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Weekly Round-up: 8/31/12

Don't forget that the giveaway for Joe Bunting's "Let's Write a Short Story" is still going on! There's only one entrant so far (who filled out seven entries), so it's still not too late to win! The odds can't get any better for an e-book that now costs $5.

Also, don't forget to check out YA Indie tomorrow for yet another guest post.

Monday:





Thursday:




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Joe Bunting On "Let's Write a Short Story!" [Interview & Giveaway]

A profile picture of Joe Bunting.
Is this picture all right, Joe?
Ever since I finished "Let's Write a Short Story", I've been arranging this! I'm excited on having Joe Bunting on the blog today, even if it was through sending him a lot of questions via email.

The nervousness of having to do it face-to-face via Google+ Hangouts would have resulted in an awkward story.

In any case, I asked him a lot of questions, and he gave brilliant answers. A few of them I think you should take a close look at.

Read the interview really carefully (since I myself is guilty about skipping interviews on other blogs), and stay tuned for the end of the post for a treat!


Why Many Student Movies Fail

This is a really old post I wrote from last year, back when I was making a music video for class. Since the school year has started up again, I just thought that I should be posting this before it becomes too stale.

Also, stay tuned Wednesday.

school crossing sign
This is the only school-related picture I could find
Had you ever seen a film made for a middle school project that had less production value than The Room? It's something I had watched multiple times over the years.

One of the many ways to present a large project is through a "movie". Basically, a group of students dig up a video camera, film up a lot of clips, edit them together using the school's iMovie, and present it with a series of bloopers near the end.

The results are expected.

Something About It

They're often bad in a cute, charming way way. Most students don't have access to professional equipment or special effects, which some of the baddest filmmakers have access to. Good acting can make up to that, except that most acting relies on unintentional laughs to make it entertaining.

In the rare cases jewels are produced, like a charming stop-motion, or a particularly compelling FX effect, the movie is unfinished.

I prefer the more solo projects.

Sure, it's fascinating to watch such a film. It's always fun seeing a project your fellow kin made, along with the mistakes that pop up along the way. But in the end, it can't be taken seriously by the outside world. At best, they'll laugh. At worst, they'll gawk and shoot you down.

Only the A+ Matters

Three reasons why many middle school movie projects are like this:

  1. They don't have the equipment.
  2. They don't have enough experience.
  3. They aren't putting a lot of effort behind it.

Really, the three point are enforced by the school. In the end, it doesn't matter that your movie won't survive on YouTube. As long as it meets all the criteria, like information, it'll get a good grade.

Therefore, even I don't try my very best on school projects. A lot of my effort is saved for out-of-school projects, like Manifestation Files the short stories I'm writing.

It's rare to find a great student movie that will earn the praise of those outside of the school. In most of those cases, the people behind it tried their best, or at least had some heart toward making the basic elements passable.

If you are devoted to the craft and take the effort to learn it, you'll be better than almost everyone who doesn't try.

Doesn't mean that making a bad film can't be a good way to bond with friends though. The one I made last school year will be brought back into conversation sooner or later.

YOUR TURN: Have you made any films in school? How did they turn out?

Weekly Round-up: 8/24/12

Monday:



Tuesday:


Wednesday:


Thursday:


A Note:

By the way, I'm going to be featured on YA Indie again! Don't forget to check back there Saturday for more round-up goodness!

Write a Delivery Story [Writer's Update]

A lost-and-found box full of school stuff.
Gettit?
In order to make the Writer's Updates more practical, I'll be testing out...stuff. Just stuff. Like content and such. Maybe something closer to Daily Life. Tell me when I hit a sweet spot.

Remember that promise that I made Monday that I would start writing a short story?

Well, despite having homework, a missing hoodie, and two neglected instruments, I wrote four pages yesterday.

Four pages. About a thousand words. The size of a long flash fiction.

Progress!

:D

:/

Well, Technically...

...I was writing another short story before I received the review copy for "Let's Write a Short Story"! I started way back on the 16th. The premise? 

A twenty-seven-year-old woman named Ari goes into an "abandoned" building after the end to retrieve a genetically modified creature from a science lab. One that happened to get populated by the experiments. Oh, and she meets a younger boy along the way.

...Okay, that sounds amateurish. Sort of like that those runaway or "I-have-been-turned-into-a-pony-oh-no!" kinds of stories written by teens my age.

