Reading To Write #2 – Blurb Words

Writers read, as the old axiom goes. This is a series of posts I’m doing about my reading and what it shows about me.

wordcloud

I’m in a bit of a stuck place at the moment — I’ve got the basics of what I want to write about written down, but figuring out what I want to read about and writing that niche market got me thinking about what I actually like to read. Maybe the book I’m writing isn’t something I’d be interested in reading and that’s where the problem is.

So I went back to my 5 star YA books, and started poking around. You can’t get much from the title of books, nor the author, and while I could note down what each of the books was about, why would I put in that effort when I could throw their blurbs into my stats machine?

I grabbed the blurbs for 23 fantasy ya books with 5 star ratings (the list from last week’s post, but without Tamora Pierce or Diane Duane, as I felt those books were more about what things shaped me, rather than what I love to read). From there I went to goodreads and grabbed their blurbs and then started messing around with the words contained within.

This isn’t as simple as it sounds on the outset — when you throw a bunch of text into a word frequency counter, words like “don’t” get split into two words “don” and “t”. Additionally, words with “–” in them end up getting mashed together. So there was a need for a bit of clean up. But beyond that, there were plenty of words that essentially were the same word, but maybe had a plural to it, or were a different tense, and these words get counted separately.

I ended up going through the list to divide them out (a very manual process) to end up at the word cloud above.

From there, let me draw a few conclusions.

Top used word: “but”

Keep in mind these are words that come from blurbs and I got rid of all the “the”s and “a”s to keep the list clean. But is an interesting word only in that it shows that there’s some sort of misinformation the characters have. With the word ‘but’ appearing 31 times, it appeared 1.34 times per blurb.

28 one
22 world
18 all
18 magic

Unsurprisingly, given these are fantasy novels, the next four words feel very fantasy. World definitely feels like a word that would indicate that I love the book as world building is a huge part of my love of books. As is magic. The other two words, “one” and “all” indicate a certain amount of sweeping epic, which, again sounds rather like something I would love to write.

[Math note: since this is just for fun and I’m talking about myself, I’m not being particularly rigorous about proving my point — if this were a study, or I was doing actual stats, these conclusions would be very iffy. I’m clearly cherry picking and it’s not good math form.]

Most surprising word: dragon

I love dragons as much as the next person, but in the top 23 ya fantasy books, I didn’t expect to see dragon show up so much. Clearly this is something to keep in mind.

Less surprising but I wasn’t aware of it as strongly: “father”, “family”, “friend”.

Found family is a big thing for me. I love stories that tell you it’s okay to chose who you spend your time with and collecting people around you to make up the family that you have picked out as yours.

Reading to Write #1 – 5 Star YAs

Writers read. It’s an old axiom, and one that I try and follow, but the result is a lot of data that I haven’t examined all that hard. Since 2013 I have been using Goodreads to track my reading throughout the year, and have amassed 675 books with ratings and genres. This project is an attempt to dig into my own data to figure out what I like to read and what, if anything, I can learn from it.

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I am a consummate round-upper, but that being said, I was surprised to discover that my YA 5 star books were so few (65). I initially thought to select all 5 stars, but quickly had to filter further — non-fiction typically rates pretty high for me, and my love of historical romance, while delightful for me to read, is not something I will be writing any time soon. Since YA is where I would like to end up writing, I filtered down to YA, and removed non-fiction, resulting in the small list.

Unsurprisingly, the list is mostly fantasy. Tamora Pierce, a long standing influence and the reason I want to be an author, being a huge reason (she accounts for 18 of the fantasy books), with Diane Duane following her at 9 books. You can see the formative pull of my reading (and here you can also see that I continue to re-read these books as know I read Tamora Pierce in the early 2000s).

Similarly to fantasy, sci-fi was mostly filled out by one author — Dan Wells. His Partial’s trilogy was one of my favorites written recently. Again showing off my re-reading, the other two books in the sci-fi category were the Dragonsinger books.

In historical fiction, I favor WWII novels, surprising myself. I’m not much for wartime novels, but Salt to the Sea and Code Name Verity pulled the four books in that direction (the two others were 1920s and 1600s). In this, and in contemporary my tastes ran towards the books that have made big names for themselves recently — The Hate U Give being the best example of this. I tend to not read contemporary unless it is highly recommended, and this was borne out in the data.

 

See my website for a more interactive version of this.

2019 comes rattling down on us

I don’t know quite what I thought was going to happen between the last time I posted and now, but it’s fine. It’s been a year and a half — no one needs to think about how much time I’ve wasted.

I’m going to try and get back on the horse.

One of my goals for 2019 is to review every book I read (and the goal is 144).

Because of my love of data and my need for a project, I’m contemplating doing some simple stats that come along with each book. What, exactly, those stats will be, I’m still figuring out.

