Four Years and Counting…

Not looking bad, Bessie. Not looking bad at all. (Source: Twitter)

Well, look who’s back!

Yes, yes, I’m still here, which means TABL is here too (yay smiley face). Anyway, I know that I haven’t been around as such and I keep on saying that I’ll be back, yaddi yaddi ya. Truthfully, I’ll have to say that work has been taking up a lot of my time, being essential and all during this cruddy and uncertain climate.

But enough of that emo crap, we’re here to celebrate TABL’s fourth birthday! Woohoo! As always, I’m grateful for anybody that stumbles across this blog, and glad that I’ve connected with like-minded people that share the same enthusiasm for writing and reading, and sharing their passions even if it isn’t literature-related. Admittedly, I wish I could write more on here like I used to. I just have a lot of blogpost ideas but my computer is… argh! It keeps shitting itself, but I’ll be getting it repaired during my time off work in the next month.

As well as reviews and poetry interpretation, I also want to post more “guides” like the POC one, and rambles about the story writing process. While I’m not a perfect writer or a professional one at that, I’d still like to share my thoughts on character types, tropes, and the like, to maybe have a think about in your own time, or to share your insight (if you want to, of course!) with others.

The four years being on here have been sporadic, just like life itself. At least, here on WordPress, we have a little niche of our own where we can take a break from the stress and unpredictability of life, reading and writing about things we love. We still have each other, and again, thanks for popping in to TABL every now and then. You’re always welcome here, don’t forget about that! Stay tuned, I’ll be with you when I can!

Just a Thought on Procrastination

Ah. Another year, another blog post. Now, I think I may have gotten to the bottom of my blogger’s block. Apologies for incoherence, I’m writing this at midnight and I’m tired as heck!

I’m a procrastinator (and not proud of it). The more I think about doing something, the more it gets pushed down my agenda. I tell myself to write another blog post, but… ugh. It’s not like I hate blogging or anything—I love it, but I guess I’m putting some pressure on myself.

It can be said the same thing about reading. I pressure myself to read, but then again, I haven’t been reading as much. It might be because I get distracted by things like Netflix, podcasts, or YouTube… *sigh*. It’s easy to lose track of time by streaming information and I guess it’s easier to listen than to read (because I’m getting lazy—sue me!).

However, I don’t want to put any more pressure on myself. I suppose I’ve gotten a little timid because other bloggers are racking up followers and pushing out as many blog posts as possible, and I feel like I’m being left behind. I don’t want to care about that anymore. I have to remember that this is a hobby and something I want to do during my downtime! I also want to ease myself back to reading, so sometime last year, I splurged my disposable income on some novels I’ve had my eye on for ages. Here’s a happy louse with some of her purchases below:

Oh look, a halo made of books and a doofus-y face to boot!

I decided to do this so I can revive my interest in reading again.

Currently, I’m ready The Haunting of Hill House. Again, I don’t want to pressure myself to read and complete novels in a certain time frame, because that will likely make me procrastinate more (yikes!). Reading is not a race, but rather, something like meditation. Something to do at one’s own pace during their own time.

Anyway, this is just another diary entry to put my thoughts into words… I miss everyone and I miss blogging. Belated Happy New Year and let’s make 2021 a little more productive!

TABL Turns Two!! (Actually Three. My bad)

Hello everyone!

Not much going on here but MY BABY IS TWO( ETA its actually THREE)! Admittedly, I haven’t been writing in here as much as I’d like to, but I’m glad to still be here. As always, I’d like to thank everyone for reading/skimming/lurking/visiting the blog, even if there hasn’t been much content published.

Wow… two three years is a lot of time (duh). I started this blog as something to motivate me to read my set novels for my studies but it completely evolved into something not different, but better. Here, I can share and express what’s on my mind regarding literature, and although I should do this more, see what other bloggers are writing about. WordPress has been a godsend to my life, and having a blog as a writer has its perks.

Since writing is going through a major shift from print to digital, it’s a great advantage for any writer to have a blog. This is because with the skills we learn from having one i.e HTML, SEO, content management systems, possibilities with jobs are endless (take that, naysayers that think Arts is a rubbish degree!). Plus, aside from journaling and working on manuscripts or articles, a blog is one more medium to exercise writing.

Anyway, I’m gonna celebrate with a glass (or two, or five) of some cheap Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve got a night shift on tomorrow, so I’ll be just right getting on the sauce tonight (winky face emoji). But for now, ciao!

Vanity Unfair: When Do Publishing Companies Become Unscrupulous?