I'll just use my log line skills to compress the summary into pitch-worthy form:

"After the end, a weary for-hire girl meets a young hermit and traverses an infested lab."

Much better. Does it sounds like a story you would want to read? Yes or no?

"Let's Write a Short Story!" by Joe Bunting [Thoughts On]

"Let's Write a Short Story!" cover.
Heh. A comma.
Joe Bunting's upcoming ebook on short story writing says that its contents could be read in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon. 

I took it half-literally.

After requesting a review copy through Google+, receiving it through email, and polishing a blog post I mentioned him in, I read the introduction before bed. I snuck pages during cross-country Saturday morning. Then I read over half while sitting on my grandmother's couch.

Let me tell you, I am pumped.


Inspiring!

It's not the physical kind of pump, like I got on the last lap of time trials and I ran past the last person. It's a mindset. Other writers like Sean Platt and Jeff Goins had provided the fight song easing me back into writing. Joe Bunting's had pushed me off that cliff. (Not literally. That would be mean.)

The core of Joe's book is this: You don't need to write a novel to improve your craft. In fact, short stories is a great way to improve your craft.

You can go through the entire process in a week. You can recycle your unfinished novel scraps and convert them into completed works. You can get it published in a literary magazine within months.

You can even publish them on Amazon. Like what I want to do with a short story collection one day.

Now I want to aim for Amazon.

If I want to publish a book by eighteen/end of high school, that's one way to go.

Original!

Although the first and last parts of the book are mostly original material, especially the useful appendixes, some of the writing craft sections in the middle are repurposed blog articles from The Write Practice. 

For example, there's The 5 Elements of Storytelling and How to (Nearly) Win a Pulitzer Prize in 5 Steps rewritten yet present. I didn't recognize a few sections, like the one on euphonious, but probably because I wasn't reading the blog from the beginning.

I'm not going to do the research for the sake of dissecting the book, since that's not what I'm here for.

Even if you've read the entire middle section in a different form, it doesn't detract from the quality of this writing craft book. You don't get much out of just finding the blog articles and calling it a day.

What's the value in that? You get both practical and inspirational advice in one package, along with the perfect atmosphere to spur you into action. There's a reason why millions by MP3's instead of ripping the audio off on YouTube videos. The album is better than the individual parts.

As a unified whole, with original content acting as firm bookends that are as useful as bricks in close combat, this book support its praise for short stories and why they will help your writing.

You Can Even Act On It!

Joe writes this passage near the beginning:

You have to promise to write and submit a short story to a literary magazine. Are you ready to make that promise to me and yourself? That this book won't just be a little bit of interesting information, but that you will apply it? That immediately after reading this, you'll get to work on a short story, maybe your first?
If you're ready to make that promise, get accountability. If you have a blog, write a post titled "Let's Write a Short Story" and share your plan to write a short story by the end of the month.
Tell the world, "I'm going to write a short story."

I can't count the ways I have ignored this kind of advice. That I have to act on advice. I have ignored this kind of advice from Derek HalpernDanny Iny, and Jeff Goins.

If you don't follow advice, you'll end up binging on it and feeling empty, like you ate too many packages of fifty cent Tootsie Roll Pops.

I felt that way after reading a ton of Sean Platt's ebooks. I thought "I have enough!" and retreated to fiction. I probably hurt him in the process too.

I've already wasted too much of my summer break.

I've written some short pieces in June, but July and the first half of August went out of the window. I better save September before it goes the way of Kanye in "Power".

So if there's one book I should act upon right now, it's this.

It might involve holding off Manifestation Files for another week or so, besides first page revisions, committing myself to creating a short story will help reform my ethic can get me back onto those "2-3k a day" word counts I had during NaNoWriMo.

Let's Write One Then!

A pencil on loose leaf paper.
Pencil And Paper by Marina Shemesh
Let's write a short story.

I'll choose the first idea that sticks, and write it. After the rough draft fills my manila folder, I'll revise it on the computer. And edit it.

Once it's done, I'll publish it here.

If I get pass that stage, I might make it a regular feature. It's a pipe dream, but I might even invite you guys to write a story--with possibly a couple of prizes as incentive.

Looking for a literary magazine at this stage will just lead to more procrastination, like I did with my email list. But getting a short story in a "published" state is the right step in the right direction.

