than the first one, I thought the stories were funnier and more likely to be true- plus some of them had pictures accompanying the chapters.  This book was more about her relationship with her family and her boyfriend, and not about random one-night stands.  Perhaps that is why I enjoyed it more.  I mentioned in the blurb about My Horizontal Life that we were writing little notes in the backs of the books to be passed on to each other and I wanted to share a little bit of what I wrote in this one.

Interesting fact: Somewhere around chapter 5 or 6 I told our mother she could really be a bitch sometimes.  I think Chelsea would approve.

Now to clarify, yes, I did indeed tell my mother this.  But, in all fairness, she said I could be a bitch sometimes too.  And that’s why I love my mother.  Oh, and no, at no point in the book does Chelsea call her mother a bitch.  She does refer to her father as mentally retarded, psychotic, and delusional though, and devotes several pages to the idea of her brothers and sisters and herself euthanizing him.  I would never do that to either of my parents.  I don’t think.

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: Read for the first time.  Finished 9/2/10.  My really good friend Ashley bought this book for me after the incident with Religious Guy- and I have to say, it was just amazingly good.  The book is about Jesus’s real message and how modern America has gone off-track and built an empire instead of pouring out our bodies to do good for the poor and needy.  The larger and more powerful an empire becomes, the more it feels greed and entitlement, which just leads to violence and the acquisition of weapons in order to maintain the power, which leads to more greed and entitlement.  We are not entitled!  Christians need to remember that God’s message is one of love, humility, assistance, sympathy and empathy.

My favorite quote from the book:

“When people are manipulated with guilt and fear and when they are told that if they don’t do certain things they’ll be illegitimate, judged, condemned, sent to hell forever- that’s violence.”

Please go out and buy this book.  Read it.  Live it.  And share it.  For my part, I already try to be super conscious of keeping my judgments at bay, but I’m not perfect- I have to work harder to really live what I believe.  I also need to remember that I have a good life and that there are so many people out there who are worse off.  I need to be generous with myself and with what I have and always remember that when I help the less fortunate, that is when I’m truly living the life God wants me to live.

Conversations with the Fat Girl: Read for the first time.  Finished 9/5/10.  I bought this book because of the title and because, let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of fat literary heroines for young 26-year old tubbies like me to look up to.  I actually related to a lot of what the main character, Maggie, was going through, but I can’t say that I really enjoyed the book.  I hated how the author started every chapter with backstory.  And I hated how the main character constantly contradicted herself.  And I really really really hated the dialogue.  It was soo unrealistic.  Like she needed to spin the conversation so the characters HAD to say what she was making them say, but most of the time, the things they were saying made no sense.  And she used a lot of question marks in dialogue after phrases that were not questions.  Really annoying?  Yes- absolutely annoying.  I never felt immersed or engaged in the actual story, I could feel the author on every page.  Very disappointing.  But like I said, I did relate a lot to the main character.  I’ve felt like a fat girl for most of my life.  I know the pain of trying on outfit after outfit and nothing fitting; of going out with a group full of girls, none of whom are larger than a size 4, who can’t understand why I feel uncomfortable talking to guys.  Hell, I even make my MC’s pretty and skinny so that I can live vicariously through them.  What the hell is wrong with me?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Read for the first time.  Started and Finished 9/6/10.  Great book.  What a character.  I mean the whole book was Holly Golightly, and it was just entrancing.  Everything Capote wrote about Holly brought her to life.  I could see her, hear her.  Amazing.

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now: Read for the first time.  Started and finished 10/3/10.  Claire LaZebnik knocked it out of the park again.  I have to say I’m wildly thrilled that my random bookstore adventure one day led me to her books and blog.  Her MCs always seem to be in a place that makes sense to me personally- I can really relate.  In this case, Rickie is a single 25 year-old woman living at home with mom and dad and wondering when her life is going to change.  Can I just say, um, hello!  Me too!  Of course, Rickie has the added responsibility of a 6 year-old son and feelings for said son’s PE Coach whereas I have a bag of Doritos and good ole Ben & Jerry (they never let me down), but I still got her frustration with her mother and trying to figure out exactly what she’s supposed to do to change her life when she feels stuck in the situation she’s in.  Of course, I cried at the end.  Because I don’t really consider a book good unless it makes me cry.

My Own List

I found an old journal today. I was about to go to church with my friends, Ashley and Charles, and was looking for a Bible to take with me and when I pulled one off the lower shelf of an end table I have in my bedroom, my journal fell onto the floor. I started writing in this particular journal on July 5, 2006 (My sister’s birthday!) and only wrote through about half of it. My last entry was sometime in 2008, but I’m not sure when because I didn’t date it (weird). I only know it was 2008 because the entry before that was entitled “2008 Reading List.”

So, I’m browsing through the entries and I find a list: “Things I want to Do Before I Die.”

I don’t remember writing it! And I certainly didn’t remember it when I sat down and wrote Twenty-Five. It isn’t surprising, but it is rather humorous, that several items on this list also show up on dear old Abby’s list in the book. Because after all, Abby is basically me- just a better me.

I’m going to put the list here, as a bit of a teaser, because I’ve decided I’m going to post Twenty-Five on this blog. Yes, the whole book. I’ll post one chapter every other day starting October 17th.  I’ve read a lot of warnings about posting stories, books, poetry etc. on blogs because you risk someone stealing it and passing it off as their own, but I’m still going to do it.  I know there’s a risk, but I’m honestly not worried about it.  I want the world to read my book.  I don’t know that it will ever be published.  So I’m going to send it out there for free.  Plus, I have all of the early drafts and the first draft is hand written, so I’m pretty sure I can prove it is my work if someone does try to steal it.  I hope everyone likes it and passes it on to their friends to read!

