1st Anniversary Post: Top Posts and the State of the Novel

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I set up camp on Wordpress a year ago to connect with other readers and writers, and establish some internet presence while I tried to get my novel published. As far as publishing goes, I totally failed, but I’ll get to that later. First, some fun blogging anniversary stuff—

The Best of A.D. Martin Posts:

Sex definitely sells—well, according to my post statistics, anyway.

Without looking too closely at all the facts, the posts which garnered the most clicks over the life of my blog—by quite a large margin—has been:

1. Two Seasons of Arrow, Seven Women for Oliver Queen; and

2. Cool-ish Actors, Annoying Characters

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper

Yeah, people click on these guys.

For the post about Arrow, the post seemed to have built considerable SEO which helped it to show up in Google results somewhat prominently (as I write this, if you search for “Oliver Queen” and “Women,” the post will be in the first page or two). I also noticed that not long after I made the post, someone awesome linked to it on the IMDb discussion board for the show. Thanks, anonymous person!

Aimee Teegarden

I should probably watch Teegarden’s newer stuff.

The SEO of the Arrow post aside, there is one thing these two posts have in common: attractive people. By coincidence (not by design; I wish I were that clever), the images displayed on my “Top Post & Pages” are of shirtless vigilantes and Aimee Teegarden, for the Arrow and “Cool-ish Actors” posts, respectively. I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people find Oliver Queen, Mr. Diggle and Ms. Teegarden pleasant to look upon and this seems to have played a part in giving these posts a higher view-count than my other posts.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Berlin

Coming back into the Eurozone after Scandinavia, the price of food and lodging seemed super-reasonable. My train out of Copenhagen brought me to Hamburg where I had some time before the next leg of my journey to Berlin; I spent that time at a Christmas market eating Christmas-y snacks (assuming you count deep-fried dough covered in Nutella as a Christmas snack).

Hamburg Christmas Market

Christmas Market in Hamburg

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GoT Season 5 – Diversions, Deaths, Rebirths

I’d read somewhere that the showrunners for Game of Thrones were planning to diverge from George R.R. Martin’s books—getting away from the source material and GRRM’s plans for the novel series. Knowing this, I went into the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones both dreading and anticipating David Benioff and D. B. Weiss’ changes.

The following will contain massive *SPOILERS* for the show and the novels if you’re not up to date.

Some Characters are Better Off Missing

jeynepooleThe show wrote off a number of characters, making the plot less convoluted and saving themselves the trouble of so many named characters with lines. For the most part, a lot of these characters should be glad they went missing.

In both versions, Jeyne Poole is Sansa Stark’s best bud who goes with Sansa from Winterfell to King’s Landing where both their fathers are murdered. Good times. In the show, however, that’s where Jeyne’s journey ends; she vanishes after the first season, which is probably for the best. Continue reading

Assigned Myself Some Reading

So, I haven’t been reading enough and have decided to assign myself a bunch of books to get through. These books will include “new” literary novels, literature I accumulated as an English major, and a bit of genre fiction.

infinite jest coverFirst up, thanks to Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts and the fact that Barnes & Noble keeps displaying this book so prominently, is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I’m already some pages into the book and have formed some shallow and tentative opinions. The length of the thing wasn’t intimidating to me, having read my share of fantasy novels, but the prose has been interesting to adapt to.

The Plan: Burn through some newer literary works, then get back to Kerouac and Shakespeare (or someone else from the before times) for one book/play each before moving on to what I think would be my first steampunk novel.

Liberal Arts — Movie Review

liberal arts josh radnor elizabeth olsen“Everything is okay.”

Jesse Fischer (Josh Radnor) is 35 years old and working as in admissions for some college in NYC. As if his chronic ennui wasn’t enough, at the start of the film, some jerk steals Jesse’s bag of dirty clothes from the laundromat and his girlfriend leaves him.

Ennui (noun): a feeling of dissatisfaction due to being super-bored (generally caused by reading one too many literary novels).

Coincidentally, Jesse is invited to return to his beloved alma mater for his second-favorite professor’s retirement dinner where he meets a nineteen-year-old drama major named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), and then the rest of the movie happens.

I enjoyed this film written by, directed by, and starring Josh Radnor.

And into *SPOILER* territory we go—

Ted Mosby's even-more-somber twin brother, and Wolverine's cousin.

Ted Mosby’s even-more-somber twin brother, or Wolverine’s cousin?

The character of Jesse Fischer is a less fun version of Ted Mosby (Radnor’s character from How I Met Your Mother). They’re both somewhat pretentious and are dissatisfied with life, and both seem to ward off that sense of dissatisfaction by courting women. However, Jesse Fischer’s final growth in Liberal Arts is more internal than it is external (Teddy Westside’s need to find “the one”).

