Tuesday, December 29, 2009
As you whisper sweet literary promises to yourself for the new year, keep in mind this awesomely simple advice from Konrath:
Goals should be within your power. In other words, anything that involves a yes or no from another human being isn't a goal, it's a dream.
... "I want to be a bestseller" isn't a goal. "I want to attend three writing conferences this year, polish my novel, and send queries to ten agents by November" is a goal.
This year, let's be realistic and specific about our goals.
In 2010, I am going to produce writing every week and query widely.
Now bloggees, be realistic and specific: Set an achievable writing goal for 2010 and make it public in the comments.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Wipe the sugar plum dust out of your eyes and let's get back to producing stuff.
I'm talking to myself, you know. I've spent these holidays contemplating and plotting, strategic planning, and now I'm putting all the whosits and whatsits into place. 2010 is going to blow our minds.
"When thou wakest,
In the sight
Of thy former lady's eye:
And the country proverb known,
That every man should take his own,
In your waking shall be shown:
Jack shall have Jill;
Nought shall go ill;
The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well."
So said Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream
I am feeling optimistic. Tell me, what is your great big goal for 2010?
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
I lean against the bars that separate us from the others. 'So let me get this right,' I say to one of the Townie girls. 'All it takes is to insult someone's mother?'
'No,' she explains. 'That's the beauty of it. They don't actually have to insult. The words Your mother are enough.'
'So if I said to you, "Your mother is a...?"' I shrug.
'Just "Your mother." But it doesn't work if girls say it to each other,' she continues. 'You have to have a penis for it to affect you in such a way.'
'Oh funny, funny,' Santangelo says.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
from a great article on writing resolutions at The Washington Post
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
A Christmas Carol
Oh, what fun! Audible is giving A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry (!) to all of its members for free, and I'm loving it. If you don't dig audiobooks, you can still read it for free at Gutenberg. But seriously, you should try the audio version. Tim Curry totally brings the sexy back to Dickens.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
You get that?
I've also been time-traveling via a collection of mix CDs I unearthed in my basement. Perhaps this audio meditation is fueling my dejection?
What evs. It'll pass. Always does. In the meantime, I offer you a songnapping from the nineties. Damn, I love(d) these guys:
"Late at night she knocks on my door.
She's drunk again and looking to score.
Oh, I know I should say no, but
it's kind of hard when she's ready to go.
I may be dumb, but I'm not a dweeb.
I'm just a sucker with no self esteem."
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I don't agree with the assertion that audiobooks are not real books. The knowledge or story represented by the words is in my brain when I'm finished. How is that not reading a book?
5 Great Things about Audiobooks:
- Pronunciation of difficult names: not a problem.
- I clean when I listen/read. I can tell how good a book is by how clean my house is.
- My dog's walks are longer when I'm listening to a good audiobook.
- I read WAY more books per year since I embraced audiobooks.
- I get read to sleep every night.
3 Sucky Things about Audiobooks:
- Sometimes I want to press stop on an audiobook and open a text version--like when the house is clean, the dog is walked, and my finger is poised over the pause button, waiting for a good break.
- I rarely booknap from audiobooks because I forget to bookmark good parts, and I can't flip through an audiobook to find what I want.
- Sometimes when I listen/read, I wish I could see how something looks on a page--like when the narrator in Juliet, Naked reads Wikipedia pages, I want to know how they look.
Best thing about the Kindle? It's easy to read while eating. I put a piece of tape over the page-turn button so I don't even get it dirty. Kindles have the option (on most books) to turn text to speech--this was a selling point for me--but I hate robot voices that have no inflection, so I hardly ever use that option.
Some books are so good I have them in audio and print form. I've read a Kindle book and then bought the hard copy too--just because seeing certain titles on my bookshelf makes me happy.
And now I introduce my point.
Want to know why I'm always reading more than one book? Because I keep a traditional book, an audiobook, and a Kindle book going simultaneously. It's not a perfect method, but it's a way for me be able to read in the easiest way whenever I get a chance. Publishing industry peeps who are looking for ways to increase profits, take note: I would pay extra to get a Kindle, text, and audio version of a book in a bundle--not every book, mind you--but just like I shell out extra cash for a hardcover on occasion, I'd have no problem paying extra to get some books in all three forms, and if they were available as a package price instead of $25 for audio, $15 for print, and $10 for kindle, I'd feel like I was getting a deal.
What's your take on audiobooks? Like 'em? Hate 'em? Don't consider 'em real books? Never tried 'em? Got any recommendations? Want mine? Lolitaread by Jeremy Irons rocked my world.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
These days most of the books I read are YA fiction, but occasionally grown-up fiction (Adult fiction sounds creepy.) slips into my reading list. Reading an adult book always makes me meditate on the difference between adult and YA fiction. Last night I pondered endings.
