Ernest Hemingway said “the first draft of anything is shit”. And I’m not starting any nerdy lit wars, but he’s kind of a big deal. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing, at least.
This has been my mantra while writing my current novel — which I feel comfortable calling a novel rather than just a work-in-progress (even though it is) because I freaking FINISHED A FIRST DRAFT EVERYONE.
This may not seem like a big deal, but trust me when I tell you this is huge. Approximately 50,000 words relating to the same story with a beginning, middle and end. Chock-full of shoddy writing and more than a few space-saving brackets where things need to be fleshed out. But DONE.
The key was figuring out how to turn off my editor-brain, because that’s what’s always hung me up before. To do this, once I finished writing for the day, I was done with that section. I could not reread it or tweak it anymore. I created a section for notes each day, where I would put ideas for changes, things to research, etc, so when I go back to do my first round of edits (which I am so excited for it’s almost embarrassing), I’ll be able to see if the changes fit and remember what else I might be able to add.
Like I said, at some points I put in brackets — a lot of points, actually. Almost every minor character in my book is currently known simply as [X], because I’ll need to research typical names and did not want to get sucked down a research rabbit hole. I left some really shitty lines like “we all fight a lot and people die right and left” because I will need to watch videos and read articles to accurately depict battle scenes, but also needed to move the narrative of the first draft along.
But the point is, it is done and I am floating on a high like I have not known before.
And now I may be able to return some focus to this blog, which I really do love.
As you know, I’ve been writing, and a big part of my writing process is music. I’ve been re-exploring old playlists as well as combing through my “Discover Weekly” options through Spotify to come up with another list of songs that have been on repeat in my head — even when Spotify is turned off. Several of these songs can relate to different scenes and characters I’m writing, some are just fun to blast in the car or dance to around the apartment (two, coincidentally, are my nephew’s favorite songs to ‘drop it low’ to — added to my playlist before I’d ever even seen his sweet 14-month-old-dance-moves but now will forever be favorites).
Once again, I don’t watch music videos, but I’ve provided links if interested. This time I’ve also starred the ones that might come with ‘parental advisory’ labels (meaning I’m advising you, Mom: there are swear words).
Because this blog is for rambling about what I love, and because I love Saint Louis (and because my husband might strangle me if I continue to wax poetic about our fair city to him on a daily basis), I’m coming at you with another fun St. Louis adventure.
Laumeier Sculpture Park is not even 20 minutes outside the city. It’s a sprawling park with really cool sculptures (duh) and lots of open space for children and dogs to frolic, romantic picnics, or maybe a borderline-aggressive game of ultimate Frisbee. There are paved paths that wind between sections of the park so you can take a leisurely stroll through the grounds. OR if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and looking for a more rustic trail, there are a few winding through the trees surrounding the park.
We did not go into the hiking with any sort of plan, and mostly stuck to the Western Woodland Trail. We ran into a couple of dead-ends (ok, one was really just that we heard slithering sounds from the underbrush and I DO NOT DO SNAKES — which I shouted as I ran back the way we’d come — so technically that doesn’t count as a dead end. Also, my husband said it was probably just a squirrel. Then another path was a little overgrown and my husband wasn’t trying to get THAT rustic so he said there were probably snakes along that trail, too. Which was mean, but effective). The backtracking just helped get our blood pumping and made us feel like we were real explorers.
Once upon a time, my dad hung our old computer in a tree in our backyard, followed by several old bikes and other random things that created a sort of avant-garde sculpture garden of our own. Because of this, my husband was quick to point out a sculpture in a tree during our hike and call that artist a copy cat.
Whatever you’re into, this is such a great spot. Easy, breezy picnic in the sun, a day out with the kids, a sophisticated art-viewing, a hike through nature — Laumeier Sculpture Park can do that for you.
Of all the “sexy” foods and dishes out there, I understand chocolate-covered strawberries the least. I do not understand how one can look remotely sexy eating a chocolate-covered strawberry — unless she does it in one bite, I suppose, but have you seen the size of some of these strawberries? I’m pretty sure choking to death on dessert fruit is the least sexy way to end a date night.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the flavor combination. Burst of fruity-sweetness, wrapped in a hint of bitter warmth. I get that aspect.
It’s just every time I bite into a chocolate-covered strawberry (because, as we’ve established, I’m not “sexy” enough to go with the one-bite game plan), the chocolate shatters and juice spills over my fingers and down my chin. The bits of chocolate that were so hard seconds ago are now quick-melting into my favorite shirt and — somehow — caking under my fingernails. To reduce casualties, I messily shove the remainder of the dripping, melting mess into my mouth, desperately holding the — extremely fragile — stem so I don’t accidentally ingest the green part which I’m sure is fine but this-is-a-sexy-dessert-not-a-salad-damn-it.