For the most part, Jesse attains new stages of growth throughout the film by being pushed by another character. As such, I’ll discuss the film by focusing on these characters.

Hippy Zac Efron

Jesse meets Nat (Zac Efron) while wandering the college campus at night (as we alum tend to do). Nat is not a student at the school, but a hippy-drifter who seems to be there for no reason other than to remind Jesse that everything is okay. He does so by actually saying, “Everything is okay.” The script makes a self-referential nod toward Nat’s role by having Jesse say aloud that he’s not even sure Nat is really there.

Though I initially found Nat off-putting, I eventually took a liking to him and his stupid hat.

Better than the Scarlet Witch and whatever her name was on Godzilla

Elizabeth Olsen - Zibby - Liberal Arts

How can you say no to this face?

Zibby, perhaps my favorite Elizabeth Olsen performance to date, is Jesse’s nineteen-year-old love interest. With Jesse’s nostalgia for his college years and Zibby’s disenchantment with men her age (who, let’s face it, generally aren’t the greatest), these two begin their relationship with a platonic guise which inevitably gives way to romance. Jesse is understandably reluctant to start the relationship due to the age gap, but after some math (e.g., “when I’m 86, she’ll be 70″) he decides to go for it. When he learns she’s a fan of an unnamed series of vampire novels, however, cracks begin to show.

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From Pantser to Plotter

I’m betraying the Pantser camp. Pantsers are dirty and smelly, and they throw baby carrots at people for no reason. Jokes aside—after nearly two years of editing my novel and outlining new projects, I’ve come to prefer meticulous planning over off-the-cuff writing.

For those who don’t know, a Pantser is one who writes “by the seat of [his or her] pants” without planning ahead, whereas a Plotter is one who outlines the novel’s story and narration to a significant extent before writing the first chapter.

Writing as a Pantser just created more work for Future Me.

pantser story arc

Readers might get stuck in the crotch and never get to the other pant leg.

Three years ago, I started a manuscript with minimal planning. I had some ideas for the world and setting, created psychological profiles and backgrounds for a few main characters, and then I let those characters lead themselves through 80,000 words of meandering hi-jinks. My first draft, more appropriately referred to as a “junk draft” or “draft zero,” suffered from significant structural problems which has required a lot of editing.

Lack of planning leads to excessively lopsided story arcs.

In a misguided attempt to write a commercial YA with a literary feel, I wrote my first chapters as slice-of-life vignettes with the intent of creating a sense of normalcy before crazy junk happened (note: there’s nothing with a commercial-literary hybrid, I just didn’t do it right). I let my characters do whatever they wanted, and they did a whole lot of nothing for too many chapters (albeit with some fun banter). This problem extended into much of the “rising action” portion of the MS which, essentially, rose too slowly.

Characters, like children and actors, need some direction.

To be clear, even as a Pantser, I often had conclusions in mind as soon as I opened up a new plot line. The problem was I’d have two or three conclusions and take too long to decide on one of them.

Outlining reins in the characters and helps build a proper arc.

plottersstoryarc

So much sexier.

Knowing a majority of the plot points, both major and minor, it’s easier to adjust the pace of individual scenes so they properly contribute to the pace of the overall novel. So, the rising action has only minor dips from the resolutions of subplots rather than momentum-breaking pitfalls which results in an anti-climactic ending.

“Double rainbow . . . what does this mean?” Well, it should mean something.

Ideally, everything described in a novel should tie into the overall plot, character development or world building—preferably all three. The more you know of the whole story, the better you’ll be able to emphasize the importance of the individual pieces by linking them together. A lot of these connections can be established and elaborated during the revision process, but it saves so much time if you plan things out a bit earlier as opposed to retroactively squeezing things in.

So, for my future novels . . .

Having more writing experience, I can probably be a much better Pantser if I choose to write without outlining. However, I’m definitely going to try to be a Plotter for my next project or two.

A.D.M. Was Here: Scandinavia

After my trip to Iceland, I returned to London for a one-night pit stop. One weekend into the winter break, most of my classmates had already left the country. Many went back to the United States to spend the holidays with their families, and a few others went off to do some more traveling. I prepped myself to do the latter.

I moved my luggage from the flat in Bloomsbury over to my law school’s building and packed about seven days’ worth of clothing into a canvas “holdall” bag from Marks & Spencer. The clothes would last me two weeks as I rode the rails around Europe as part of my self-imposed rite of passage to become a full-fledged pretentious writer (note: I washed my clothes at a hostel in Athens halfway through the trip).

The first stop on my solo trip was Scandinavia.

Oslo, Norway

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