Tuesday, December 29, 2009
What if I want to write about a margarita drinking gladiator named Tyrone? I don't know crap about gladiators, though I do know a thing or two about margaritas! Ay-yi-yi-yi, I am the Frito bandito!! Ooops, flashback to childhood - hate it when that happens.
What if I want to write about Elves, Dragons, Wizards, Hobgoblins or . . . Trolls??? I don't know crap about those things either . . . no matter what Robyn might say on the Troll issue!
What's an aspiring writer to do when he/she is supposed to write about what they know . . . and that know is limited to the mundane (well, sometimes, but after a few margaritas . . . ) world they live in?
Ah, dear followers, we do this neat little weaving thing . . . we take what we know and what we don't know and we toss them in a bowl, add a bit of lime juice, a splash . . . sorry, margarita recipe . . . mix them up and, well, write.
Yes, it's that simple. We write. We take the familiar (what we know) and add the unfamiliar (what we don't know, just in case any one is keeping track, because I know I'm not) and do the absolute best we can.
I mean, what did Stephanie Meyer know about vampires? J.K. Rowlings about boy wizards? Tolkien about Elves and Orcs and Dragons and one ring to rule them all? They knew the basics found in books, movies, mythology, and used their talents to make the unfamiliar familiar! Geesh, try saying that one a few times!
So, why am I writing this post? Well, I went off to the Enchanted Forest the other day . . . okay, that's what I posted on Facebook, but in actuality I was in organization mode in the house, cleaning my desk, closets, drawers, and just getting everything in tip top shape. Anyhow, I was thinking about a new story idea and was trying to figure out how to make it work, since I really didn't know that much about some of the characters that can be found in the Enchanted Forest. Yeah, I know the basics, I know what I've read, but how do I put that brief snippet of knowledge into a workable format?? Well, I take what I know - perhaps some margaritas, modern day - and work in what I don't know and just see what happens.
Yes, it's as simple as that. I can google trolls (hey, Robyn's blog came up, imagine that - ha!!) and find out all sorts of information. I can then add that information to what I already know and suddenly Tyrone (he's the margarita drinking gladiator, just in case you forgot) is having margaritas with a few trolls, and an elf at the local Mexican restaurant. Yes, it's an odd grouping, but they're getting along quite well, and there is the fact that the Troll Queen was kidnapped and if not returned to her throne by Midnight on March 12, 2015, the world as they know it will end . . .
Yes, it sounds like a strange concept, but . . . it's really not. It's all in taking the familiar and unfamiliar and merging them into something . . . brilliant. Yes, it's been done before, time and time again, there are no new ideas, just old ideas reimagined in a brilliant fashion. We can write about vampires that walk during the day in 2010 or an Elf that becomes President of the United States in 2012 or a witch that ascends the throne of Ireland in 1999 because we just take what we don't know (witches, elves, trolls, vampires, whatever) and add it to what we know, and pretty soon, the fingers are flying across the keyboard and the words are filling up the screen.
So, even if you don't know crap about vampires, witches, elves, trolls, dragons, or whatever, it doesn't meant you can't write about them. Put those characters in places you do know - today, here, now - and then, maybe during the revision stage, change up the today, here, now to something different and see what happens.
p.s. For those not in the know, Robyn and I had a comment-conversation yesterday about Trolls. She actually had the nerve to accuse me of being a Troll. I mean, seriously . . . Yeah, we had a bit of fun with each other yesterday, and thus she earned a place in Troll History! Ha!
Monday, December 28, 2009
I hope everyone had a safe and Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, and may your New Year be safe and happy as well.
Since, I'm typing this post . . . I'll do the little update thingy.
My goal for 2010 - begin querying once again. Hey, I made a rhyme. Woo-hoo, double time. Sorry! I'm going to work on the letter in January and then start the process February 1 to give those beleaguered agents time to go through all the queries people submitted during the holiday season, and in the first few weeks of 2010. Yes, there is a method to my madness!
Right now . . . I have three potential next brilliant novels in the idea and (gasp, the horrors) outline stage - well, two of the projects, not the third. I'm just not sure what I want to work on next. I may just have to flip a coin or number the projects, write the numbers on a piece of paper, stick them in a hat, and let my cat Squeaky pick the lucky project.
Also . . . I have another project in revision stage that will, at some point, be the next project I query, so this project gets more importance than starting a new project.
And . . . I think that's it for right now. Have a great day.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
The only creatures stirring, were the dratted cat and her toy mouse,
She raced through the house, like a bat out of hell,
Knowing that she should be sleeping, good and well
Did any of that matter?
Hell no, which explained all the clatter
Scott leapt from the bed, madder than Comet
And lo and behold, he stepped in cat vomit
That little Squeaky cat, the one he loved so dear,
Had better be able to fly like Santa’s reindeer!
For when Scott finally catchers her, that sweet little louse,
His tossing her butt, right out of the house!
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even the dratted toy mouse
Scott was snuggled all snug in his bed,
With visions of sugar plums dancing in his head.
When all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter,
Scott leapt from the bed to see what was the matter!
Lo and behold, that tricky black cat,
Had snuck back in the house, and was wearing a shiny black hat,
She grinned at me evilly, the little louse,
And just for spite, she batted at the toy mouse
No sleeping for you, she seemed to say,
I’m a cat, and nighttime is the time I play,
You can crawl back in bed,
And put a pillow over your head,
But I’ll yowl and howl, and dash through the house,
Making as much noise as I can with this lovely little mouse
Santa might come, down the chimney, with a shout,
But there’s no way in hell you’re putting me back out
I’m here for the night, and I’ll sleep all through the day,
Dash away, dash away, night time is for play!
Scott knew that the dratted little cat was right,
He wasn’t about to get any sleep this night.
With a sigh and a yawn, he knew it would be a dang long time until dawn.
So, with that thought in mind, he picked up the cat’s ball,
He tossed it through the air, and said Merry Christmas to All!!!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Sick of lugging hefty books with you on vacation? Portable, electronic readers -- with their easy-on-the-eyes displays and ability to carry hundreds of titles without gaining weight -- started to make inroads on their hardback cousins in 2009.
E-book sales brought in $13.9 million in revenue in the third quarter of last year, according to International Digital Publishing Forum, a trade organization. The same time period this year saw $46.5 million in e-book revenue -- a 235 percent spike.
The Amazon Kindle, originally released in November 2007, found some competition this year with the release of the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble's Nook. Meanwhile, libraries, authors, publishers and Google continued to haggle out the details of a settlement that could give the Internet giant permission to create the world's largest library -- online only.
So, obviously, EBooks are kicking butt and yet, some publishers are choosing to delay EBook releases, rather than simultaneously release the hardback and eback (sorry, couldn't resist that one!). Hmmmm, have they checked out the above article?? Perhaps they should. I'm just saying . . .
Monday, December 21, 2009
Seriously, I'm unplugging, pretty much for the rest of the year. Oh, don't worry, I'm still lurking around, reading blogs here, there, and everywhere, and maybe leaving a comment or two or twelve, but just not as frequently as normal.
Today is December 21, Winter Solstice, and the shortest day of the year. Perhaps this pivotal seasonal moment is a good time to unplug, and reflect on the past year.
This year has been one of loss for me. Both Jordy and Tasmyn journeyed across the Rainbow Bridge in the span of less than a year. Tasmyn just didn't listen to me when, after Jordy passed, I told her she had to wait a few years. Stubborn to the very end. As I write this, the emotions of that loss still overwhelm me. Jordy and Tasmyn were my first pets, just me, nobody else to share them with. Jordy was a pound cat, and Tasmyn was from a stray cats litter. They both represented my independence - I had moved away, well only 2 hours, but still, from pretty much everyone I knew, quit my job, and didn't have a job in sight. Luckily, things worked out for the best. Still, when Tasmyn made that final journey, it was as if a piece of my past died with her, the lest vestige of that time in my life when I set out on my own . . . without a clue what I was doing.
This year hasn't been all about loss, because it was about finding things as well.
This year has increased the followers of this blog from a few to 91! Yes, 91!