Hello, my sweets!

How are you all?  Hopefully good–and if you haven’t been good, I hope you’re feeling better.  Anyway, today’s hot topic is all about vanity publishing.  Since a lot of us are aspiring writers, it’d make our hearts leap if we ever see that a publishing company has taken interest in our submission/s.  We’d think that we finally hit the jackpot and our eyes sparkle at the possibility of making it big, baby!

Here’s where I say the big, dreaded ‘BUT’: What if there are publishing presses out there that are taking advantage of writers?  It turns out, I learned that some companies are doing this, and specifically, they target writers who either a) want to make it as a published author or b) are jaded and are tired of facing rejection after rejection.  This is where the vanity publisher comes in.

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On the Internet’s Seemingly Favourable Writing Program, Scrivener

[Disclaimer: This ain’t a paid presentation!  I’m getting exactly $0.00 for this post.]

How’s it going, guys?  We’re now into February (almost March), and before we know it, it’ll be bloody Christmas again!

Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience with the writing program Scrivener.  Initially, I was a tad bit sceptical of the program because I kept seeing praise for it online in places like Reddit and writing forums, and I thought that there seems to be some sort of annoying circle jerk around it.  However, I’m currently on a trial version of Scrivener, and I’m definitely planning on buying the full version.  So here on this post, I’ll be sharing my experience (so far).

Well then, what is Scrivener?

Scrivener is a writing program that is specifically designed to aid writers to formulate and draft their writing.  Although I’m currently using the program for my current project (a fiction novel), it can be used to write essays, short stories, non-fiction books, screenplays, you name it.  You could use it for basically anything.

How is it any different to using Word?

For starters, I personally think that Scrivener helps me be a bit more organised with my writing.  Before using this program, I used to have a few related documents–one doc being the manuscript, another for character profiles, and another for ideas and notes.  With Scrivener, everything is in one place.  The research, multimedia files, the character profiles, and any other notes or miscellaneous things are all there; I don’t have to keep on switching between word documents.

Okay, so we’re only hearing good things so far… is there anything that you don’t like about Scrivener?

Yes.  To a newbie, trying to figure out the cogs and wheels of the program is quite a challenge.  Usually, programs are intuitive and user-friendly, but Scrivener isn’t like that.  What I did was look up tutorials on YouTube to get the gist of the program, and then I used it the way I wanted to.  So yeah, it’s kind of complicated at first, and it may be discouraging to some other users.  Additionally, there may be too many features– many other writers online seem to use these features all at once while claiming that they’re all useful, but sometimes I find these features a little distracting and I end up not using some of them at all i.e. side notes.  Like the old cliché goes, less is more.

How is Scrivener helping you as a writer?

I think that there’s a slight improvement with my narrative writing skills, and one way of it helping me is with characterisation.  There are templates to character profiles (or y’know, there are many other templates online that you can tinker with), but I like the template provided because it helps me make a character that’s much more “deeper”, rather than a cardboard cut-out of a trope (I admit that characters in my old works were like this, and I’m planning on writing about that in a future post).  This may also be some wack, psychological thing, but I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get my groove back as a (n amateur) writer.  I think I’ve said in a previous post that my passion and motivation has kind of dwindled down in the past few years or so, but now I find myself working on my story almost every day, simultaneously with my Business Administration coursework.

Oh ffs.  Did Scrivener save a bunch of orphans from a burning building?

Yes.  Yes it did.

Anyway, the overall outlook on Scrivener for me is positive.  I like it because it has been a clever, useful, and motivational tool for my writing.  Also, this goes for every other program that exists: use it however you want to use it.  There are guides out there written by others on how to use Scrivener, but I found that their methods don’t really mesh well with me.  By no means is this post a shit on Microsoft Word, because I still use it to write documents such as reports, and it has a number of useful features unique to it, that Scrivener lacks.

This review piece might sound very circle-jerky and like a paid ad/review/similar BS, but I swear on the little bit of earth that’ll be my grave in about a hundred years’ time, this is an honest review with no outer influence.

So, what do you think of Scrivener?  Love it?  Hate it?  What’s your experience?  Leave your comments down below, and I’ll see you in the next post.  Keep chewin’ through those books!

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Can We Really Avoid Clichés Though?

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Nawwmygod this image has nothing to do with this blog post but look how cute they are (ignoring the fact that they could shred us to ribbons if we made them angry)

[Edit: I accidentally reverted this post back to a draft, because the editor was being super-glitchy, and I had a bit of a misadventure when I tried the “new editor”, but luckily I’m back to the classic one.  A word of advice, do not switch to the new editor or else your blog will be cursed!]