Maybe then I'll be able to write that short story collection and develop the cred to debut a fantastic novel.

Back to the Review

In general, I don't think the five-star scale really applies to non-fiction the same way it does to fiction, so I'll refrain from it. For now.

But in any case, I thank Joe Bunting for trusting me with an advanced review copy, and giving me the excuse to go back to what I should be doing, even if school gets in the way.

Writing is my passion. Literally.

(Maybe not "literally", but I wanted to an excuse to use that word a third time.)


YOUR TURN: Do you write short stories? What's your opinion on them in terms of working on your craft?

PS: There're at least two or three topics I brushed upon here that I want to elaborate on in the future. Watch out for them.

Guest Post at YA Indie!

As I said on Wednesday, I'm contributing to YA Indie. After some internal doubt, I managed to complete the post and got it up.

Here's a list of what I think are among the best writing bloggers out there! Doesn't the formatting there look so better than over here? I dig YA Indie's design, although the text size isn't what I aim for here. It isn't bad, but I just want a bigger font size here. But I digress. (That's a phrase I'm seeing more and more these days.)

In any case, this took a little thought. I'm certain of most of the choices, but I'm banking on the chance that people will agree with me. I don't want to put the wrong people up on a pedestal. 

But I don't think that's the case. These bloggers at least deserve a thanks, even if it doesn't produce any new followers, they need the gratitude. Each of them are a more dedicated blogger than I am, and I aim to have a larger audience, a wider impact, and better writer ethic.

I was planning to write something besides this blog post, but I played Team Fortress 2 with some of my friends. There's a new game mode.

Still, check out the article and tell me what you think!

PS: If the link doesn't work, I know why.


Weekly Round-up: 8/17/12 (And Something Else)


Notice that I actually did the weekly round-up this week!

Also, stay tune Saturday for more round-up goodness. And maybe yMusic. I need to find some music for it.


Monday:



Tuesday:



Wednesday:



Thursday:




Writer's Update: 8/15/12 (1st Day of School!)

A $1 bill.
My dollar looks something like this.
School started yesterday!

New classes, new sport, and a new schedule! My new English teacher is friendly (and competent) enough, although the Social Studies teacher blew away the competition when he handled each of his students a dollar and made everyone discuss about what type of pizza to get. A brilliant democracy simulation.

No pizza though, but we got to keep the dollar. Oh, and if we still have it at the end of the semester, we get five extra credit points, although the responsibility is worth more.

In other news, the school library is still closed. I'll be going in for study hall once it doors open.

If you have any questions about high school, drop me a question. I'll do some quick primary source research and hopefully produce an accurate answer.

By the way, I have an announcement.

Blogging

I'm going to be a contributor to YA Indie!

Hopefully.

It's not official-official, but the arrangements are in place. Dalya Moon gave me limited privilege, and I'm drafting a post for Saturday. If things go smoothly, I might have a long-term place there.

Let's say she was impressed by my weekly round-ups.

It pays to have a knack for being a curator. Although my radar still needs refining, so I can identify the right content from a variety of sources, there has been more than one instance that I hit bulls-eye. (That's the second time this week I used that word.)

If you're wondering where's Friday in the weekly round-ups, you might not need to wonder no more.

Critique

By the way, I forgot to mention this last week, but the first five pages of the current draft of Manifestation Files is up on Adventures in YA and Children's Literature!

Ignore the formatting errors.

Now, time to do some more blogging. And then homework. And yes, my priorities are screwed--I should be writing! ;)

If you haven't already, type in your e-mail address to receive updates in your inbox!


Why "Protecting" Readers Hurts Teens

A sunset landscape obscured by black clouds.
Amazing sky dark black sky by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Last week, an author blogger wrote on the subject of cursing in YA. Personally, it's a topic that there's little to say about--unless you take a strong stand in it.

This author blogger did.

As a teen, her stance rubbed me the wrong way.

I shared this post with a few members on a writer's forum. They pretty much agreed that it was condensing.

Even today, after a cool-off, I have a few things to say on the wider subject: whatever to protect readers or not.

A Sweeping Offense

Here's the first out of two parts that I essentially disagree with:

In my humble opinion, cussing is a cheap way out of finding a creative way to express oneself. And it cheapens the book as well.