This year brought about cyber friendships through blogging, and even Facebook. I treasure those friendships, the comments on the blog, the free advertising some people think it's okay to do on this blog (ha), the comments on Facebook, and the emails (regular and Facebook) I've exchanged with some of the bloggers I've met over this past year.
This year was about finding people struggling right alongside me in this crazy writing adventure we've embarked on.
This year was about following more and more blogs and learning as much as I can about writing, while still doing things in my crazy fashion.
This year was about tightening up Margarita Nights so that, after the craziness of the Christmas season, I can brave the shark infested waters of the Query Sea.
This year was about realizing what project is next for the revision stage and, ultimately, the query stage as well.
These past few weeks have been about ideas popping in my mind and me braving the perils of outlining, at least on one or two of those ideas, and seeing what happens. I have brightly colored folders filled with notes about these projects, and sometime next year I hope to sit down and begin typing away at something new.
This year has been about my growth as a writer as I take all that I have learned from my fellow bloggers and make it my own. It's all about that perfect blend of ornaments - past, present, and future - on the Christmas tree. Everything I read on the blogs doesn't always apply to me, but there's always a tidbit or two that does, and I take those tidbits and incorporate (blend) them into my life.
So, as I - somewhat - unplug, I hope whatever holiday people celebrate at this time of year is great, and safe, and provides endless memories, or inspiration, for many writing projects yet to come.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
No, I haven't lost my mind and I haven't dosed my coffee with Bailey's, though that is a thought. Okay, I've only had 1/2 a cup of coffee so far, so that might explain things.
Every writer knows (or should know) that characters require action and must learn something, or what's the point of the novel??? If a character begins/ends the same way, what was the point of years of toiling over the laptop? A character must grow, must learn, must accomplish something, or there truly isn't a point to the brilliance of the 1,456,798 page book a writer just wrote.
We all know this, but I think the reader should be given (i.e., learn) something from the characters we create.
For example . . .
Jared - I'd like to think he gives the gift of knowing that, sometimes, love just isn't enough to make a relationship work, and that, sometimes, the greatest thing a person can do is walk away from the comfortable to the unknown.
Sorcha - I'd like to think she gives the gift of knowing that forgiveness won't truly happen, but that acceptance of her regret will happen. She can move forward, as can the others hurt by her actions, and they will survive, perhaps a bit changed, perhaps a bit more jaded and cynical then when they first started out in life.
Alexander - I'd like to think he gives the gift of fully understanding the consequences of the choices people make in life, and knowing it is never too late to change one's mind and do what a person really wants to do.
The Man with a Gun (sorry, never have named this character) - I'd like to think he gives the gift of hope. When everything a person loves is taken from them, when all their dreams are destroyed, when their family is gone and there is truly nothing, nothing to live for, and only vengeance exists, sometimes, hope is found in the unlikeliest of places. This is the gift the man with a gun provides.
Okay, I could keep listing characters and gifts, but then I'd never accomplish anything else today. I could also list characters we all know - Bilbo Baggins, Frodo, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables. Each of these characters taught me something about life. Each of these characters provided a nice gift, not always neatly wrapped, that I treasure every time I open up one of the Harry Potter books, The Hobbit, and of The Lord of the Rings, Anne of Green Gables or any other book I've ever read, or ever will read. Every single book, to me at least, is a treasure chest of gifts, perhaps a journey of self discovery as well.
What will readers discover when they read your books? What gifts will your characters give? Are your characters giftless? Has the Grinch on top of Mt. Crumpet stolen all the gifts during that time when his shoes were too small, and his heart was three sizes too small? Have the Whos down in Whoville not started singing their Christmas song, bereft of gifts and decorations, but not of love? If so, perhaps a close reexamination of your characters might be in order!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday morning, early, early, and I'm wide awake. So, get out of bed, flip the Christmas tree lights on, get some coffee, turn on some Christmas music, and sit with Jesse and James. As I'm sitting there, I'm looking at the Christmas tree and noticing the various ornaments on the tree. Some of them were Frank's before he met me, some of them mine before I met him, a few are from my childhood, some were gifts from friends, and many were purchased throughout our years together. They're all on the tree . . . the perfect blend of both our pasts and our present.
So, Christmas music in the background, lights glimmering on the tree, and my mind gets stuck on the concept of the perfect blend and I realize that our writing should also be a perfect blend.
Our writing should contain . . .
- Showing versus Telling
- Dialogue - snappy, snarky, realistic
- A few margaritas for our characters, and perhaps the author, to drink along the way.
- Very little passive voice
- Voice - however you define it
- Believable characters (flaws must exist)
- And so much other stuff
Writing is just not putting the words onto a piece of paper. Heck, if it was that easy, everybody would be a writer. Writing is about blending everything we ever learned in High School English, tossing a bit of it away (just for good measure), everything we've learned in the blogsphere (again, toss some of it away, rules were made to be broken after all), and pouring our passion and energy into the writing. We need to mix it well, but not too much, because sometimes, overmixing can create a very stiff, practically inedible, dough! Yuck.
Blend everything just write (yes, did that on purpose) so that our readers can enjoy the perfect blend of our knowledge, talent, and a few things we've gleaned along the way.
So, when you edit your book - objectively, after much distance - do you have the perfect blend? Is there a bit of your past in there? Are your characters realistic? Is there more telling than showing? Ooops, was that a passive voice passage?? Is there a distinct voice? A mild voice? No voice at all? Is your dialogue realistic? Stilted? Would someone that age say that??? Are your characters too perfect? Does everything go right for them? Does there cat not hack up a hairball at 2 AM? If not, I want that cat. I'm just saying . . .
So, do you have the perfect blend in your writing that will compel readers to keep turning the page and demand you write another, and another, and another, and another, and another . . . book???
Friday, December 11, 2009
What's the last thing you wrote?
Well, if we're counting blog posts . . . this. If not, Chapter Seven of the current rough draft project I'm working on right now.
What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?
The stunning sequel to . . . sorry, can't mention it, but my first writing effort was a follow up to a massive best selling fantasy series where I wanted to know more about the characters after The End!
Favorite genre of writing?
Mainstream literary fiction . . . at least right now. Fantasy was once my genre of choice, and might be again someday.
Most annoying character you've ever created?
I'm not sure if I've achieved this landmark yet.
Best Plot you've ever created?
Well, if I told you that I'd have to send the secret Ninja assassins out to hunt you down.
Coolest Plot twist you've ever created?
Hmmm, do I have those Ninjas on speed dial? Even though the twist occurs very early, I think the twist in the currently titled Wicked Games counts as the coolest plot twist EVER!
How often do you get writer's block?
Every now and then, not very often.
Write fan fiction?
Do you type or write by hand?
Both. I used to write every thing out and then type it up. Now the main stuff is typed, and notes, etc. are written out by hand.
Do you save everything you write?
Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?
Yes. Not very often. But Wicked Games is something I wrote many years ago and did a revamp on last Spring. I'm very impressed with how I took this discarded idea and made it into something I'd definitely want to read.
What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
Everything. Okay, I know, I have to choose an answer, so . . . Margarita Nights because it was something I wrote just for me, no audience in mind, and just let the words flow. I had the absolute best time writing the book.
What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?
Well, according to Jon and Suzi . . . Margarita Nights.
Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
What's your favorite setting for your characters?
A galaxy far, far away . . . sorry, couldn't resist. Lately, Nashville, TN - right here, now, where I know the streets and what happens in the dark of the night! Ha!
How many writing projects are you working on right now?
One. There are others lurking in the background, mainly editing and revision projects, but I am working on a rough draft, currently no title, but I do have an outline . . . of sorts. Woo-hoo!
Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Does winning NaNo one year count? If so, yes. If not, no!
What are your five favorite words?
Would you like another margarita?
What character have you created that is most like yourself?
There's something of me in all of my characters, so I'm not sure how to answer this one.
Where do you get ideas for your characters?
From the depths of my depraved imagination . . . and sometimes the world around me. Sometimes.
Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Do you favor happy endings?