So, here’s another thing I want to get off my chest.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about this topic because it’s something we all deal with, whether we read or write a story.  We pick up a book, begin reading it, and as we take in the plot, we think, ‘well, I’m sure I’ve read this before’.  Sometimes, if we’re sassy enough, we roll our eyes.  We have times where we have an idea for a story and begin plotting.  Then, halfway through development, we go, ‘aw shucks, this isn’t original at all!’.  For instance, I’m planning on writing a romance novel (something that isn’t mindf%$#ery for once), and while the love interest isn’t a sexy, chiselled, 6-packed bajillionaire, he still has inner demons, and the trials that my lovebird protagonists go through aren’t exactly original either (no spoilers!).  So this was one trigger to my exploration of clichés in literature.
 
So this brings me to the question: can we really avoid clichés and certain tropes in literary works?  As avid literature fans, we all desire a breath of fresh air when we search for new books to read.  I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers and the like, but then, there comes a point where I can predict a plot twist or pinpoint the true villain of the story (usually a wolf in sheep’s skin).  Are these devices repetitive?  Most certainly.  Are they boring?  Not necessarily.
 
Sometimes I feel that clichés and tropes can be inevitable at times.  It’s almost as if some genres are born to have particular tropes associated with them.  I suppose clichés work, and they sell.  Not only are the tropes and cliches within the story repetitive, so are the book covers!  In romance, there’s a woman in the arms of a very sexy (and often shirtless) man, and in crime and thrillers, there is either a dark corridor/alley or a silhouette of a person, and in sci-fi, there’s usually alien landscapes with a celestial body of some sort in the background (often a photoshopped Saturn).  Perhaps the reason that book covers are designed in a specific way so that they can appeal to their intended audience.  Though to me, I think that most typical romance covers look tacky, but that’s my own personal taste (minimalist covers are my favourites).  But at least they scream ‘ROMANCE’ to the fans of romantic stories.  Vice versa for other genres.
 
The main argument that I want to put forth is that no, we can’t always avoid certain clichés and tropes when we’re reading or writing particular genres of literature.  Despite critiquing the tropes/clichés, I’m also guilty of using some of them myself (ergo, I’m a HYPOCRITE).  I suppose the reason that we probably get a little too nit-picky with either our own or someone else’s works is because we want ORIGINALITY™.  But, no story is truly original, do you agree?  Stories do follow a certain type of formula to some extent, and we’re kind of pushing pressure on ourselves to try and write something that’s completely out of left field.
 
But I also want to say it won’t hurt to use them, and people are going to be peeved at clichés and stereotypes whether we like it or not, and we can’t impress everyone.  Yeah, they can be annoying and overused, but perhaps they could work if they are written well.  Additionally, is it really that fair to compare books to others in the same genre?
 
I’d like to hear your thoughts, and ask:
  • What do you think of the common clichés and tropes present in literature?  You can talk about genre-specific ones too.
  • What’s your favourite cliché or trope?  What is your least?
  • Have you ever added your own twist to an overused cliché/trope?  How did you do this?
  • Or, has an author whose works you’ve read twisted them around?
Anyway, now’s the time to say toodles, and have a nice day, wonderful reader!
 
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The Future

No posts for September and October?  Naughty me!

How’s it going fellow literary nerds?  It sure has been a while.  The reason why I haven’t been posting is due to life in general.  Initially I was busy with a part-time retail job, but the fate of my position at the shop is somewhat dire; this particular shop isn’t exactly busy and therefore it doesn’t seem as though it makes enough profit to support another employee (there are three employees in total, so you can just imagine how small our shop is!)

With the stress of wondering if I still have a job, career hunting and anticipation, I had no choice but to put TABL on a hiatus.

As of late, I’ve been thinking about the future and the direction that I want to take.  As you know, I’ve completed my degree in English, and I’m currently in some post-university limbo, or so that’s how I feel.  I’ve been actively applying for jobs left, right, and centre and these positions aren’t necessarily related to English whatsoever.

There are always going to be those individuals that will take a jab at English degrees (or Arts degrees in general), saying that we’ll end up remaining unemployed or flipping burgers at McDonald’s (as if that’s a bad thing), but they’ve got it entirely wrong.  Sure, it’s not as though you can get a job straight away after you graduate; but you do gain transferable skills while you study!  Such things include time management, teamwork, computer/digital literacy, research skills, editing, and attention to detail.  Sounds like a good package, right?  So the best thing to do is stay optimistic!

