Spoiler-free review: Starfall by Jessie Kwak

STARFALL

I received a review audiobook of Starfall: A Durga System Novella by Jessie Kwak in exchange for my honest opinion.

RATING: 4/5 STARS

Starla Dusai is a 15-year-old girl who has been separated from her family after her home was destroyed by the Alliance, and now she’s being held prisoner on an unfamiliar planet. She is also deaf. Willem Jaantzen is a known criminal, who also happens to be her Godfather. He is determined to save her. This novella follows both characters’ stories in alternating chapters, which intertwine to form an exciting sci-fi story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Kwak’s writing is fluid and filled with beautiful imagery. I loved how the ending of each chapter always left me wanting more. It was hard to stop listening!

I liked both the main characters of Starla and Jaantzen. It was refreshing to read a story about someone who is deaf. I’ve never come across a book with a deaf main character before, and now I hope to expand my horizons and read more in the future. Starla is a very likable character who has an interesting past, which I hope to hear more about in later installments. It was also fun to read about Jaantzen, a crime lord, who is also loyal to the people he cares about. I never felt like any of the characters were stereotypes or clichés; they were believable and had realistic dialogue, motivations, and personalities.

My only complaint is that as I was listening to the audiobook, it was hard to keep up with all of the characters. I’m more of a visual learner, so I think I would have better remembered who all the side characters were if I could have seen the names as opposed to just hearing them. That might have just been a personal issue though. The audiobook was narrated by Scott Dai who had a very easy voice to listen to.

I don’t often read sci-fi books, but I’m glad that I read this one! It was enjoyable and fast-paced, with a cast of characters I want to find out what happens to. I will definitely read future installments.

Don’t put off writing anymore

 

For a long time, I used to put off writing until I was inspired. This is pretty ridiculous considering although I love to write, I’m only ever “inspired” about 5% of the time. When you rely on inspiration alone to tell you when it’s time to start writing, you’re not going to finish your project any time soon.

It takes dedication to finish a novel, or short story, or poem, or any writing project. That means working on it even when you’re not inspired; when you’d rather be watching Netflix, browsing social media, or just anything else. Even If you’re passionate about writing, it’s frightening how easy it can be to just…not do it. This, of course, can be for many reasons.

Writing (and editing said writing) can come naturally some days, but many days it’s a very real struggle. You may be having issues with your plot, or trouble writing a character, or even just questioning your ability as a writer. When it gets tough like this, it’s easy to just put it off and say you’ll deal with it another day. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, trust me. However, it’s tough times like these that separate those who actually get things published from those who have a folder full of half-finished stories that will be perpetually finished “another day.”

There’s a quote by Jim Rohn I’ve seen before, but today it popped up on my radar and struck a chord with me enough for me to write it down and stick it above my desk. I’ll leave you to muse on it:

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse” –Jim Rohn

Please don’t put off your dreams and goals. Work hard every day, even if you can only get a little done at a time, so you can make whatever it is you want to do a reality. Progress is progress. Start making time for your passions now, even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult.

 

-Jenny

Quarter 3 Wrap up & Quarter 4 Goals

It’s October 15th. Exactly three months ago, I made a list of some of the goals I wanted to accomplish in the third quarter of 2016. Looking back, I actually accomplished quite a lot. A lot has changed in my life. I moved into an apartment, started at a new school and a new job. However, I did not meet as many writing goals as I would have liked to, so that’s something I’m really going to focus on in the next three months going forward! Here are the goals that I wrote down for myself for last quarter and whether I accomplished them or not:

  1. Have new draft of my current project finished and begin editing it- No. I unfortunately did not make much progress on this goal
  2. Go on an hour walk 4 days a week- Yes.  I pretty much walk everywhere now.
  3. Go to the gym at least 3 days a week- No. I got kind of lazy once I started at my new school, but in the last week of September I started going to the gym regularly once again. I’m counting this as a win.
  4. Put $50 towards travel fund every month- No. Haha, this didn’t happen. Living on your own costs a lot! I don’t have any extra money to do this right now.
  5. Write posts on this blog 1-2 times a week- No. I’m lucky if I’ve been able to make a post for this blog once a month.
  6. Begin plotting a new novel- Yes. I have a rough idea for a novel and I’m in the planning phase of this project
  7. Complete first draft of a short story for a literary magazine- No. Although I’ve been drafting a short story on and off, I have not submitted any stories to literary magazines.
  8. Join a club at school- Yes. I’ve joined my school’s literary magazine
  9. Clean out old clothes and donate them to charity- Yes. I did this!
  10. Research and come up with a list of publishing agencies I would be interested in interning at- Yes. I did indeed do this. I even contacted an editor at a local publishing company and interviewed her. It was for a school project, but I learned quite a bit and it was a great experience.
  11. Read at least 5 classic books- No. I did not meet this goal, unfortunately. The only classics I’ve read in the past three months include Jane Eyre, Beowulf and Hamlet

So, I completed 6/11 goals. I don’t think I did a bad job for my first time using this system of keeping track of my goals. Next quarter I hope to do even better, though! Here are my goals for the last quarter of 2016. I’m carrying over some of the goals that I did not complete from the previous quarter (with slight alterations) and I’m adding new ones as well.

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A bit of writing motivation for your evening

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” –Stephen King

Writing is not easy. There’s no getting around it. It’s even harder when you lack the motivation to pick up that pen or open up that blank word document and actually begin the process. The worst is when the lack of motivation is caused not by apathy, but by fear.

There are many doubts that go through writers of all skill levels minds’ after they’ve finished their outline and are ready to begin writing, myself included. Some of the questions I ask myself are these: are the themes that I want to write about too dark? If I’ve never gone through what one of my characters is going through, will I be able to portray it accurately? Is my story too boring? Are the motivations of my characters strong enough? Are the stakes high enough?

“If we wait until we are ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket

The doubts you may have as a writer are natural, but they shouldn’t keep you from taking the dive and start swimming. The only way to get past these fears and move on is to simply write. It can only get better from there. You’ll soon feel more comfortable with your own writing and before you know it, those fears you had in the beginning won’t seem as important anymore.

If you still have lingering doubts after writing your story, that’s okay too. Take a step back from you writing for a few weeks and come back to it with a different mindset. Revise you writing as much as you need to. The most important thing you need to do, though, is to keep writing no matter what. That’s the only way to grow and improve.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” –Toni Morrison

Being worried about your writing can be a good thing. It means you truly care about your project and you want to be able to make it the best that it can possibly be. Hopefully it holds some place in your heart and you get excited about it when you think about telling the story. For me at least, that’s how I know a story idea is a keeper.

-Jenny

Writing Fictional Towns in the Real World: Pros and Cons

It’s hard to write about places you’ve never been. You can research all you want, explore it through Google Street View, talk to people from those places… but if you’ve never actually had a firsthand account of a location, it’s always going to be difficult to write about it. It’s doable, but takes a lot of time and effort. If you put in the effort, though, it will be worth it; just keep in mind the obstacles you will need to overcome if you choose this route.

So, you could do this…

Or you could make it up.

Yep. That’s what I’m doing. No, not making up details about places I’ve never been to. I’m making up a town.

In the current manuscript I’m working on, a big chunk of the setting takes place in a small town in Maine. Now, I’ve never even been to the northeast of the United States, let alone Maine. I had my heart set on the name of the town and the general layout, but as I got deeper into my story, I realized that the image of the own in my head is completely different from the actual town in real life. Somewhere along the way, I stopped basing the story off of a real place and started to construct one in my imagination. Now as I’m writing a new draft of the same story, I’ve decided it’s best to just create my own town for my characters to live in.