See, YA novels sort of have to end positively. It's kind of a rule. In her Wall Street Journal article on YA fiction, Katie Roiphe explained that writers of the dreariest YA fiction "are careful to infuse the final scenes of these bleak explorations with an element of hope."
I love that hope. I wondered how Ellen Hopkins would create it in Tricks, if Laurie Halse Anderson would be able to do it in Wintergirls. They did, and with a style that seemed to my outside eyes effortless (which means it took TONS of effort).
After I read most novels intended for adults, I dwell on the endings for days. I ask myself: What really happened? Anything? The character changed, so I suppose that's something, but I just can't say exactly...
So, are endings of adult books supposed to be more complex than endings of YA books? Not so easily understood? More thought-provoking for our gigantic, well-aged brains?
Sometimes I read an ending a second time and I still don't get it. Sometimes I think a book is remarkable despite its ending. And it's not because adult fiction depresses whereas YA fiction brightens. Endings in most YA novels are just clearer in my opinion.
Let me be unmistakable about what I love about most YA fiction endings: The main character's catharsis happens in such a way that I can explain it to someone else without sounding like a dumbass. I believe there is something in the average YA reader that will not accept ambiguous finales, and that YA fiction writers respect that.
Here's one of my all-time favorite quotes about YA fiction:
"Teen books are like adult books, without all the bullshit."
New York City librarian Jack Martin said that during a panel that explored where exactly YA belongs in my mind, in bookstores, on library shelves, etc. But are cloudy endings bullshit? Or something beyond my ability to comprehend? Or just not my taste?
My meditation on endings breeds new questions:
Do YA novels need to end hopefully, positively? What are the requisites for endings in general?
I'd love to hear how the rest of you approach your endings, be they YA or adult or anything else. And am I the only one who doesn't "get" some endings?
What makes a great ending?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Anyway, I am in love with the New Moon Soundtrack
Here's how we met: I heard the first notes of "Hearing Damage" when I went to see New Moon, and my audio-self couldn't turn away. I knew I must own the soundtrack as soon as possible.
At home I searched for the track list and saw "Thom Yorke," and I was all, Like Radiohead Thom Yorke?
I received a burned copy yesterday and have been ingesting almost every track ever since.
I've already added Lykke Li's CD Youth Novels (The title alone tells me I'll love it.) to my Christmas list. I love how "Possibility" sounds like what it means. I suppose all songs try to do that, but this one actually succeeds. She perfectly captures the feeling of the realization:
"There’s a possibility--
All that I had was all I'm going to get"
So there it is. My stance on the entire Twilight Saga and all that comprises it: decidedly positive. What say you about this massive international franchise?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Really, how many words can I write in the 40 minutes I have before I must leave for work? Wouldn't this time be better spent, I don't know, doing something? I'll write when I have copious amounts of silent, unhindered time.
Then I open my quote journal, and find this:
"You will turn over a many a futile new leaf 'til you learn we must all write on scratched-out pages."
So I'm writing and wishing you happy travels down your own imperfect road.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Lately, I've been attending free online business classes. I am working on a writing career, not a writing hobby, so I have to train the marketing department of Marie, Inc.
Right now I'm learning about strategic planning and execution--or envisioning my ideal future writing career and building a plan that will lead to realizing that vision. I even found a quote worth online course-napping:
"You are either writing the story of the future or you are living inside the story of another. There can be no other possibilities."
Apt for us writers, no?
If you're feeling the burn or fretting the loss of your "it," I recommend visiting SmallBizU, which I found by searching the University of Scranton Small Business Development Center site. As someone who's considered pursuing an MBA, I can say that the classes I found there saved me a few tens of thousands of dollars.
Are you writing the story of your future? Do you train your inner marketing dept.? How? Where? Why?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
- Why did you trust her? You should’ve known better.
- Hey dummy, why don't you keep that thought to yourself.
- Is this a game of how many was-es and thats you can fit on a page?
In my lifelong quest for inner peace, I’ve been reading a lot of hippie new-age stuff--I read everything--and this one hippie in particular recommends talking to your anger, finding out why it’s so, well, angry.
My anger rolls her eyes when I approach. She taps her foot impatiently and asks, “What now?”
But I walk right up to her and ask, "Whats your damage, Heather?"
The rest is personal, so I won’t go into it. I mean, it’s embarrassing, and even though my anger is kind of a bitch, I don’t want to sell her out. I’m trying to teach her about trusting people and being nicer, especially to me—so I lead by example.
Here she comes again, yapping about my low nano word count.
“There will be time, there will be time…” I tell her, and get this—she smiles. She remembers college when we used to skip class to sit around our dorm smoking cigarettes and reading poetry out loud with passionate inflection. She remembers writing 600 poems in the style of "Prufrock" because we couldn’t get that haunting voice out of our head--and how all that useless, horrible writing made us the wordsmith we are today.