I also think I’m going to rank them on enjoyableness for me — it’ll be a list at the end of the year that shows me where the books shook out. I’m interested to see how things work out, especially since I don’t have a reading list, just goals.

Anyways, that announced, I’m off to think about stats and what kind of information I want on every book I read!

Lessons Learned

Now that I’m done with Pitch Wars (I mean, unless I get selected, but that’s getting ahead of myself), I’m starting to work on my next project. I real excited about it guys — it’s got magic, and a heist, and one of my all time favorite characters is going to play a major role in it*.

I know I posted a while ago about how I divide up my outlines, but as I close out the editing on Node Maker (for now), I started thinking about the things I learned while doing the editing.

Like how I really dislike editing.

Actually that’s not true. I do enjoy digging around in the plot and trying to make it shine more. The problem being that the plot I thought it was and the plot it turned out to be were slightly different, and left me feeling unsatisfied with the end result.

I seem to struggle with the character arc and making it work for me.

So as I work on this next book, I’m trying to be much more thorough on the character arc planning, on making sure that each character has clear motivations and wants.

I’m also changing up my system a little. Last time I wrote in 2,000 word chunks, and I ended up short on words. I’m not entirely sure how I always ended at about 60,000 words, but I did, and it felt not great. Partly because I know I can write more but didn’t want to add in a bunch of filler just to hit a word count. This time I’m trying for 1,000 word chunks. 80 of them. Maybe this will also help with the character arcs, and making sure I hit the beats that need to get hit.

Other things I learned: define your magic system early and well. I really like my magic system for Node Maker. It’s interesting and different, and there are rules to it, while also being open ended enough that there is freedom for me to play around in it. Unfortunately, I didn’t define it very well in the beginning, and so at the end of the book, trying to make the “villain” of the piece adhere to the rules was much harder, since I needed her to do specific things to drive the plot.

As I work on the outline for my next book I’m trying to keep track of all of the moving pieces, especially since in this book there are eight magic systems (I live to confuse myself), and will probably be multi-POV.

Once more into the breach my friends. I’m trying to work on character and voice again, but this time with a good amount of careful plotting so that I don’t come to the end with another monstrosity (like the one before Node Maker which had good characterization and voice, but messed up plot).

I guess we’ll see what happens.

 * Wait, but how, you ask. Well, friend, I have characters from all over the place cause I do a lot of collaborate story telling. The characters in my novels are based loosely on them. Different life experiences and worlds will change a person after all, but having a core personality is useful for me.

Girl in the mirror

You know when you google yourself, you know, casually, to see what the other people with your name are up to? I found an entirely NEW Rosey Waters, who I feel the need to apologize to cause I’ve stolen a lot of RW usernames over the years.

I read her blog, because I am that kind of person, and it was weirdly emotional for me. Also oddly out of body in experience.

Sometimes I get those mirror image moments, the thought that maybe we’re staring at each other from the other side of the glass.

Then I write about it.

I’ve got a lot of mirror stuff going on in my book. It’s not an uncommon device, but I was intrigued about the world that exists in opposite of what you can see, and what happens if one side of the mirror dies. Your mirror version must vanish, right?

Well, we’ll see.

Back to editing.

Announcement (of a sort)

Sending your book to beta readers is a horrifying and exhilarating experience. For the first time, people are looking at your work and changing it from thoughts in your head into thoughts in their heads.

(At some point I should write a post about the way that books are a collaboration between author and reader and my many feelings on being a reader and a writer. Self: note this down. /completely forgets immediately)

Anyways, I am super grateful to my wonderful beta readers (Paula, Kat, Christy, Alex, Alexandra) who have given me so much to chew on and work through in order to make the book better. They are all wonderful thoughtful writers themselves.

But the meat of this post, is that I’ve decided to hold off on publishing my book this summer. My desire to get it done isn’t really helping make it better, and I think that what I really want is a traditional publishing deal. If I can’t get that, I might still self publish — I don’t think the book is bad — but it just means I’m going to take a breather, and get ready to look for agents (while doing Pitch Wars, since there is a happy coincidence of timing there).

And… that’s all.

 

EDIT: I AM TERRIBLE, and forgot to add in Madeline, who did SO MUCH WORK on the first draft that it wouldn’t even get close to being ready for the second round of beta readers. YOU ARE A PEACH MADELINE, absolutely (I totally didn’t change a character name so you wouldn’t have the same name as the villain, nope, not me). ALSO A LOVELY AND SENSITIVE WRITER WHOSE BOOK I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO!

July News

I’ve been yelled at told with good intent three times this week that I need to be working on my novel.

The problem is, I have gotten distracted by the idea for a fantasy heist novel.

Someone save me.