Yes and no. I don't think true happy endings exist in this life, so I sort of write a more semi-happy ending, and sometimes, not a happy ending at all.
Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Does music help you write?
Yes. Margarita Nights was written completely with me listening to dance music. I often pick a certain type of music for a certain scene. Music is often my Muse.
Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.
Well, great! I mean, half the time I can't remember why I stood up from my desk, and now I'm supposed to pull a quote from the trillion or more words I've written?? Not gonna happen, dear readers, not gonna happen!
So, those are the answers to these writerly questions. I hope you dropped over to Ric's site and read his anwers, and I hope you post your own as well. A little insight into the lives of writers is a nice thing every now and then.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
What do you think? Is she spot on? Totally insane?
Personally, I think she's spot on and asks a bunch of great questions.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Still, when something this good comes along, I feel a duty to share.
Writing is a solitary life . . . for the most part. For me, writing is when I withdraw deeply into myself and attempt - with little success more often than not - to push away the outside world and cavort in the depths of my very warped imagination.
But, as Myra so eloquently points out in her blog post . . . I'm also writing with my beloved partner, who worships the quicksand I walk upon, right by my side. Okay, he's not technically by my side, because every few minutes he'd ask what I was doing. I-R-R-I-T-A-T-I-N-G! So, while I write he's normally upstairs in his office playing hearts. His win ratio is at 35%. He was at 34% for the longest time and swore, absolutely swore, the game was rigged so his percent would never, ever, go up. I guess he was wrong about that! Ha!
So, while I might say the writer's life is solitary, I must admit that Frank is right along beside me as I chase this crazy dream of publication. He supports me silently, for the most part. That, for me, is enough.
He doesn't have to rub my shoulders, pat me on the head, say good job, or bring me coffee and/or wine as I'm typing furiously away and trying to ignore him, the dogs, the cat, and the outside world as I struggle with that one, all important scene that will make or break the brilliant book I am writing. He doesn't have to say hey, I'm right here with you . . . oh, and I'm hungry, when's dinner because I know he's right there with me, and dinner will be ready in a few (possibly hours, but normally minutes). Ha! I just know, without a doubt that he's there for me, no matter my moods, the looks I give him when he asks me a question at the most inappropriate time, or even if I blog about the fact that he wore white socks with dress pants and shoes when we went to the theater one time. Oh, the horrors, when he crossed his legs and exposed . . . his white socks. Feet on the floor, sweetie, thanks bunches! Yes, he puts up with such snarkiness, often on a daily basis, and yet he's still there for me.
But this post isn't necessarily about thanking him, though I do. This post - yeah, long way through the woods, huh? - is about all of us recognizing that we don't chase our dreams alone, no matter how solitary we imagine our lives at times when we're immersed in the writing process. We have lives outside of writing that often intrude - cue the cat hacking up a hairball - when we are at the most delicate and intense moments of the writing process.
We chase our dreams, racing, racing, always racing toward the finish line of publication, and we are not alone in that chase. We have husbands, wives, partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends, dogs, cats, horses, and perhaps a Horton who hears a Who along with us, every step of the way, even when we push them aside - not now, in a minute, just a sec, one more sentence, paragraph, chapter, can somebody let the dog out?? do i have to do everything?? geesh, what do you expect of me? - in so many different ways.
As Robyn put it we can't be everything to everyone all the time or something to that effect. There are times when we just need to be Scott, Tess, Elana, Lady Glamis, Jody, Davin, Scott (the other one), Traci, Angie, Rebecca, Marybeth, Charlie, Robyn, and so many other people whose blogs I follow - the writer. There are times when we must have our selfish moments, our 5, 10, 15, 60 minutes of time just to write, to distance ourselves from life, and know that those people who are so important in our lives, who are right there with us every step of the way on this crazy writing adventure, will be there when we come back to the real world, a little bit dazed, our eyes a bit glassy, and our language a bit different then when we first entered the realms of our imaginations.
So, take time to read Myra's post, cry a bit at the end if you want - yes, the post is that good, and that emotional - and then go tell your whoever thanks!
Monday, December 7, 2009
There is a power in outlining. Now, as anyone who reads this blog knows: I normally don't outline. Okay, I do, but I don't, so what I do, really doesn't count.
Or rather . . . what I did really doesn't count.
You see . . . gasp, the horrors . . . I outlined last week. Totally. I had this idea for a new project, broke the book into three sections, and actually wrote down events that need to happen in each section. I even went so far as to note what emotions the MC should experience in a few of the chapters.
I hate to admit this, but . . . this whole outlining (still very loose, nothing as detailed as Lady Glamis or Scott Bailey might do) thingy has made the writing process easier. I mean, I actually, for the most part, know what I'm going to write about each time I sit down at the computer.
Okay, I have the basics of what I'm going to write about, a series of events I want to happen, but this does make the process a wee bit easier. There are still many blanks to fill in between the events I know I want to write about, so there are stages of the process that are a complete mystery to me . . . and that's not a bad thing.
I'm not all into this structure thing, knowing what's going to happen next, and all that jazz. Sometimes, I like to be surprised. So, yeah, I did a fairly detailed (well, at least in my little world) outline, but nothing so detailed as Lady Glamis and Scott B.
So, for the unenlightened, here's a brief snippet of my outline process . . .
* Event 1
* Event 2
* conversation that goes w/event 2
* this chapter should convey MC anger/disappointment, etc.
* conversation that goes w/event 1
* Event 2
* this chapter should convey . . .
Okay, this is a really simplistic view of the outline. Mine keeps growing and growing. It's really quite frightening. I have written out some conversations that need to take place in certain events and bullet-pointed them into the outline. I'm keeping the chapters fairly short and sweet - direct, to the point, and no excess baggage.
As you can probably see, this is a loose outlining process that provides the stepping stones for the various chapters, but only the first few stones. The rest of the stones I have to put in place as I go . . . and I happen to like that style of writing. I don't want a detailed map, because, at least for me, half the fun of writing any story is the unknown adventure my characters take me on. Sometimes, in the middle of a chapter, a character does something so unexpected, so not on the outline, that it makes the writing fun and exciting.
So, I outlined this future project, but I'm not sure if I'll stick to his scheme on the next project, or the next one, or the next one. I guess I - and you, dear readers - will just have to wait and see.
Now, for the questions that should (at least in my opinion, be the part of any writer's blog): How about you? Do you wing it? Outline it? A combination of both? Are there benefits to your method? Disadvantages?
Friday, December 4, 2009
I sometimes think this audience - real or imagined - is detrimental to the writing process.
Case in point - I was reading an interview with Claire Labine who has written for the soap (Days of Our Lives, not Dial) industry for years. She stressed one very important point . . . you have to write for yourself. You have to believe in what you’re writing if it’s going to have any resonance with the audience at all - full interview here.
The best writing I've ever done is when I wrote solely for me and not for an audience, not for my mother, not for my potential agent, editor, publisher, just little ol' me!
That's not to say the audience wasn't at the back of my mind. That's not to say that audience wasn't at the back of Claire Labine's mind, because it was.
I think what she's saying, what I've said before on this blog, is that we have to believe in every single word we write, and we have to write for ourselves first and foremost.
Yes, there are trends - vampires, boy wizards, elves, and whatever. Trends come and go. Remember bell bottom jeans??? Tie-dye????
The fact is, good writing often trumps the current trend. Making an old idea shine in a brilliant new way, often trumps the current trend.
So, write for you, believe in you, but also be aware of current trends as well. Be willing to defend your brilliance to an agent, editor, publisher or whoever.
Case in Point - I love Project Runway. One designer made a gorgeous dress, but . . . she didn't have faith in her design. Her lack of faith showed forth on the runway and . . . she didn't win. The judges all agreed if the designer had believed in her design and defended her design . . . well, she would have won.
If we fail to write for ourselves, if we do not believe in every word we are writing, than, in Claire's words, what we write will not resonate with the audience at all.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
First - I love the book. I downloaded the first chapter, for free, on my Kindle, and only made it part way through before I decided to buy the complete book. The only other book I ever read by her is A Handmaid's Tale - excellent read, if you haven't already read the book.
