Editing My Novella, or the Red Pen of Death

I’ve put it off long enough.

I must edit the third draft of my story.

It’s been a while since I looked at this novella and, to be honest, I’m kind of terrified. Is it going to be better than I remember? Worse than I remember? I have no way of knowing until I reread it.

Will it stay a novella? Will I have to hack away at it until it’s a short story, or pile on it until it’s a full-length novel?

There are so many questions.

Unfortunately, there are no answers. 

Only the Red Pen.

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The Red Pen snorts at your characters’ backstories and your obvious social commentary. 

The Red Pen cares nothing for your need to impress your friends. It scoffs at your attempts at fictionalizing yourself and rewriting your high school years so everyone thinks you’re great and you date that hot guy from your chemistry class. 

There is no hope.

Only copyediting.

Remember that character you were going to develop, but then abandoned? The Red Pen does. That awkward sexual metaphor you made in the third chapter? The Red Pen noticed.

The Red Pen sees.

The Red Pen knows.

Wish me luck…

My Thoughts on “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl”

WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK.

Keep in mind I have not seen the Youtube web series that this book is based off of. My judgement is based purely on the novel itself.

Read synopsis here.

Buckle up, guys, this is going to be a long one.

My reading of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. One minute I’m completely enthralled by the characters and storyline. The next, I’m bored by YA tropes and tired clichés.

Pros: 

The pacing. I, personally, think the pacing is the book’s greatest strength. The only part where it lags is when Nolan tries to convince Sunshine she is a luiseach. I, and I’m assuming most readers at this point, have seen this done a million times so it bogs down the momentum the story is building up. More on this later.

Sunshine and her mother. I like the uniquely intimate relationship Sunshine has with her mother. In most YA ,the parents are either brushed aside, or made out to be complete jerks so it’s nice to see a change of pace with this story. It also makes her mother’s possession all the more devastating.

The romance. THERE IS NO CONVOLUTED LOVE TRIANGLE!!

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I also appreciate that the writer (or writers) is taking their time with developing the relationship between Nolan and Sunshine rather than just shoving them together or forcing an unnecessary third-party into the mix. The main focus stays on the demon possessing her mother as it should.

Atmosphere. Atmosphere is one of the central components in a horror book and helps set the tone for what is to come. I was deeply engaged throughout the author’s descriptions of the house and found myself easily able to map out each room. More impressively, the writer was able to do this without slowing down the pacing.

Victoria Wilde. I can’t think of why, but Victoria was one of the most believable characters in the novel for me. You can sense with every scene she was in just how tired and aggrieved she was by what had happened to her and her family. I honestly wish there had been more about her.

Cons: 

Sunshine. At the beginning of the novel, I adored her. I loved the strange name she gave her taxidermied owl (Dr. Hoo), I loved her strange glass unicorn collection, I loved her relationship with her adopted mother, and thought her narrative voice was compelling.

Then, without warning, her character falls down the rabbit hole into Tropeland and she becomes less and less like a real teenage girl and more like a fanfic version. I know she’s supposed to be more into old things than the normal person, but it was really off-putting to hear a 21st century girl say “gollly” or “gosh” unironically.

Also, I’m sorry, but Sunshine is a stupid name.

There, I said it. They explain in the book why she was named this, but I’m sure there are plenty of female names that mean “sunshine” or “light-bringer” so actually naming her “Sunshine” makes it sound like her mother was a hippie. Which, if you’ve read the book, is very much not the case.

Nolan. I like Nolan, but I can’t help feeling he is criminally underdeveloped. I appreciate that he isn’t your traditional hot jock, or jaded loner, but I wish there was more to him. Most of what we learn about him revolves around his grandfather in some fashion. We don’t know what his home life is like, what his hobbies are, what his social status in relation to his peers is, nothing.

Also, I groaned a bit when Victoria reveals Nolan is destined to be Sunshine’s “protector” now so they’re forever bonded. Can’t people just be people who do things because of their own motivations and character rather than because of “destiny”?

Yer a wizard, Sunshine. Unquestionably, the most annoying part of the book is when Sunshine fervently denies being a luiseach, prompting a completely unnecessary argument between her and Nolan.

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The chapter “Why Are We Fighting?” was very aptly named as I couldn’t find a single justification for it. It’s not even an actual fight, Sunshine just hurls unwarranted abuse at Nolan and he deflects. Evidently, the answer to the chapter’s question is: Because the writer says we’re supposed to.

I can’t think of an explanation as to why she would dismiss Nolan’s claims either. Hell, they have proof that ghosts exist and are capable of manipulating the living’s environment and even possessing people. Taking all of that into consideration, why is the fact that she’s a psychic so hard for her to believe?

Honestly, the logical gaff isn’t what gets me with this scene. What bothers me is that I’ve seen this a million times before, and it’s not even done well in this case. The writer makes no attempt to disguise the fact that the only reason they are having this argument is so she can get Nolan out of the way for a chapter or so.