How have I been applying for jobs?  I’ve been looking at jobs through LinkedIn.  Personally, I find that the job postings there are more “professional” if you get my drift.  While there are sites such as Indeed and SEEK,  not all companies advertise positions on those sites.  You can also learn a lot about a company via LinkedIn too; it saves you the googling, and you can actually see if a company is legitimate or not.  I’ve heard stories about shonky job positions being placed on SEEK and Gumtree, and there are some job listings with vague details; some don’t even reveal which company you’ll be working for.  The whole thing could turn out to be a bait and switch for all we know.  But, I’m not saying that these sites are horrible, however!  If you’ve been successful getting a job through those services, then that’s great!  Personally, for me, I just want to find employment through a different means.

I’m also seriously looking at moving for employment.  But so far, with the funds I have at the moment, I don’t think it’ll happen just yet.  My prior choice would be Melbourne since the Arts scene is thriving there and a bigger city would likely have bigger opportunities.  Otherwise, there is always Sydney, Brisbane, and other places here and there.  Also, if I move somewhere (cough, cough, Melbourne), I have a feeling that I’ll get my motivation back.  I just feel that my hometown is beginning to feel stale, for lack of better word.  A change in scenery may wake me up a little.  Despite the media’s romanticism revolving around small, pastoral towns, trust me: you don’t want to live in one!

Aside from job seeking, I’m also considering taking up another course to gain more qualifications.  Although English is my passion (and always will be), it’s also best for me to have a “day job”; something for me to get by while I strive towards my dreams.  In the recent few months, I learned that a career in retail isn’t for me; the reason is that I just don’t have the personality for it (I’m not exactly a people person and dealing with entitled customers can be draining at times).  In doing this, I feel that I’m going to keep my head above water.

Additionally, I’m going to announce that I’m open to freelance writing!  As you can see, I’ve revamped my banner (update: the blog’s whole theme!) yet again, as I also want this blog to be something attached to me career-wise, like a portfolio of some sort (but I’m still chewing through one book at a time, don’t you worry).  Perhaps it was about time I rebranded The Avid Book Louse.  While I’m job searching and making plans, I figured that the good ol’ Louse should really put her writing to more use.  Rather than writing only on TABL, I can also write for others.  The things that I can write include:

  • Blog posts
  • Editorials
  • Opinion pieces
  • Essays
  • Reports
  • Creative Fiction
  • Reviews (book, film, etc)

If anyone wants to help out an aspiring writer, please contact me!

So yeah, I’ve been thinking about my future for the past few months.  It’s about time that I plan things through in a serious manner.  Anyway, my lovelies, I’m going work on more reviews after I post this, so stay tuned!

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A Disturbing Trend in YA Fiction

Starting now, I’m going to write my drafts on OneNote.  Why?  I don’t know whether it is just me, but sometimes, drafts don’t save properly; I click save and it doesn’t become ‘saved’ in faded grey text, and at times the time and date of the post doesn’t update to the latest (i.e. if I wrote a draft on the 8th of May and then edited and published it on the 21st of May, the post shows that it was published the 8th).  Maybe I’m not as tech savvy as I think I am, but for now, I thought I’d just play it safe and write my drafts elsewhere.  The benefits of this are that there are proper grammar and spell check tools on OneNote, so I’m happy doing things this way.  But, if you know how to fix this WordPress draft problem, your input will be appreciated!  Anyway, let’s move on to the real topic here.  Bear in mind, this is a rant, so I’m not exactly going to be formal, nor will my arguments be well laid out– this will be a train of thought.  I’m usually passive, not very argumentative about things unless it is something that I have a strong opinion on, so buckle up and go on this rocky ride with me.

Okay, so we aaaall know what this post is going to be about.  Countless other posts address this issue, but I’m in the mood to talk about my feelings about the ‘bad boy’ love interests in Young Adult Fiction.  Now before you think, ‘oh Louse, you’re having one of those “I am woman, hear me roar” moments, aren’t you?’ well, I wouldn’t be writing this if this trend in YA has died down, and I am quite fed up and concerned about the dead-horse trope that involves the good protag/troubled love interest.

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Fanfiction

Hey stranger!

I know that I said that updates on this blog would be less frequent, but today I’ve got a bit of free time and I’d like to share with you some thoughts that popped into my head.