The book takes place from two perspectives so far. Fine. Dandy. Good.
The book takes place from two different points of view: first person and third person.
Okay, this is jarring for me. I don't know why, it just is. So, my question: do you switch from different points of views in your projects?
If yes - why??
If no - why??
I know, I'm not making it easy on my followers and lurkers this close to Christmas, or whatever holiday they might celebrate.
Personally, I don't think this switch in points of view takes anything away from the novel. It's still good, gripping, and makes me want to keep reading. The switch just always makes me pause and go huh before I start reading again.
I'm just wondering why an author would do the multiple point of view thingy, especially since the transition is always a bit bumpy. Any thoughts?
Monday, November 30, 2009
We all have lives beyond our writing. Some of us have children. I have two dogs, one cat, a job, friends, toilets to clean, tables to dust, a partner (oops, perhaps that one should have gone sooner in the sentence - oh, well), and so many other things to occupy the few spare minutes of time available to me each day . . . as do the rest of you out there as well.
We each (trust me, it happens to everyone) reach a point where we're standing on the edge of a great abyss. One step forward and we'll fall forever. One step back and we can breathe just a bit easier until we suddenly find ourselves at the edge of the abyss once again. One step forward and . . .
If we cannot find balance in our lives, then not only will our writing suffer, but we will suffer as well.
A writing friend commented recently that he/she was taking a break from writing because the writing was interfering in his/her life. I understand completely.
So, my post this morning, is not only about finding balance among all the aspects of our lives, it is also about not denying the gift we have as writers.
No matter the belief out there - not everybody can write. Not everybody can play the piano either, or sing for that matter. We all have different gifts/abilities. Mine happens to be writing . . . and that same gift applies to so many people in the blogsphere, some who I follow openly, and others who I follow in the shadows because there is only so much time in the day and I'm not like Elana who can read 1 million blogs, and comment in 30 seconds. Okay, it takes her 32.5 seconds, but still . . .
Writers have a gift. We have a talent, whether inherent or learned. We do not need to deny this gift, but nurture it carefully, tend to it like an infant, or, perhaps a fire is a better analogy. You see, our gift burns brightly sometimes, and other times it is just the remaining embers, the last vestiges of a brilliant burning that, if tended carefully, if nurtured, can burst back into brilliant flame with some kindling, a piece or two of crumpled paper, and a breath or two of fresh air.
To walk away from the fire totally, doesn't necessarily mean the embers will extinguish . . . but it might make them hard to ignite into flame.
Writing is a part of me, whether I do it every day, or once a month because life is too hectic. There are times when it consumes way too much of me and I feel stretched, thin, and about to take that step over the edge into the endless abyss of nothingness. So, there are times when I must step away from my writing.
But, do I ever really step away from my writing? Of course, not!!! Sometimes, I write solely in my mind while laying on the couch with the dogs. I start a story - a character, a situation, and play out that writing in the depths of my mind while somewhat watching tv or listening to music. I figure out the basics of the story and, often, find great, gaping plotholes that can never be filled. Oh, well, such is life. I start again, perhaps the same character, but a different situation . . .
In the end, the writing solely in my mind is a point of balancing the sometimes chaos of my life. I cannot stop writing. I can't tell myself I'm not going to write for 2 months to get things in order. Why? Because, I'm a writer, and it is as integral to me as breathing.
So, to those at the point of frustration, where the writing is so consuming and obsessive that the rest of your life is falling to the wayside . . . there is a point of balance you must somehow find. It is not an easy task. It is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life. It can be done.
For me, to say I'm not going to write for a period of time, is like saying I'm not going to breathe for 3 months. It's not gonna happen. No matter how hard I try, I'm still going to breathe. No matter how serious I am with my intent not to write . . . I'm still going to write. Writing is a part of me.
Writing is a part of my friend who has decided not to write for a set period of time. So, my words to this friend, to everyone out there who is striving for balance as they near the edge of the abyss . . . do not push your gift aside, but rather, find a sense of balance in your life, be it only 10 minutes a day (or week for that matter) where you nurture your gift. You do not have to give up who you are - family, friends, job, life - to be a writer. Rather, you have to incorporate those aspects of your life into your writing.
We, dear readers, are writers, whether we like it or not. Writing just happened for me one day, as I'm sure it did for you. I mean, seriously, how many people, on career day at school say hey, I want to be a writer. Not many, not many at all.
Life is about balance. Writing is about balance. Gifts - writing, playing the piano, taking photographs, painting, singing, dancing, cooking, whatever - are not meant to consume our lives, but rather enrich our lives. In order to enrich our lives, our gifts must be gently nurtured, so that they, and we, don't burn out in the process.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Okay, no so chaotic for me since I'm heading to my sister's house for Thanksgiving, but still . . . How in the heck is it Thanksgiving already? Where'd the year go? How many days until Christmas?? Arrrrgghhhh . . .
Well, with Thanksgiving here, travel for the holiday, and otehr things in this life just weighing me down right now . . . I'm unplugging (for the most part) for this week. Oh, don't worry, I'll be lurking around the blogsphere today, but that's probably about it. I'll catch up with everyone next week.
I hope everyone has a safe and fantastic Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Pets never leave us . . . at least in the ordinary sense. They don't grow up, go off to college, get married, have families of their own, and every now and then come back home for a brief visit. Once they come home with us, if we're lucky, they're here for many, many years, with unconditional love. They might irritate us by waking us up at 3 AM, for no other reason then they need their ears scratched, or just for the heck of it. They might only want to be picked up on their terms, and only their terms, and yet we love them nonetheless.
Perhaps the hardest thing any pet owner has to do is make the decision to say good-bye.
Frank and I made that decision yesterday for sweet Tasmyn. Trust me, it's one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, not that the decision to say good-bye to Jordy last December was any easier.
Poor little Taz just wasn't getting better on the pills for her thyroid and the time finally came, again her terms, not mine, to take her to the vet. She passed away at 11:07 AM yesterday morning.
I learned today how very lucky we were to have her for 16 years. You see, the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 12 years. She let us be a part of her life for 16 years. So, Tasmyn graced us with her presence for four more years than most cat owners have.
I'll miss her terribly. We both will. I'll miss her deep, Dorothy Zbornack meow, the head butts she'd give me every now and then, and just the knowledge that she's sleeping in the dog bed while I'm reading a book on the couch.
I've cried and cried for my baby girl, and there are more tears yet to come. She was my temperamental cat, my little witch, so to speak, who made it known from the start that we would be doing things on her terms, and only her terms.
The first day I brought her home, she stalked around the apartment, discovered a small space beneath my kitchen cabinets, and proceeded to squeeze her tiny, eight week old body under the cabinets. Oh, the joys, the joys, of pulling off the quarter round and the baseboard and reaching in to get her. I think I still have those scars.
he wasn't a lap cat . . . well, unless it was on her terms. She didn't like to be picked up. She liked to eat and eat and eat . . . and thus earned her name Gargantua (oh, and she had really neat theme music when she stomped through the house).
In later years, we got the weight off and she became more mellow. She still did things on her own terms, but she was more loving with us, and loved to curl up in the bed with me at night, or on the couch next to me as I read. She'd purr so loudly.
I'll miss my little girl, more than I can ever say/write. She was/is a part of my life.
I don't think there's any comfort that is available right now, but the below poem makes me feel just a bit better.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When our beloved pets die, they journey to this idyllic spot. There are meadows and hills enough for all to frolic freely, and plenty of food, water and sunshine. Each and every animal is warm and comfortable.
Those pets that have been ill or aged are restored to health and vigor. Those who are hurt or maimed are made whole and strong. Each is just as we remember in our dreams of days and times gone by. Our pets are happy and content at Rainbow Bridge, except for one small thing. Every creature misses someone special, whom they've left behind.