The implication here is that any novel that uses profanity is less of a book

Even if she's applying this only to YA, this carries elitist attitudes toward many great books. For example, The Book Thief. It uses language like the s-word, yet it's considered one of the best pieces of YA literature in the last few years.

I do agree that books like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter don't have to have cursing. Sometimes, a novel doesn't need it, realism be screwed. I respect this.

On the other hand, I disagree that cussing is, by default, a cheap way of expressing oneself. Yes, excess use of it dilutes its spunk, but the right precision, or just the right circumstances, can enhance the story. Words have power, including profanity. 

Besides, remember what Mrs. Weasley said in The Deathly Hollows? Does that one moment make the book worst? No, instead, it serves as a moment of kick...butt.

Also, there's the whole realism thing. And tone. 

Condescending

Here's the second paragraph that I disagree with.

The problem with today’s young adult books is a reader doesn’t know what they’re getting into until they’re knee deep in the mire. This goes for swearing, sex and violence. Ever try to stop a teen from ‘enjoying’ something which contains sex, foul language or gore? Of course an allowance is made for the genre bridging the innocence of middle grade books and adult-level reading. But how much is too much? How do we protect the sanctity of innocence until a young adult is ready to become an adult if what they’re reading reveals all?
As an author of Picture Books up through Young Adult, I feel the need to protect my young readers from what they’re seeing in movies and television, hearing in the lyrics of their music and experiencing while playing their video games. Teens aren’t allowed to remain innocent and naiive anymore…and I think it’s a shame on our society.

The implication here is that teens need to be "protected" from mature subject matters.

Personally, this "sanctity of innocence" concept is fishy. It's way too late for me. This is the Age of the Internet, where I know exactly what "S&M" means. On the other hand, the aunt that gave me that Rihanna album that has a song of the same name is being all nervous.

Sheltering teens is not what we want. We want knowledge. We want maturity, not to be contained in a world of oversanitized, squeaky clean stories. To the point that we develop hives when we stumble onto the real world without a chance to test the waters behind the adult's backs.

Thing is, we are too old to want to be innocent and naive.

The Real Problem

And as one fellow writer at the forum said, "cursing is a red herring". It's a scrap goat to even worse problems.

Thing is, we need YA that have swearing, sex and violence. But not for the sake of it. Having edginess for the sake of it is the kind of problem this blogger is concerned about. Mindless stuff. Grimy, pointless slog.

On the other hand, the same gateway to empty entertainment is also the road to some of the most powerful themes out there. Sometimes, you have to be dark. Would The List have the same impact if we stripped all the drinking and anorexia and sex and other harsh aspects of life?

Of course not! The categorizing of girls into "prettiest" and "ugliest" is a harsh topic that require harsh content to convey this in the most natural way possible. Trying to blast the germs away would only expose it as 

Although few like a preacher in their fiction, there are many doors that adults prefer us to not open. That only makes us want to open them more. Since we're going to break through anyway, you might as well hand us the key and meet as at the end of the road.

Get that metaphor?

Conclusion

In the end, I respect the kind of books she writes. We need those kinds of books. There are some teens that want a taste of innocence and nativity, or just like a great story without mature content.

However, cursing and other such stuff is here to stay. And since it's here to stay, the solution isn't to obliviate it, but to embrace it, shine a light through it, and make the most out of it.

Teens will get kicked into the mire. At least let them swim to the other side.

YOUR TURN:What's your opinion on cursing, violence, sex, drugs, and so on? How do you think they should be handled?

If you haven't already, type in your e-mail address to receive updates in your inbox!

yMusic: "Hello" by Karmin

Amy Heidemann with an Asian-esque bun in Chinatown.
Remember to scroll over the image!
Ah, Karmin, the hip-pop duo who is one of many that hit the YouTube jackpot. I've reviewed them before, and now they're back on this blog.

I've been putting my support behind them. For example, in a About to Pop poll, I voted over Nicki Minaj for Karmin. And since the latter's fanbase rallied up, they earned the duo more radio play.

Hopefully, they'll chart.

Last week, they released the music video for the title track of their debut album, "Hello".

Did they shoot a bulls-eye?


One Year Anniversary: Reflecting on The YA's Dogtown

I'm holding off yMusic until tomorrow, since there's something more important to be blogging about.

It's this blog's birthday!

:D

Take a peek at how this blog evolved over the months.