If you are going back on forth on whether you want to set a fictional town in the real world, here are some of the pros and cons to help you decide whether it’s the best option for your story:

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BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Spoilers will be discussed in the second part of the review. If you haven’t read The Cursed Child yet, don’t read beyond that section unless you want to read spoilers for the 8th Harry Potter story (I consider the plot of the play a spoiler because I think it’s best to go into it not knowing too much about it, so I won’t talk about it in the non-spoiler section).

RATING: 5/5 stars

First things first, I loved Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I didn’t go into this book (well, script, but I’m just going to call it a book) expecting much at all. I didn’t have the same high expectations as I did when I was starting a new Harry Potter book in the original 7. Because of that, I think I was a little more open to whatever The Cursed Child was going to throw at me. Therefore, when I was reading the book, I wasn’t constantly comparing it to the other books, I was just simply enjoying a story.

I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about the book. I think it’s because it doesn’t really read like every other Harry Potter book. It’s kind of like bare bones. It’s in script format and the reader has to do a little more imagining if you want it to feel more like you’re stepping back into the world of Harry Potter, rather than just imagining a play. If that makes any sense.

A lot of people also compared this book to fanfiction. Although I can understand why, I don’t think it’s really a BAD thing. The plot is a little bizarre, sure, but I believe it’s bizarre in a good way. The story took some twists that I really wasn’t expecting and kind of threw me for a loop. Even though some parts of it were predictable, I didn’t mind it because it was still engaging for me. The story had themes that was dipping its toes into dark waters, and I think that’s really what made me invest myself even more into this book.

I do have a couple of complaints though. Some of the side characters felt like they were a little out of character to me. Another thing is I wish we were introduced to some new spells and magicy stuff rather than just have a rehashing of the old magic we are all familiar with.

I felt like I learned more about the original Harry Potter characters and got to know some great new characters. About half of the characters had great arcs, but others fell flat for me. Some had arcs that weren’t just boring continuations of the original books, but rather fresh ones that made sense and were actually interesting. For the characters that did have arcs, it worked great. For others, it just felt like they were unnecessary characters that didn’t serve much of a purpose.

If you’re unsure bout reading The Cursed Child, I urge you to pick it up. Think of it less like an epilogue to the 7 books, but rather like an entirely separate story on its own set in the wizarding world with new characters.

SPOILER SECTION:

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Quarterly Goals

Hey everyone, I’m making this post to share with all of you the quarterly goals I’ve set for myself for July 15th through October 15th. I know it’s an odd time to choose to start this, but I figured it’s better to begin now than to wait until August 1st! Anyway, I’m doing this because I follow a couple of different authors on YouTube who make quarterly goals for themselves and have been wanting to try it myself. Making quarterly goals is pretty much just creating a list of the things you realistically want to accomplish in the next three months and holding yourself accountable for them. You’re supposed to be able to look back at this list every couple of days to make sure you’re on track.

At the end of the three months, I’m going to look back at this list and tell you all what I accomplished or what I failed to accomplish.

  1. Have new draft of my current project finished and begin editing it
  2. Go on an hour walk 4 days a week
  3. Go to the gym at least 3 days a week
  4. Put $50 towards travel fund every month
  5. Write posts on this blog 1-2 times a week
  6. Begin plotting a new novel
  7. Complete first draft of a short story for a literary magazine
  8. Join a club at school
  9. Clean out old clothes and donate them to charity
  10. Research and come up with a list of publishing agencies I would be interested in interning at
  11. Read at least 5 classic books

 

Do any of you guys create quarterly goals? If so, what are they for this quarter?

 

-Jenny

Shiny new ideas…shiny new ideas everywhere!

It seems like it’s been forever since I started my current project. It’s been about seven months since I completed the first draft of it. Since then, I’ve been editing it on and off… and on again… but mostly off. I can spout excuses that, “I got caught up with school and work… blah blah” but I know that’s not true! The truth is, I haven’t dedicated enough time to my plotting/writing/editing mostly because I’m too overwhelmed to tackle the major changes that needed to be implemented in my story.