The animals all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops, and looks into the distance. Bright eyes are intent; an eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, running from the group, flying over the green grass, legs are going faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and you and your special friend come together in joyous reunion. Happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head; and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart. Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together. Author Unknown
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Seventh Sanctum - this is a site of random tools for creativity and more! Hop over and check it out - basically, there are all types of tools used to generate characters, plot, etc. Casey over at Literary Rambles (this is your second link for the day) linked to this site in her blog post today.
Casey found out about the site from V. R. Barkowski, whose blog you can find . . . here.
Note, both Casey and V.R. provide some great research tips, and links to help out aspiring, and published, writers everywhere. I've learned quite a few things from Casey that have really helped.
A suggested site by V.R. is Academic Earth which provides high quality video lectures by educators from top universities around the country on various subjects. Hey, you never know when you might need to know something more about architecture, religious studies, chemistry and philosophy. Oh, and the lectures are F-R-E-E!!! Woo-hoo!!
And then there's this one which Janet Reid mentioned on her blog this morning. Hilarious!
Okay, that's it for this brief post. I'm sure I'll post something later this week. Things are busy at work, plus Thanksgiving is next week, and I'm in the middle of revisions that are going quite well, plus there are a few ideas dancing around in my mind.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I was thinking about this question the other day as I considered my next writing project and realized that this single question, is probably the most important question any writer can ask theirselves.
Normally, I get an idea, sketch out some characters, and begin writing. I seriously have no clue about the story I want to tell. I just have all these jumbled thoughts dancing around in my head and try to form them into a coherent form as my fingers quick-step across the keyboard.
This pretty much works for me.
As we all know, there are various blogs out there with certain questions we should ask ourselves during the writing process. Those are some great questions, I've written about them before, and am too dang lazy right here/now to link to them. Sorry, I'm typing this post early on a Saturday morning when I should be in bed, but . . . ahhh, my lovely cocker spaniel Jesse (one half of the dynamic cocker spaniel duo known as Jesse and James) doesn't realize it's the weekend and doesn't need to be walked at 6:30 AM!
Anyhow, I really think (better late than never), the main, most important, most significant question of all is: What is the story you want to tell?
With one project, I wanted to strip away the stereotypes of society and show the true nature of a group of people, rather than the inaccurate stereotypical media portrayal of a group of people.
I did just that, in no uncertain terms. That was what I was thinking about yesterday when the question occurred to me.
I also realized, while the story I told was, well, uh, brilliant . . . there were more stories still to tell, more avenues to explore along the same lines as that project, though perhaps not written in the same style of that project.
So, as I sit down to consider what's next in what will be a very lengthy writing career, the first and foremost question I'm asking myself - before characters, setting, anything - is: what is the story I want to tell with this particular project?
How about you? Do you ask yourself this question before you even begin the brain-storming for a project? Before the characters spring to life in your mind and on paper? Do you consider this question at all?
Friday, November 13, 2009
First - my heart goes out to her right now, because her cat Blue passed away this week after a very short illness. I know the difficulty of losing a pet, far too well. You see, an animal's love is unconditional. They love us no matter what and bring untold joy into our lives.
Animals, unlike humans, rarely leave us. They don't go off to college, get married, and move half-way across the country . . . or the world for that matter. They stay with us, day after day, and greet us (well, if they're dogs they greet us, if they're cats . . . everything on their terms) when we come home, even if we've only been gone 30 seconds to the mailbox and back. They don't judge us. They don't demand an XBox for Christmas and then stomp their feet and scream at the top of their lungs when we say No. Okay, Jesse (one of our cocker spaniels) has been known to howl up a storm if I'm not paying him enough attention. But . . . all I have to do is say his name, he stops howling, and his tail begins to wag. Kids aren't' that easy. I'm just saying . . .
So, from Day One until Day None are animals are with us providing countless joy, quite a bit of frustration too, and a companionship that is often unequaled with our human counterparts.
So, as Robyn has been going through this with Blue, I've been going through it with her, offering what support I could, but knowing that nothing I could say or do could ease the pain or dry her tears. Blue was a part of her life, will be missed desperately, but will be remembered in her heart.
So, my sympathies are with Robyn this week as she deals with this loss.
My thanks are also with Robyn for taking time out of her busy and hectic life - multiple trips to the doctor and/or hospital with her son, home schooling, writing, blogging, living life - to help critique the short story I plan (or perhaps already have) to submit to The Literary Labs Genre Wars contest. Not once, but twice, she read my story, critiqued it, and offered some great advice.
So, dear Robyn, this blog post today is all about you. You have my sympathies, you have my thanks, and you have my friendship as well.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The basics of his post can be summed up in this question: have any of you awakened to the reality that you're writing a book about things you would normally never even consider reading about?
His post went more in depth than the question might imply.
The comments between Scott and I are as follows:
Me - In answer to your question - no, well, at least not yet. I have explored dark subjects - abusive relationships, well, the aftermath and recovery. No, I'm not, nor was I in, an abusive relationship. The situation just fit for the character, and hopefully I'm portraying the emotions correctly. I've also written about the aftermath of rape, but didn't show the actual act other than in very brief, very non explicit, snippets. I'm like you - don't want to read the explicit stuff, and I'm not going to write the explicit stuff.
As for adequate standing . . . do any of us truly, unless we're writing a semi-autobiographical book cloaked under the pseudonym of fiction, have adequate standing?
I mean, I write about women . . . but I'm not a woman. I write about heterosexuals . . . but I'm not a heterosexual. I've written about people who have done horrible things . . . but I haven't done those things.
I truly think we can only do the best we can, based on our experience and research. We can only write the best novel we are capable of writing, and perhaps still strive to write something better.
Obviously, the characters and situations you are writing about were something, on some level, you wanted (maybe needed) to write about. I mean why, if there wasn't something you wanted (needed?) to explore, would the idea have come to you in the first place, and why would you have pursued the idea to Chapter 4? Was it maybe to understand the characters and situations a bit better? Pure curiosity? Instinct?
Sorry about the long comment. The words just flow sometimes and I can't stop myself. The post definitely gave me plenty of thought material. My brain isn't happy about synapsing this late in the afternoon.
Scott - "I mean why, if there wasn't something you wanted (needed?) to explore, would the idea have come to you in the first place, and why would you have pursued the idea to Chapter 4?"
You know, it all comes down to story. The story doesn't work without the characters I'm gathering together. There isn't anything I'm trying to figure out or explore in my writing; there is only the story. Possibly I'm just having doubts about my ability to do these characters justice, more than doubts about the characters' "appropriateness". The writing is going well, but each subsequent chapter is forcing me to write in new ways. I have a gay protagonist and I very shamefully worry about the marketplace. And yes, there's a lot of violence in this book and, while I plan to show the inner strength of our species, I intend to do that by contrasting it against our baser brothers and sisters.
ME - Scott - gay men read, and avidly, almost as much as women. There is a sad lack of good fiction with gay protagonists. So, there is an audience. In addition, as my best friend will tell you, the majority of women will read gay fiction as well. Now, she might be a bit biased . . . no, she's not. She tells it like it is, no holds barred.
I struggled with the same issue - gay protagonists - with the project I hope to query in the next few months. Was there a big enough audience? Would people want to read? Well, I hope so. I've poured a good part of myself into the project.
You, it seems, are pouring a good part of yourself into your project.
Personally, I admire you for daring to write such a book, with a gay protagonist. Best of luck!
Scott - It's not just the gay protagonist; there are also a number of murders and, more to the point, some scenes of race hatred that unnerve me and I haven't even written them yet. I don't know. The writing is going well, I say. I love this book, but it makes me uncomfortable in any number of ways.
Okay, all of this commenting back and forth made me realize the following: do we write about inappropriate subject matter, things we wouldn't read about, in order to confront our feelings about those subject matters?
Now, I'm not talking about explicit sex here. I'm talking about violence, murder, rape, abusive relationships, and . . . whatever. I'm talking about the things that make us cringe, that make us mad when we hear about them, and the things that might actually make us physically ill.