These days, me and my anger are tight, yo. Still, she leaned in close this morning and said, “Staring into the distance is cool, but it’s November 17, and I really want to know what you-know-who is going to do about you-know-what. If you don’t start writing that scene, we’ll never know.”
And my anger is totally right, although I’m glad she’s found a nicer way to express herself.
Describe your inner voice. Give it an adjective, and tell me about it in the comments. If it’s a negative adjective, have a conversation with your inner voice. The world has enough mean people. Be nice to yourself.
Monday, November 16, 2009
He was struck silent, rarely having heard these words from a student's lips. "Of course." He motioned me to sit in the front row. "Is it a poem?" he asked.
"No," I said, letting my bag clunk onto the floor beside the chair as I sat. I cherished his attention so much, but now it was difficult to bear. I kept my gaze on the paper in my hands. "Not exactly."
"A short story?"
"Well, it's short."
Be bold, I told myself. "A Letter from a Muse to Her Poet," I read. He leaned back in his chair. "Dear sir, I was called away and couldn't bring you, but now I feel haunted." He was staring at me, which made my cheeks prickle. "I know that sometimes you felt I was a part of you and that losing me would leave a hole in your heart, but that's not true." I looked up now, knowing the rest by heart. "I liked to pretend I was the core of your talent, but it wasn't me. Everything you do, the ideas you weave, the lines you write, the words you choose, it was always only you." He was still as a statue. "Please forgive me," I said. "I'm sorry that I didn't say goodbye."
A Certain Slant of Light
P.S., A friend of mine is reading a certain vampire book and of course she loves it, but her main qualm is an interesting one. She gets perturbed when the vampire speaks with incorrect grammar. The other characters' bad grammar doesn't bother her, but as she put it "THAT IS NOT HOW HE SPEAKS! HE WOULD NEVER SAY THAT!"
Secret: long ago, when I only dreamed of being a writer, I convinced myself I did not need to pay attention to all that grammar stuff because "my peeps talked real." I was really limiting myself, I later realized, by not even learning the tools required to write intelligent characters.
Why am I telling you this? Because bibliophiles and grammarphiles will love A Certain Slant of Light because the main characters speak so well. It's their very nature. Plus, OMG, IT'S SO GOOD!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
A Room With A View
E. M. Forster
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
In college, my friends and I developed a theory about the three main aspects of university life:
It occurs to me as I try to squeeze in home-cleanliness, responsible pet ownership, career, writing, family (both extended and immediate), socialization, recycling, reading, bill-paying, car upkeep, health, pop-culture junkiness, and a host of other responsibilities--that I can't have it all. I didn’t even mention sleep. Starting Monday, I cut into sleep a little bit further each night, so that by Friday, sleep has grown into a giant beast that hates accomplishment. Sleep pushes away my laptop and doesn't care about my dirty dishes, my unfinished chapter, Project Runway.
I don't even remember sleep from college, but it must have been there. The sleep urge seems to get stronger with age, but even it is not invincible. Certain books challenge sleep, and occasionally I get so into writing that everything else cowers: the gym is a den for the self-obsessed, my house is an important observation site for dust growth, and I don't know what happens to the rest of that stuff. I guess it evaporates.
Anyway, I am noticing a pattern:
- I come down with an inspiration-virus, which hits me with the mistaken notion that I can do everything. It's all a matter of following lists and not reading Perez Hilton.
- I create a color-coded schedule of tasks: solve world hunger, dust curtain rods, write a poem.
- The next few days I try valiantly to do it all, then settle for most. A battle ensues between the inspiration-virus and the growing strength of sleep beast. They fight. Sleep wins.
- By Thursday, I am a petri dish of self-hatred. I've completed 50% of my plans; yet I feel like 100% failure. To coddle myself, I read all the Perez I've missed and grow angry as I count typos and realize that most of his posts are a whole lot of nothing described in sensationalistic language intended to make me think it’s important… AND I AM FALLING FOR IT!
- I flog myself metaphorically, continue to tread the quickly rising water of my life, cultivate the inspiration-virus, and repeat.
I am Atlas, only I carry the world in a lumbar-supportive backpack. It doesn’t fit, but I squeeze the planets and shove them in, latch the bulging flaps, and reattempt my climb.
Oh wise blog-readers, this is a call to your collective knowledge. The sleep beast is a kitten compared to the unhappiness monster that will overtake me if I continue this pattern. But what stays, what goes? And how to battle the feeling of not doing enough despite doing all I can? Explain, please, how you achieve balance.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
those trances and portents!
As if cycles and children and islands
weren't enough; as if mourners and gossips
and vegetables were never enough.
She thinks she can warn the stars.
A writer is essentially a spy.
Dear love, I am that girl."