Firstly, so it turns out, I don’t really follow plans.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to follow a schedule or anything like that anymore.  I’m just going to write whenever I want to, and I’ll write whatever I want, and I’ll be happier that way (and that’s the way blogging should be).  But don’t worry though, the T.S. 1888 series will be happening, and more reviews and writing tips are coming up sometime this year.

Anyway, without further diverging, I’d like to talk about fanfiction.  We’ve all encountered it if we were on the internet; they were my guilty pleasures when I was in high school.  It can be literally about anything from The X-Files to Naruto, or any media we consume.  The main characteristic of fanfiction is that the franchise, the characters, and most of the things involved in the fanfiction are not entirely our own.  There are people out there that abhor fanfiction because of this; apparently, they’re not being original, and that fanfiction writers are just lazy and can’t be arsed to make up their own universes and characters.

I can see where they’re coming from.  We often like to show our creativity through the things we make, be it a painting, drawing, a story, poem, or whatever, and if for instance, I painted a picture that is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s art style, you may think, ‘you’re just copying him.  Try and find your own style’.

But here’s where I’ll disagree with this stance.  While the universe, characters, the franchise of the media is not our own, the idea of the fanfiction is.  We can view fanfiction as some sort of wish fulfilment for ourselves; I may want to write a fanfiction about two characters that I want to become a couple (but never will because their original writers CAN’T SEE THE FACT THAT THEY BELONG TOGETHER).  Or, there may be an event that you wished could occur differently or have a different outcome.  The idea is yours.  I know the Fifty Shades franchise gets criticism for starting out as a fanfiction series (I’ve shown distaste for this series on my About page, but I’ve since edited that out, and yeah, my opinions about these books haven’t changed).  But, was it Stephenie Meyer’s idea to have Edward and Bella have some sort of f*cked up, Dom/sub relationship?  Answer: no.  It was E.L. James’ idea (or should I say, Snowqueens Icedragon).

You know what else is original?  Characters you wrote yourself.  Granted, original characters are often frowned upon; there are some dreaded Mary Sues and Gary Stus that make me cringe even to this day.  However, there have been some well-written original characters that blend perfectly with the world of the book/show/movie/anime etc.

There are also what are called Alternative Universes (I like these ones a lot), in which the characters well… they’re in an alternative universe; it speaks for itself.  They may be in an alternative time frame (21st-century characters are in the 19th century and vice versa).  These are original too!

In other words, my views on fanfiction are quite positive.  I mean, there are reaaaallly bad fanfictions out there, but there are also some really good ones too.  Fanfiction is creative.  It enables a person to use their creativity.  It encourages them to write and read a lot more, just like original stories.  Additionally, it also encourages people to write their own original stories eventually.  In fact, I’ve written a few fanfictions, but never published them.  I wrote a fair amount in high school, but eventually, I broke off and wrote my own original stories.  While there are some people that can create plots and characters at a drop of a hat, some others may need a stepping stone to get to that level of creativity.

Here’s a writing exercise for ya.  Choose a franchise of media you follow.  Choose a minimum of two characters from that franchise.  Let’s say that these characters are travelling from their hometown to a city they’ve never been to before.  Then suddenly, their mode of transportation fails to bring them to the desired place (i.e. the vehicle breaks down or they fall off the carriage and the horses run away), so these characters are left to walk.  What are their interactions and dynamics?  What do they say to one another?  Then, a stranger stops and offers them a ride to wherever they’re going to.  How do these characters react?  What happens next?

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say about the topic.  What do you think of fanfiction?  Have you written one?  Comment below!

I’ll see you when I see you.  Take care and stay creative!

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Writing People of Different Race, Religion, and/or Cultures: A Louse-y Guide

Good [whatever hour of day you’re in] everyone!

I’m back bigger and somewhat better than before, and today we’ll be talking about (you guessed it) writing people of different cultures and/or races.  So if you’re anything like the ol’ Louse, you may find yourself writing about these things– it doesn’t always have to be fictional writing, since anthropology requires you of this, and so does geography; but since this is a creative writing blog, this post will be focused more on fictional writing (open to script writers too).  Therefore, I’m just gonna give you all the lowdown from a (n amateur) writer’s perspective.

!!DISCLAIMER!! I’m not a published professional, and this particular topic may be sensitive to some, perhaps not at all to others.  But regardless, this is only one person’s insight of this sort of writing with the intention to provide tips and to start a discussion.  While I am a person of colour, that does not excuse me from being ignorant or wrong in some aspects.  Feel free to voice your concerns, corrections, or additional information by commenting below or via the contact form.

With that now out of the way, let’s carry on!

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