The other day I was watching Tabitha Takes Over on BRAVO. Basically, this witch of a hair dresser - very forward, very take charge, and very witchy goes to various hair salons, figures out what's wrong, and puts them right on track again. Yes, there's drama - this is a so called reality show after all. So, I'm watching . . . and I'm turning my head away so I don't have to watch the drama unfolding on screen. I'm uncomfortable with her tactics, her approach, and also the reactions of the people she is trying to whip into shape.
As uncomfortable as I was, I didn't turn the television off. Why? Because I think I needed to figure out why I was uncomfortable. What about the situation, her directness, was making me uncomfortable?
I think the same thing goes when we we write about inappropriate subject matter - I think we are trying to gain a deeper understanding of the events we are writing about, even if it is rape, murder, violence of any type, or whatever.
I also think that when we challenge ourselves by writing something that, as the other Scott put it, makes me uncomfortable in so many ways we are truly challenging ourselves as writers. We are going beneath the surface of our own emotions, our own feelings of outrage, to write about something that makes us uncomfortable. We, as writers, are viewing the event from every angle: the attacker, the victim, the friends of the victim, and other people. The event becomes so much more, and I think we delve deep into our own feelings as we explore the myriad emotions connected to the event, and resulting from the event, as we try to gain a better understanding of why whatever happened, and why it makes us feel uncomfortable.
Now, I could also be totally wrong about this. This is just my opinion, for whatever that is worth.
Now, as with any blog post, I must end with pretty much the same question as the other Scott: have any of you awakened to the reality that you're writing a book about things you would normally never even consider reading about?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I mean, seriously, why in the heck schedule NaNoWriMo in November . . . one of the most hectic months of the year for most people. Have the people behind NaNoWriMo ever hosted a Thanksgiving dinner? Do they not realize the many, many, many trips to the grocery store because you forget 12 important items on your 40 page grocery list? Do they not realize that the toilets do not scrub themselves? Nor does the glass shower clean itself? Oh, and do they not realize that November is dust breeding month? What, you've never heard of dust breeding month? Well, it's the one month in the year that the dust parties down and creates more and more dust, which you have to stay on top of or else, your mother will glance down at the glass table, wrinkle her nose, and then give you the look that says, haven't you learned anything, anything at all from my obsessive cleaning habits throughout the years? Oh, yes, Mom has been known to give me that look on quite a few occasions.
I guess the mothers of the people behind NaNo never gave their children such a look. I'm just saying . . .
Oh, now, back to my conspiracy theory . . .
Do the people behind NaNo not realize how much time is spent figuring out a menu, preparing all the stuff, and planning for any uninvited guests? There is not time to write during Thanksgiving week. Heck, there is barely time to think.
And what about the official put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving thingy?? I mean, it takes me days and days to decorate the house. Putting up the tree is an event. Christmas music blares throughout the house. I pull the tree out of the attic, put it up, fluff the branches - this takes forever, people, f-o-r-e-v-e-r! Then, before I can even put the first ornament on the tree, I must wait a day to make sure all the fluffing is done. Did I mention f-o-r-e-v-e-r??? Then, I begin the slow process of putting the ornaments up, studying the tree, moving an ornament here, there, and everywhere. The casual, but actually planned, movement of ornaments can go on for a week . . . or two. Then, there are the rest of the decorations to place through the house . . . which pretty well eats up the time between Thanksgiving Day and the end of the month.
So, how in the heck am I supposed to find time to pound out 50,000 words in 30 days time when Thanksgiving happens in the same month . . . every year?
Couldn't the people behind NaNo have picked a different month? What about January? I mean JaNoWriMo has a good ring to it?? Seriously, it's after the holidays, peoples lives have settled down, winter has settled in, and it would make a perfect time for writing.
So, who else thinks NaNo is a conspiracy???
Okay, seriously, I don't think it's a conspiracy. I'm just in a completely snarky mood and wanted to throw this out there for all the people struggling with NaNo and trying to figure out how the heck they're going to prepare the Thanksgiving feast when they still have 25,000 words to write and less than a week to finish them? I'm just saying . . .
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
There were quite a few interesting comments regarding Take Time to Breathe - go over, check them out, and then hop back here. The one comment that really struck a note with me, not that the others didn't, was this one by WindyA at Like the Weather:
Other than that, all my writing time is when the family is asleep. I would rather sacrifice the hours of shut-eye than time with my husband and kids.
My response (oh, come on, like I wouldn't have a response??):
I try and schedule my writing time for when I'm alone. #1 - if I don't, my beloved partner will just come in the room and start chatting with me, totally clueless to 'the look' I'm giving him. He's just lucky I like him a wee bit. There is sacrifice in the life we writers have chosen, and we just have to figure out where we're willing to make that sacrifice.
Yes, for a change, I inspired myself! Woo-hoo!
Everything I've blogged about recently - The Haunting, Take Time to Breathe, Patience, and a few other things as well, seems to come back to one thing: what sacrifice are we willing to make to become published authors? What relationships? What moments with our kids? What moments of life?
Am I willing to get up at 5 AM instead of 5:30 AM to write just a bit in the morning? Heck no. 5:30 AM is early enough. I do my exercises, shower, get dressed, scoop the litter boxes, walk Jesse, and then off to work. I'm not getting up at 5 AM. Sorry, not able to make that sacrifice, even for my writing, which I love, love, LOVE to do.
I write when I write, normally after Franklin heads off to work, and if I can't fit writing into my busy schedule . . . well, I just don't stress about it. I have enough white hair coming in, without adding more stress to my life. I mean, I am so tired of my oldest sister laughing and telling the rest of us that she doesn't have a single grey/white hair. She can be so hateful sometimes. : )
I'm willing to give up a lot for my writing, just not everything, at a cost to myself that is more than I'm willing to pay.
How about you? What price are you truly willing to pay to have your book on the shelves at Borders and available through Amazon???
How much of yourself are you willing to give in this crazy reality series known as: The Amazing Race to Publication?
Will you be able to look back, one day in the near future, and be content with the choices you made to finish that race?
For me, right here/now, I'm happy with the choices I'm making. I'm taking things slow, I'm taking deep breaths, and I'm creating balance in my life.
Monday, November 9, 2009
For whatever reason, the quote resonated with me - very deeply. I mean, I've been cutting like crazy from Margarita Nights lately, and from other projects that I'm working on as well right now. I never delete the stuff I cut, I carefully paste it into a document called Omitted Sections. I never know when something in that paragraph, or chapter (that's happened a time or two), I cut, might come in handy at some later date, or in some future project. So, I keep everything.
But, the keeping of everything is not the point of this post. I'm really not sure if there's a point to this post. Perhaps the quote is the main point of this post.
When I edit, it's like going to the dentist for a root canal - I don't want to do it, it's going to hurt, and I'm going to be all swollen afterwards.
Okay, revising is not that bad, but sometimes when I'm cutting out a paragraph here, there, and everywhere, it is very painful. It's never easy to take out swaths of writing in one fell swing of the scythe. These words, sentences, and paragraphs, are a part of me. I poured endless hours into my writing. Every. Single. Word. Is. Brilliant!
Okay, maybe not, which is the whole point of the revision process. Sometimes, though, we have to take out things that are truly special because they really don't do anything for the story.
Sarah at Slushbusters put it this way about a particular scene she cut: it wasn't part of my story but it set the stage for the story.
I've eliminated a great many paragraphs that set the stage for the story, but weren't really a part of the story. In the revision process of another project, I've cut out major, major bunches of stuff from the first few chapters. In fact, I've pretty much cut those first few chapters in half.
Now, the stuff I'm taking out is part of the story, but it really wasn't needed in those first few chapters. There are parts of the stuff I cut that I will incorporate later in the book. There are other parts that will just remain a part of the first draft and not the later drafts. In the end, though, the weight and sense and soul of what we cut lingers in our work, even if it isn't visible on the page.
It's okay to delete huge passages. It's okay to delete chapters. It's okay to . . . delete, delete, and delete some more, because the intent of the writing in the first place remains.
Friday, November 6, 2009
I've written before about patience, taking time to smell the roses, and all that jazz. Well, a comment yesterday started me thinking along those lines again, and it went something like . . .