When they finally reconcile, Nolan all but blows the event off like it was never that big of a deal. I thought this was a wasted opportunity to give him some character development. I guess their fallout really did happen for no reason. Well, damn.

Final thoughts: 

Based on this lengthy diatribe, you probably think I hated this book. I didn’t. Actually I enjoyed it quite a bit. I just wish I would have liked it more. If I were to give this book a grade, I would say somewhere between B and B-.

I recommend this to anyone looking for something to read on a cold, rainy day.

Thoughts on “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE NOVEL. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK OR WISH TO DO SO IN THE FUTURE. 

You can find a synopsis here.

This was recommended by “ChapterStackss” of BookTube as one of her favorite horror novels so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I am so glad I did.

It’s difficult to pick a topic in this book for discussion. It was so mouth-wateringly good I’m left babbling incoherently.

I’ve decided to break up my thoughts into pieces so it’s less of a jumble.

The Plot

One aspect of this novel that I love is it turns traditional horror on its head. The darkness is the protagonist’s greatest defense against the enemy rather than a means for the main baddy to attack.

They aren’t afraid of what will happen to them when they close their eyes, but rather when they open them.

If this is meant to be a metaphor for truth, infinity, or whatever it’s done a lot more effectively than in any other novel that I’ve read.

I still can’t get over how exceptionally well paced this piece is. No chapter seems too long or too short. They all seem to be exactly as they need to be.

The Creatures 

Frigging finally.

A horror writer has created a new monster.

It’s not that traditional monsters like ghosts and zombies aren’t scary, it’s just that they’ve been done  to death at this point.

Especially zombies.

Don’t get me started on zombies.

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My favorite theory as to what these things are is George’s: these beings are from another dimension that is bleeding into ours. Because our bubbles were never supposed to merge, it’s too much for our brains to handle.

Maybe these things are us from another dimension!

We never find out.

I realize there is more fear in the unknown, so revealing what these things are would ruin a lot of the intrigue, but I really want to know. I want to shake down the writer and demand he tell me.

Regardless, the mystery of these beings forces the reader to devise their own explanation. This makes the threat as psychological as it is physical.

There are no silver bullets or wooden stakes to defeat them. Humans can only take preventative measures to make sure they aren’t driven to madness.

Blindfolded 

In my opinion, one of the things that makes this book so great is how atmospheric it is. Since the characters are often blindfolded, the narrative is mostly told through sounds and senses.

The monsters are represented in the crunching of leaves, the sudden footstep, the screaming of the birds.

Even in silence.

The characters hear the monster.

They sense it’s presence.

But they can never know what one looks like because no one that has spotted one  has lived to tell about it. Except Gary. Screw Gary.

I just love the image of Malorie and her two children rowing down a river where they can see nothing. They’re surrounded on all sides by possible dangers: deranged animals, madmen, and the elements.

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Malorie is completely reliant on the superpowered hearing of the children who can detect any noise from a great distance away. She’s trained them since birth to do this and some of the things they hear are chilling.

The Characters 

If I have one nitpick about this book it’s that some of them are not as fleshed out as others. Nevertheless, I still think I have a rough idea of who they are as people.

My favorite characters have to be Malorie and Tom.

Malorie was a great character because she had to worry about the life of her baby as well as herself. Once her child and Olympia’s child are born, she demonstrates an astounding amount of resilience as well as humanity. She breaks down, she makes mistakes, she second-guesses almost everything she does. She’s a great protagonist all around.

It’s hard not to like Tom since he has the most backstory aside from Malorie. He’s a great leader and loves everyone under his charge. I was unsurprised, but sad when he died.

The only characters I actively dislike are Don and Gary.

Especially Gary.

I wish he’d gotten his come uppins in the end, but I guess you can’t have it all.

Character Relationships

These characters don’t operate as typical base-under-siege stereotypes.

While there is some tension between them at some points, their relationship with each other is mostly harmonious. They act as a family throughout and genuinely care about one another.

Even though Malorie is giving birth in unendurable agony and knows that Don is betraying them as she speaks, she still loves him like a brother and wants someone to help him because he’s losing his mind.

That is some serious character development.

And there are no unnecessary romances.

I think Malorie has romantic feelings for Tom, but this is implied rather than shoved in the reader’s face.

The Ending

I’m actually surprised this book ended with Malorie and her children being found by a group of refugees.

I thought it was going to conclude with her seeing one of the creatures and killing the children before committing suicide.

Am I a sadist for being just a pinch disappointed this didn’t happen? My logic is we would have finally found out what these things are. We’d get an intimate look into what people that see them go through on a personal level.

On the other hand, the girl probably deserves a hopeful ending after all the crap she’s had to survive through.

I don’t reread books very often, but I may make an exception for Bird Box. 

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