Instead of devoting all of my attention to trying to work towards making these changes, my mind has been kind of jumping from shiny new idea to shiny new idea. I end up daydreaming and starting preliminary plotting for different shiny new ideas for a couple of days, maybe even a week, and then it fizzles out and I go back to my current project again. The thing is, I’m stuck on this as well. It’s not fun to be at a standstill like this where I want to make progress each day, but I’m not producing anything to show for it.

So… I’m not saying I’m going to abandon this project. I love the spirit of the story and the characters and the settings, but I’m having trouble making the plot compelling and the stakes high enough and I’m intimidated to tackle the themes in it. If I stick with it, I’m going to have to have to figuratively rip up the ‘70s shag carpet and install new wooden flooring. I KNOW it’ll be worth it when it’s finished, but boy will it be a challenge.

I think the reason why I’m not letting this project go so easily is because it’s the idea that I stay up at night thinking about. It’s not like those shiny new ideas that fly in and out of my mind at a moment’s notice. My current project really, truly means a lot of to me. I’ve grown so attached to it. I guess I’m afraid that in writing the next draft of the story and in changing so many things about it, I might mess up the story even more than it is already. I’ve started and quit so many projects in the past and where has it gotten me? Not with a finished book, that’s for sure!

I know the obvious answer is to just stop thinking about all this and just jump in and start plotting. So I better take my own advice!

 

-Jenny

P.S. What do you guys do in situations like this? How do you stay on track to complete your current project if you’re dealing with shiny new idea syndrome?

Why I’m rewriting my entire NaNoWriMo manuscript

In November 2015 I participated in National Novel Writing Month. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the biggest month of the year for writers. Well, for those who participate. The objective is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s around 1,667 words each day. Now, I’ve known about National Novel Writing month since probably about 2010 or 2011. In the years up until 2014 I attempted to participate in the challenge, but I never got very far and usually stopped after a few days of writing.

It wasn’t until November 2014 when I was in my first year of college that I actually buckled down and tried hard to hit that 50k mark. I got about 14,000 words into my novel before I just fizzled out. I was stuck. I didn’t know where my story was going next. I think that was where I went wrong. I had a basic premise for my story and an idea for the beginning and ending, but I had absolutely no idea how it was going to reach the end. Seat of the pants writing just wasn’t for me, even though I wanted it to be!

2015 really changed everything for me. I decided that this was the year I was going to participate in National Novel Writing Month. I would plan out my story and have a basic outline, but I didn’t want to limit myself too much. So, in a matter of about a week or two before NaNoWriMo began, I planned out the story for a contemporary novel. This was the first year that I actually got somewhat involved on the NaNoWriMo website (entering my daily word count, making a cover for my story, putting up a synopsis, etc.). It was also the year I finally hit the 50,000 word mark AND finished the entire story of my novel. It was also the first ever draft of a manuscript I ever completely finished.

I let my manuscript sit for about a month, as you should do after finishing the first draft of a story, and came back to it in January with fresh eyes. I dragged my feet through reading through my manuscript over and writing down everything that I needed to change to make my story good. It was going to be a lot of work, I realized. So I dug in. I started making revisions and changing around a lot of the chapters. But through about a quarter of the way through my first round of revisions, I realized that there was just TOO MUCH to change. There were some glaring problems with my manuscript.

The main character lacked substantial development and was sort of out shined by another character. The story just didn’t have enough action. The stakes weren’t high enough. Some of the decisions my characters made just didn’t make sense. There was a lot of filler. There were some characters that needed to be written out entirely. It was very predictable. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew my story needed to be MAJORLY reworked.

I realized this in about late March, early April. I completely stopped trying to revise my manuscript. I didn’t have time to think about other projects because I was so caught up in finals and a massive research paper I had to tackle for my English class. But since the spring semester ended in mid-May,  I’ve been dabbling in other ideas for stories and even started to plan out a fantasy series that I think I can make a great story out of. I haven’t been doing as much writing, but rather just daydreaming about that idea. But still, at the back of my mind, I still haven’t been able to let go of my original idea from NaNoWriMo. I missed writing about the characters and that story.