Okay, so here’s the list I wrote back in 2006:

Things I Want to Do Before I Die:

1. Get married/ fall in love

2. Have a child

3. Visit London

4. See another Broadway Show

5. Live in New York City

6. Go on a mission trip

7. Do something completely out of character

8. Watch every Academy Award winner of Best Picture

9. Own a brand new car

10. Learn how to cook

11. Read the whole Bible

12. Get accepted to NYU

13. Take a photography class/ learn how to develop my own pictures

14. Go to the dentist*

15. Work for a non-profit organization

16. Serve on a jury

17. Befriend a stranger

18. Meet someone famous

19. Take a tour of the White House

20. Visit the Supreme Court

21. Have 15 minutes of fame

22. Go to Disneyworld

* My parents didn’t have dental insurance when we were growing up and couldn’t afford to take 4 children to the dentist, so I never went as a child.  I have been now- it pays to work for an orthodontist!

For the record I have completed only 2 of these list items, #14 (as stated above) and #22 (as seen in my 5 part blog post about it).  I’ve come close to #16- I had jury duty a few months back, but I didn’t get picked for the actual jury.  I’ll have to work on the rest of them!

Milestone Updates: This is my 97th Post and there are 19 days left until my Blogiversary!  I’ve had 5,119 views! and I just received my 500th comment a few days ago- that wasn’t on the original milestone list, but I thought it was pretty cool.

And a little thing that makes me happy: A new pair of boots, or jeans, or a new cute sweater- anything new that I can wear, really!

I Dislike Conflict…

In real life.  I mean, I really hate it.  I can’t stand fighting or debating or even disagreeing with someone else.  And it literally makes me sick when someone is angry with me or thinks I’ve done a bad job or criticizes me.  Makes me want to vomit and keeps me awake at night.  And even months later, if I think back to a person who has been angry with me, I find myself saying “I hate my life.”  I’m totally serious about that.

So, aside from the obvious- I need a therapist- I tend to stay away from conflict as much as possible (okay that was probably pretty obvious, too).

Not really a very good quality for a writer.

Because a writer needs to understand conflict.  Needs to be able to dissect it and take out all the little pieces and understand why each character feels the way they do and why they would do what they do and why what they feel and what they do causes problems for other characters.  Still with me?

Also, if you can’t take criticism, your writing will never live up to its full potential.

But back to understanding conflict.

On the first draft of Twenty-Five I constantly got feedback that there wasn’t any conflict.  That the problems the characters faced weren’t really in the conflict realm because they were so easily resolved.  That there wasn’t one overarching conflict holding the story together.

So on the “second” draft I tried to bring out more conflict.

And now on the “third” draft, I’m trying to bring out even more, because if a book needs an overarching conflict, I still don’t think I have it.

Because in Twenty-Five, the conflict is life.  And living a new relationship.  And learning how to love.  Sometimes it’s really great.  Because falling in love is great.  And sometimes it’s a little blah, because life is a little blah.  But what real conflict do we have in life?  I don’t have one overarching thing that holds the story of my life together.  And I don’t think the characters in my book need to either.

Yes, I realize I’m probably crazy.  No publisher or agent is going to want a book that doesn’t have a conflict.  But when I started writing this book over a year ago, my goal was to write a book without a hook, without a gimmick.  Just a story as real-to-life as possible about the beginning of a relationship.  Isn’t that conflict enough?  I mean really.  What’s more difficult in this world than starting a relationship with someone new?

I think this whole desire to avoid conflict at all costs is one of the things preventing me from finishing any of my other novel ideas (characterization is another big problem I have.  And description.  I hate description.  And prose, too.  I don’t hate prose, I’m just no good at it.  Dialogue- I’m good at dialogue).  Because for the most part, a story has no where to go if it has no higher conflict.  That’s what makes Twenty-Five so special though, I think.  I managed to write a story about two people and that’s all it’s about.  Two people and their love for each other.  A love story is what most people want for themselves, right?

I realize that my posts lately have really been lacking in the substance department.  I hope this makes up for it a little bit.  But what you have to understand about me is that I really don’t have a lot of substance- at least not in the way a writer/blogger should have substance.  I wish I did, but I know that I don’t.  I’m not deep.  I read a lot, but I usually can’t have an intellectual conversation about books.  I can’t really put into words how something makes me feel.  I find it difficult to stay on topic and to argue a point of view.

Because arguing, after all, is too much like conflict.

So, these random, journal-like, entries are what you get when you come to I Picked Up A Pen One Day.  I’m sorry if you wanted advice on how to be a better writer.  Or to see the process of what going from start to finish on a book looks like.  Or the kinship of another intellectual pursuing their true passion while the world holds them back.  I can’t be those things.  I wish I could be.  But I can’t.

I know what you’re thinking- Never say “I Can’t” because you can!

I don’t want to be someone I’m not.  So, sometimes, saying “I Can’t” is the best thing I can do for myself.

Wow, this has really wandered from my original topic.

Back to conflict.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want to write it.  So maybe I’ll try and be the conflict-less writer.  And maybe I’ll still be unpublished 50 years from now.  And maybe that is just going to have to be okay.

Milestone Update: This is my 96th post!  There are 23 days until my One year Blogiversary!

And a little thing that makes me happy: GLEE!  That show is so stinkin’ amazing!