If we hurry too fast through life, we're not really living. We have to take the time to slow down, ease the hurried pace, and take notice of the world around us.
Icarus wanted to fly, but instead he crashed and burned. He wanted his dream so bad, he didn't think about the consequences. He, in effect, burned out.
I think if we rush, rush, rush all the time, then we will burn out. Our relationships will suffer, and, our writing as well.
So, my advice - don't fly too high, don't race to far, don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow might not come. Worry about today, here and now, and take a moment to breathe!
We need to breathe people, deep, steady breaths, as we race toward our dream of publication. We need to stretch, warm-up, and take precautionary measures. We need to find a balance between our dream of being published, and the world around us as well.
So, my questions: Is a dream worth having if there's nothing left of us in the end? How much of you, the person, are you willing to sacrifice to become you, the published author? What relationships are you willing to let fall to the wayside so you can pursue your publishing dream? How many hugs with your children/husband/significant other are you willing to give up because you just have to write? How many pats on the head for the dog and cat are you going to forgo because you just have to write? Will it all be worth it in the end?
Follow your dreams, follow your heart, but don't forget to live in the process.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The question: What does the MC have to lose if they can't overcome Conflict A, B, or C?
Whoa, deep question, which prompted a quite lengthy answer on my part (after I rolled my eyes at the title of her post - sorry, Elana, it was an instinctive reaction . . . and you knew it was going to happen), which prompted this blog post. So, woo-hoo to Elana for inspiring me once again!!!
Part of my response . . .
What is the loss, and what is the importance of the loss to the character?If it's an internal struggle, will the loss create greater consequences somewhere down the road for the character . . . well after 'the end'.
If it's something external - home, job, wife, kids - well, that's easier to write about.
Can an internal struggle be maintained? Can the reader sympathize? Would a reader want to sympathize?
I normally write about internal struggles (well, conflicts) versus external. Many times, at least in my own personal experience, the struggles a person faces in life are truly internal. There is not the loss of a home, a job, a wife or a kid, but rather the loss of happiness, the loss of independence, the loss of self, and so many other things.
So, picture it - Character E is in a bad relationship, somewhat content in his misery, and not sure he wants to risk leaving the relationship, for fear he'll end up alone. Isn't a bad relationship better then no relationship?
With this instance, the struggle is totally internal, but there is still loss, because I think the character sacrifices something of himself to stay in the bad relationship, to exist in misery, rather than going out and risking loneliness.
So, picture it - Character A has a great life - good job, house, car, loving family. He suddenly discovers a horrible secret about two of the people he loves the most. His goal: protect that secret, even if it means destroying himself in the process. What does he have to lose? Well, the two people he loves the most because if the secret is revealed, the consequences to those two people will be harsh. He will do anything, anything, to protect them.
So, again, the main loss is internal, but there is a potential external loss if he can't overcome the main conflict of keeping the secret, well, secret.
So, are the consequences in your story internal or external? If internal, how do you sustain the story when there is not the loss of . . . job, home, car, wife, kids, family dog, whatever? Is writing about internal struggles harder than writing about external struggles? Lastly, did you roll your eyes when you read the title of Elana's post?? Ha!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
My response to those questions . . .
I no longer stress about finishing my WiPs!
Why? Well . . . the publishing industry is currently in chaos. The economy, while improving, is still in a bit of chaos. People just aren't buying books right now, agents are being a bit more picky, and the publishing industry as a whole seems to be taking a step back to consider things.
So, why should I rush? Why not grab hold of that elusive entity known as patience and take my time?
That's exactly what I have been doing. I still have the dream of being published. I will be published. I will hone my craft and create the best possible manuscript I can.
So, take a deep breath, and give your writing the thing it deserves the most - patience. You'll finish your WiP when you finish. There's no rush. Yes, there's the driving need in every writer to finish and get published. But . . . patience, patience, patience. The industry is in flux right now. Why not take advantage of this time of uncertainty to really, really make this WiP the best thing you ever did . . . by taking it slowly, one step at a time!
I think we all know that the publishing industry . . . well . . . it aint' what it used to be. The publishing industry is going through growing pains. There's a sense of uncertainty out there right now, especially with the massive (tsunami anyone??) move toward digital books.
For that very reason alone, I've adopted a more patient manner toward my writing, and my eventual publication. Oh, I will be published, you can place money on that one, dear readers, but perhaps in a more sedate time frame then I once imagined.
In no way am I giving up the writing dream. I'll write! It's part of who I am!!!
I'll also take a few deep breaths, and continue to refine the stuff I've already written. I'll take the distance (see yesterday's post) I need so that what I'm writing is the best possible stuff . . . EV-AH!!!!
How about you? Are you still in a hurry toward publication? Can you think of nothing else? Do you hurry through projects thinking this is it, the faster I finish, the faster I'll be published? Is this a good/bad attitude to have? Should we all take the time to enjoy the flux/chaos of the publishing industry to adopt a more patient manner, while at the same time never giving up our publication dream? Should we count this flux/chaos as a blessing, a chance to take the time to truly live up to our writing potential, rather than put something out there that's just not . . . brilliant??
Yes, I know, a lot of questions, but that's where my brain went with this post. In the end, our writing will define us in some small, perhaps grand, way. I'd rather the writing that defines me be just as brilliant as I can possibly make it!! How about you?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The whole concept, whether playing the piano, painting, gymnastics, writing, or whatever, is that, well . . . it takes practice. The brilliant writing that we all do, that we are all capable of doing, doesn't just happen.
We hone our craft . . . constantly.
We write, write, write . . . write, and keep on writing.
Sometimes, we write doody. We have to move past the doody and keep on writing. We also have to remember that doody is a useful part of life. I mean, what is fertilizer, after all, except a big pile of doody that makes plants flourish and show their brilliance! So, writing doody is just a reminder of how much better we can write.
In my comment to Elana I wrote something to the effect . . . every novel is a practic novel, but some of those novels become a performance at symphony hall (or something to that effect - sorry, forget to copy/paste that lovely comment - whoops!!).
Some of the novels are just doody.
And still other novels are . . . well something I must keep practicing at until they are ready for performance at Symphony Hall . . . or should I say . . . Publishers Hall!!!
I have learned that distance (yes, it took me a bit, but I'm getting to the point/title of this post) is the greatest tool a writer (perhaps any artist) can possess, well, that and a heck of a lot of patience.
Still, distance is key to writing. Sometimes, we have to set our practice materials aside and move on to something else, so that we can look at the stuff we set aside with better clarity.
I wrote what I thought was a great novel. It was good, not great. I've recently begun relooking at the project with more clarity. I know that it is not working in its current format. I also know it's not a big pile of doody. It needs a bit more practicing. Heck, it needs a lot more practicing.
So, when you've written something that you think is brilliant - well, send it off to the crit group, step away from it, and look at it a month or so later. It might not be brilliant, it's probably not doody, and with a little bit more practice, it might be Publisher Hall worthy at some future date.
Give yourself the distance from your writing so that you truly can look at it with a sense of clarity. Examine the structure of the novel. Is everything working? What's not working? How can you, in the words of Timm Gunn from Project Runway . . . make it work???
Monday, November 2, 2009
Patrick over at Adventures in Writing ended his Friday post with the above quote. I found the quote as inspiring as Janet Reid's post titled less than zero which I linkity-linked to last week.
The above quote is less a pat on the back, a sense of accomplishment, then it is a statement about our lives and what makes us writers, other than the fact that we've written a novel, twenty unfinished manuscripts (btw Elana, I'm on Chapter 2121 now - I'm making progress), a short story or whatever. Yeah, those accomplishments make us writers, but they are only one part of the complex equation.
You see, dear readers, life itself makes us writers as well. I don't know about anybody else, but the world around me is inspiration - the conversations I overhear (okay, I eavesdrop, but I'm a writer, I'm allowed), the confrontations I witness, the moments of my life that were so filled with drama they're etched permanently into my mind, the dancer on a dance floor, the woman proudly wearing her new hat to church, and so many other things.