Writer's Update: 8/10/12 (Cross-Country)

I'm sorry for not posting this Wednesday, or Thursday.

Right now, as I'm writing this, I'm feeling a little tired. I need to stop putting stuff off until night, when my mind wants to jump onto YouTube.

At least Kanye West's album is fantastic.

School starts next week, on the 14th.

I've been doing cross-country. Every day. Two hours in the morning. My hamstrings have been hurting. When it moves toward afternoons during first semester, I hope it gets easier--relatively.

It requires a lot of discipline.

Which I need to apply to the rest of the day.

On Thursday, I sort of burnt my time on the iPhone. And then waste time on a website once I was at the computer. And asked Dad to take the family out for pizza, just to get unplugged.

I read a few pages yesterday.

Saturday happens to be this blog's anniversary, when it happened to be called "Daily Life of a Young Aspiring Writer", and I had no idea I couldn't do a pure journalism blog. These Writer's Updates are a artifact of this blog's original purpose.

Something to celebrate, right?

Maybe I should drift a little more toward that concept again.

I'm considering doing a blog post about it tomorrow. And hold off the review of Karmin's "Hello" until the next day. And then use Monday for a response to an article that houses a opinion that comes off as condensing to young people like me.

I'm not sure whatever to link to the offending article or not.

By the way, I am rambling.

I actually like this rambling style, but it's not practical.

What do you think?

...

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No Weekly Round-up This Week

As apart of finishing all my before-school commitments, which I'll probably elaborate on tomorrow, I decided that compiling the weekly round-up for this week is too much of an effort on top of everything else. I might tweet a few articles, and share some onto Google+, but I don't have any plans to compile them together with comments.

It's not too hard, but I'm cutting corners. I'm already cheating on my enforced absence on TV Tropes, but since I use the Article Dump thread there to put together my Friday blog posts, I'll be less tempted to waste time there by suspending one blog duty for the week.

Sorry, guys. :/

However, if you guys want one...link to some articles you loved. Just put them in the comments. If there are enough, and I go through with sharing links on Google+, I might organize a more informal one.

Want a hand in the blog and some cookies? Seize the day!

And don't worry! I'll promise to resume the Weekly Round-up next week--if school doesn't bombard me with too much homework!

If you haven't already, type in your e-mail address to sign up for e-mail updates!


5 Writing Lessons from Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Amusingly enough, I intended to write a blog post about Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John back in 2011--when I wasn't serious enough. I even left a comment on his author's blog about me going to write a review of it. Of course, I didn't follow through. 

He happened to respond. Embarrassing, huh?

But I finally got to it.

Five Flavors of Dumb cover.
Hmm...four band members in the back.
Five Flavors of Dumb is a fantastic book. Instead of doing a conventional review, since I'm not mainly a book blogger, here's five lessons you can take away from the book to apply to your own writing:

yMusic: "Pound the Alarm" by Nicki Minaj (With a Bonus)

Little Sibling thinks she looks like a peacock.
Dad thinks she looks like a cockatiel. A sexy cockatiel.
Oh, oh, oh.
Come fill my glass a little more.
We're about to get up and burn this floor.

Yes, another Nicki Minaj review. Nothing you can do about it. But I have been waiting to feature this on my blog for the last two or three weeks. I even expressed this want on YA Confidential! I was so off the mark.

And now I'm going to dig into this Caribbean carnival. Not of the clowns kind, the sexy, sexy kind.

WARNING: It's a rap song. What do you expect?

Weekly Round-up: 8/3/12

After looking for if I had any "show not tell" articles among my round-ups (I could only find two among half of the articles), I have been considering down a "best of the best" kind of collection. As in, some of the best blog posts linked in this weekly series.

Thoughts?


Monday:

Tuesday:

Thursday:

Writer's Update: 8/1/12 (Ch-ch-changes! And Beta Reading!)

Clip-art image of a black, sign-like person sprinting.
Run, devil, run.
Two weeks until school.

More specifically: thirteen days.

With the end of summer break looming closer and closer at a noticeable speed, I crafted a to-do list.

It's a little too long for comfort, and I'm not going to share it (the kitchen timer is on to remind me that I have something to do right after this post), but if I stop being lazy, and get myself to follow through with my commitment, I can get through these two weeks without having an emotional breakout in public.

That sounds like a reasonable goal?

Now that's out of the way...

Notice anything different?

Look up at the heading.