So that’s why I decided to rewrite the entire manuscript I wrote in November from scratch.

The story is going to have the same characters and the same premise, but I want to fix the mistakes I made last time and hopefully avoid any other major mistakes. Right now I’m in the phase where I’m coming up with a couple of options for the direction my story will go. After that, I plan to thoroughly outline. I certainly learned my lesson. I want to take enough time to plan out everything and make it the best story it can be, rather than just trying to hit a daily word count.

I will keep you all updated on the progress I make!

 

-Jenny

 

 

 

My Top 3 All Time Favorite Books or Book Series

I thought as my second post, sharing with you all a little taste of the kinds of books I love is in order! So without further ado, here are my top 3 all time favorite books and why I love them.

By the way, all pictures are photos of my own copies!

3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones centers around Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old-girl who was violently murdered in 1973. The rest of the book surrounds her watching over her family and friends from Heaven as they struggle to come to terms with her untimely death and put together the pieces of how exactly she was killed and by who. Susie also watches her murderer, a twisted individual who’s hiding in plain sight, as he moves on with his life after killing her.

This book will always have a special place in my heart. It’s one of those books that, as you’re reading it, you know you’ll want to pick up again and again. It’s just mesmerizing. Sebol constructs a beautifully woven story about some of the heaviest topics, including life and death, grief and love. The writing is absolutely breathtaking. Every time I read it, it has me wanting to pull out a highlighter and start marking up the entire book. I also love the time period it’s set in. I’ve actually never read a book set in the ’70s besides this one. It’s a breath of fresh air.

 

2. The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowlingimg_1007

Of course Harry Potter made this list. I’m sure I don’t really need to explain this because most, if not all of you, should know what this series is about. But I’ll give a little description anyway: A young boy finds out he’s a wizard and that there’s a magical world right under his nose. He attends a magical school where he makes friends, enemies and discovers the most evil wizard in existence is out to kill him.

Like most people my age, this series has helped shape my childhood and sparked my love of reading. I always loved the movies growing up, but when I began reading the books when I was 10 years old, it was honestly like I was opened up to a whole new, magical world. For a while, I even thought Hogwarts was real because I thought there’s no way J.K. Rowling could create such an elaborate world. The night before my 11th birthday, I even stayed up until midnight with my window open, waiting for an owl to fly in with my invitation to attend Hogwarts! I was that kid, yeah.

Harry Potter is a series I can read over and over endlessly without tiring. Each time I open one of the books, I am brought back to that world I discovered when I was 10. These books are so warm and fun and exciting. The characters are all deep and memorable. The plot is perfect. Everything about Harry Potter is amazing. I could go on and on about this series, but I’ll leave it at that.

1. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Into The Wild is a nonfiction account of the last months of Christopher McCandless’s life. In 1992, McCandless was a recent college graduate who gave up his money, his possessions and comfortable way of life to take a journey across the United States to Alaska in order to live in the wilderness.He ultimately died a few months after first walking into the Alaskan wild. The book gives a detailed look at who McCandless was and why he might have did what he did.

I can’t say enough how much I love this book. I first read it in my English class junior year of high school…and boy am I glad I didn’t skip out on reading it because it’s now my all time favorite book. I’ve read it countless times.

I’ve taken so many good things away from this book and I’m not ashamed to say it’s one of the things that inspires me to travel, despite McCandless’s story being a tragic one. Krakauer puts this book together beautifully. It’s very easy to get drawn into McCandless’s story and by the end of the book, you won’t want to leave it. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

There is also a companion novel written by McCandless’s sister, Carine McCandless, entitled The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival which makes you look at Into The Wild in a whole new way. I highly recommend reading it after Into The Wild. 

 

-Jenny