My anger is often inspiration. As everybody should know by now, a 15 year old girl was gang raped during a dance at her high school. At least 10, if not more people, watched this happen and . . . did nothing. This makes me mad. The fact that a woman was dead for 23 years and nobody noticed makes me mad. Anger inspires me to write, normally not short stories, but blog posts on my other blog. Life is unfair. I write about that unfairness because the only thing that can make you (me) a writer is the person that you are, the intensity of your feeling, the honesty of your vision, the unsentimental acknowledgment of the endless interest of the life around and within you (me).
I sometimes think I see past the facade - what is happening here/now - to the emotions behind an event. Okay, I don't really see past the facade, but I'm able to create a scene in my mind, and eventually on to virtual paper, based on the facade. If I see two women arguing - well, I can pretty much create endless scenarios as to why they are arguing.
Scenario One - woman stylishly dressed, make up carefully applied, every hair in place just found out her best friend was having an affair with her husband. Best friend is vehemently denying the accusation while all the time she is clasping and unclasping her hands.
Scenario Two - woman stylishly dressed, make up carefully applied . . . just let her best friend know that her best friend's husband might be cheating on her . . .
And the scenarios could go on endlessly, but eventually end up in something I'm writing or will write at some point in the future.
I don't just see an argument between two women, I see an unfolding vista of stories. I don't just see leaves falling off a tree, I see something else entirely. The fog shrouded street last Thursday morning, tendrils of pink in the sky, and slate grey, almost flat clouds, were not just fog, colors, and clouds, no, that scene evoked . . . the woman walked slowly down the street toward the fog, the man behind her walked more slowly. Her pace quickened, his slowed. She reached the edge of the fog before him. She glanced over her shoulder, smiled, and then stepped into the fog. The man did not. He stood frozen in place.
The woman felt the fog wrap around her. She shivered. She kept walking. Silence was all about her. She could see the dim outline of trees in the distance. She shouldn't be seeing trees. She should be seeing the shapes of the houses at the end of the cul-de-sac. Where were the houses?
So, such a simple thing as fog, pink in the morning sky, and slate grey clouds became something more than fog, pink, and clouds.
We are writers because we are writers, because our lives shaped the path we took to this crazy, exciting, frustrating, angst ridden, adventure known as the writing life. Every moment in our lives, every argument we witness, every laugh we hear, is so much more than a moment, an argument, a laugh - those things are the inspiration that keeps us up late at night, pecking away at the keyboard, honing our brilliance so that one day, all our friends will say well, I knew him/her when . . .
Friday, October 30, 2009
First - Robyn needs to quit reading my mind. Here it was, 5 AM-ish on Thursday morning, and I'm thinking Self, you need to post pictures of your workspace on blogger or something to that effect. Yes, the places my mind goes at 5 AM are quite scary, quite scary indeed.
Imagine my surprise when I checked in with Robyn on Thursday morning and . . . she had posted pictures of her workspace!!!
This is where, sometimes, I hone my brilliance to diamond like perfection.
This picture is where I sometimes sit, stare out the window, perhaps read, perhaps pet the cat, or just sort of meditate on life.
I've gotten quite a bit of inspiration from sitting in this chair and just staring out the window.
The wall color is candy apple red and was painted by the previous owner of the house. The pictures don't do the color justice. I wasn't sure if I would like the color or not when we first bought the house, but I love, love, love it now.
Here is the window I find my self staring out and meditating on life, story ideas, or just nothing whatsoever. : )
In the spring or fall I love to open the windows and let the fresh air into the house. Those days are few and far between since spring always morphs into summer, and fall into winter, far too quickly.
Here are the built in bookcases. Yes, built in! My dream - well, one of them - come true. These cases house my favorite, favorite books. There are books scattered throughout the house in various places as well.
Here's the armoire opened wide to reveal my workspace. Like how neat and organized it is? I'm such the neatnik!!! NOT!
I organized this morning . . . and it was ugly, very, very ugly. I pulled all the loose piles of paper I have a tendency of scattering here, there, and everywhere (I do mean everywhere) in my office, took them into the kitchen and began the sorting process. Then, I pulled out file folders, labeled them, and started filing the papers neatly away to create a sense of order in the chaos that is normally my workspace.
Lastly, here's my other office. Really, it's the dinette table in the kitchen nook. I write here more than anywhere else lately, mainly because the dogs sunroom is to the right. If they can see me, they're happy. If they can't . . . well, Jesse is quite whiny at times, and that disturbs my writing flow, so most times I just write at my other office.
Still, there are many times when I escape into my private domain, turn up the music, and write.
Hope everybody has a great weekend!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The whole banter back/forth thingy made my brain cells do the funky synapse dance that they like to do when I'm, well, thinking!
And, the result of the funky synapse dance (similar to the funky chicken, but with out the arm flapping thingy) is this question: do your characters banter?
I've written about character dynamics before, and other character things as well. For me, characters often become alive - i'm a real boy, i'm a real boy - for me when the characters banter. They seem more real.
So, are your characters alive? Do they banter back and forth, do their ears hang low, do they wobble to and . . . dratted Walmart commercial!!! Arrrgghhh! Or, are your characters just listlessly immersed in the pages of your brilliance? Do they need a little bang for their buck? Do they need a little salt with their pepper?? Is the cool missing from their whip?
If you answered yes to any of those questions . . . please join me in the loony bin!! Kidding.
I know the whole point of dialogue is to propel things forward, a natural progression, and all that jazz, but I firmly believe that the quirkiness of your characters, their inner snark so to speak, must shine forth as well. People have hum-drum conversations everyday. I don't bother to eavesdrop on those conversations. No fun, no fun at all. I love to eavesdrop on snarky conversations. I often find myself laughing at something that the people I'm eavesdropping on say.
I laugh at conversations between characters in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. LOL! ROTFLOL!!!
I laughed a few times today with the snarky email banter between a friend and I. I've forwarded that email home so I can include the banter in some future novel. Why? Because, if I do say so myself, there's a vibrancy that shines forth in the back/forth emails. There's a sense of me, and my friend, in the back/forth banter. There's a sense of, well, character.
So, my challenge to you . . . go read the conversations between your characters. Do you sense the characters in those conversations? Do the conversations give you a sense of the characters? Do the conversations seem alive and vibrant or dull and listless? If you were a fly on the wall . . . would you eavesdrop on said conversations, or fly off to irritate somebody else?
As for me, if I input said email banter/conversation into say, Margarita Nights, and was reading said banter/conversation . . . I'd LOL. No, I'm not tooting - okay, maybe I am - my own horn, because I only wrote 1/2 the conversation. Said snarky friend also wrote 1/2 of the conversation. Still, 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 Funny Email Exchange . . . at least in my opinion.
p.s. no, i'm not going to post the conversation on the blog . . . well, at least not today.
p.p.s - since I'm all about linking this week. Go and check out Nathan Bransford's post about themes schmemes!
p.p.p.s - check out Janet Reid's post about notes from the effective query class at SCWW
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Today . . . I'm sending you to The Blood-Red Pencil for a nifty Novel Checklist.
As many of you know, I'm not a heavy duty outliner. I'm more of a free flow, wing it, a note here, a note there, where in the heck did that post it note go with the brilliant idea I had for Chapter 2112 go to, kind of outliner. There are no detailed lists, no maps, nothing but a haphazard way of outlining that works for, well, me! Woo-hoo.
I still asks (okay, that was a typo, but I figured it was meant to be there, so I'm leaving it) myself questions along the way . . . many of which I have found on Lady Glamis' blog The Innocent Flower and/or The Literary Lab, the blog she co-authors with Scott and Davin. The questions are many that a writer needs to ask during the writing process. The novel checklist provides some more dandy questions to ask, and breaks these questions down into categories, such as . . .
Point of View
Dialogue . . .
. . . and some more that I'm not going to repeat here, but direct you to here so you can read these for yourselves, book mark the page, print it out, and have it as a handy-dandy reference as you are going through the writing process.
I hope everyone is having a productive week. Me? Well, not so much, but I'm hoping that changes as the week progresses.