And then, of course, I’m stuck holding the half-chewed remains in my sticky fingers. In that moment, I don’t know which is the more important find: a trashcan or a paper towel. Or maybe my husband, who has since removed himself from the situation claiming he doesn’t even really like strawberries anyway.
I’ll usually end up peeling off the chocolate and dumping the now-mushy strawberries (priorities). It would be better all around if we just kept our fruit and chocolate separate.
It’s no secret how much I love music. I’ve talked about it often enough on here. For lack of anything better to write about (and because I am really loving these tunes), below is a list of my top songs of the moment. These are the songs that crawl under my skin and roll through my blood and settle in my bones, the songs that haunt me until I play them one more time before falling asleep. I know some are pretty old, but they’re all fairly new to me. You can check out the entire playlist on Spotify here, or if you prefer YouTube, I’ve included links to the videos — but viewer beware; I don’t usually like to watch the official music videos because their story can sometimes change what the song means for me, so who knows what you may see.
I know I said An Ember in the Ashes is my all-time favorite YA book. I stand by that. BUT. The Selection Series by Kierra Cass is one of my all-time favorite of the YA series (okay, so I have a lot of favorites…there’s a reason my husband promised in his wedding vows to move all my books wherever we go).
The Heir, which is the fourth book in the series, is what I read almost cover to cover the morning of my wedding day. As much as I loved America, I adore Eadlyn. And like a boy-crazy teenager, I really liked how different all the boys were.
The Selection through The One is basically The Bachelor meets Cinderella. Girls are selected from around the kingdom to compete for the affection of the crown prince. They represent different caste levels and each bring something appealing to the table, be it alliance potential, charisma for the paparazzi, or a desire to make life better for the lower castes. The camaraderie (and sometimes, the fighting) between the girls is beautifully written and wholly believable. It’s a trilogy about friendship as much as it is about love and politics.
The Heir and The Crown follow the next generation: a princess determined to prove she is the strongest person in the kingdom. She don’t need no man, and she tells her parents constantly. But the kingdom is still showing signs of unrest, and the king and queen hope a return to the traditional Selection will boost morale. Eadlyn is determined to torment the boys into leaving of their own volition, but as time passes, she grows to enjoy their company. Love blossoms in the least likely of places, and she has to decide if accepting a husband — even one she truly loves — will hold her back from being the queen she’s always dreamt of.
The writing is fast-paced and engaging, and the characters come to life with each page. I shared their heartbreaks and rejoiced over their triumphs, and actually believed the possibility of a less-than-happy ending. I’ve also read through this series at least twice. It’s a keeper on my shelves for sure!
HOW HAVE I NOT ALREADY WRITTEN THIS?! Guys, this is my all time favorite YA book that isn’t Harry Potter (because Harry Potter is really its own thing at this point, anyway).
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is about a slave and a soldier in fantasy-Ancient Rome. Laia is a Scholar, the broken and subservient class, sent as a slave to spy on the martial school in order to help free her brother from imprisonment. Elias is a Martial, and on his way to joining the upper echelons of the Empire — a position that only fills him with disgust. (And also, Helene is a badass secondary character whom I love — dare I say it — possibly more than either Laia or Elias).
I will say right off the bat, if you haven’t already noticed, I’m not too hard to please when it comes to the love interest. I know that makes me somewhat unreliable when it comes to actual opinions about the guys in these female-led novels. Set that aside for a second and trust me when I say, Elias is everything. Strong and deadly and kind and compassionate. He’s probably my favorite swoon-worthy character since Gilbert Blythe (not that anyone will ever take the place of Gilbert Blythe).
Laia is relatable, at least for me. She wishes she were braver than she thinks she is, but she’s willing to do anything it takes to save her brother. She pushes herself out of her comfort zone time and again until she learns she is strong enough to take charge of her situation.
The writing is exceptional, especially for a debut author. It’s the kind of writing that makes me question whether my own could ever be good enough. And I mean that in a good way — too many debut novels make me cringe and wonder what the point is of even trying if pretty much anything can be published.
And, if you find yourself falling a little for Helene, she gets a main character POV in the next book which will only make you love her more. Plus, the third book is due to come out this June, so it’s a pretty good time to get started on the series. DO IT!