Man, I love me some Anne Sexton.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
- when I make the rules
- when the rule is "no butting in line"
- when rich people (not just money-rich, any kind of rich) break rules at the expense of poor people (not just money-poor, any kind of poor)
The truth is that I write 50,000 words a month anyway--even if it isn't November. Between work, emailing, novel-writing, blogging, journaling, list-creating, I probably write more than 50,000 words a month. However, because of all those different outlets, I rarely write 50,000 words on a single project in a month--except at work. For me, NaNoWriMo is an exercise in focus.
Yesterday, someone told me she couldn't believe I was writing a novel in a month. But I am absolutely not doing that. That's ridiculous! I'm writing 50,000 words of a novel in a month--I know I won't have a complete novel on November 30. THE INTERN is revising a novel this month--as is Frankie Diane Mallis. Do you know about NaPiBoWriWe, picture book writers? How 'bout HANOWRIMO? The ways to make this month your own are unlimited.
YA writer Justine Larbalestier says: "Use the month of November to explore. Whatever you wind up with—on paper or in your head—you’ll know more about yourself as a writer."
Have you changed the rules of NaNoWriMo to fit your style or needs? How are you making NaNoWriMo work for you?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
One of my local region nano buddies directed me to a great article about removing Internet noise so we can actually write. I'm tempted to give up blogging this month, except that I think blogging helps my writing rather than hinders it--but so much else hinders it. Here's my favorite quote from the article:
"The hounds are out this month, guys, and they smell your fear and self-doubt. So, shovelbloggers will be offering you a tantalizing Vegas-style buffet of endless writing “help” that will range from the indispensable to the stupid to the unconscionably poisonous."
Now, here are various ridiculous reasons I've put off writing in the past:
- I need a new laptop.
- What’s the point of revising before my thesaurus arrives?
- I will write when everyone is silent.
- No one’s writing anything until this house is cleaned.
- Has anyone seen my muse?
Monday, November 2, 2009
I planned to have a comprehensive scene list by yesterday, and I sort of do, but it's in my head, out of order, and still a little fuzzy. However, I checked the NaNoWriMo site this morning and saw that my betas are still at zero words too: Proof that betas are good for not only motivation, but also for making me feel better when I flake out.
I'll tell you what I do know. My main character has an awesome family. I have this picture of them, and I can't wait to see how they interact. Once I post this blog, I'm going to go write some scenes with the fam and make my pictures of them even clearer.
As you can see, I'm sort of a pantser in planner's clothing. I make big plans. I break big plans. I somehow emerge with a finished manuscript. I have no idea how it happens.
What about you? Do you plan ahead for your writing? Are you unaware how your magic manuscript gets completed? Got any tips to amp up my word production?
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Love You Hate You Miss You
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
First, a story.
A while back, I was watching Into the Wild and wondering why the hell my stories are not as beautiful as the ones I'm always falling in love with. (Yeah, I ended a sentence with a preposition. I'm feeling rebellious today.) I grabbed the closest notebook and began to list my favorite stories--not books, but stories: books, movies, tv shows, what have you. Here's what it looked like:
A Room With A View
A Moveable Feast
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Tao of Steve
The Catcher in the Rye
The Virgin Suicides
Pump up the Volume
I stared at those titles for a long time searching for similarities. Here's what I found: They all focused on deeply flawed characters. More specifically, the characters were sensitive souls, outsiders by nature of their eccentricity, hurt big time by someone they should have been able to trust: a parent, a sibling, a lover, themselves. As a result, they've been driven to extreme loneliness, the kind that only thrives if one cultivates it. In these stories, desperate characters crawl through the muck of extreme loneliness to emerge in a better place, or not.
These are the characters I identify with, and the sort I want to write about. These are my people.
Here is where my story morphs into your perfect character. What are your favorite stories (not books)? Jot them down. Stare at them for a while until you identify their similarities--not just character similarities. My favorites stories are set in strikingly beautiful, colorful locales. Their love interests represent a break from the constant fakery of the world. When I stare at my list, I see a very clear representation of my aesthetic*, and that helps me create stories closer in beauty to the ones I love.
Have you jotted? Are you staring, contemplating? What similarities emerge among the stories you love? What have you learned about your aesthetic*? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
*Aesthetic is a word used a lot in grad school even though nobody knows what it means. I've been using the word for nine years now, and I just started understanding it (I think). Merriam-Webster defines aesthetic as "a particular taste for or approach to what is pleasing to the senses." Those stories you love and write: they mean so much to you because they fit your aesthetic.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sin City, like calling it what it is
somehow legitimizes the name.
Las Vegas is Sin City. Whole lot
of sinning going on, from fancy
high-rise casino rooms to sleazy
well-off-the-strip motel dives.
People come here specifically
to sin. But I wonder whether
it's really true that "what happens
in Vegas stays in Vegas."
People stain themselves here.
I bet, no matter how hard they
scrub themselves after sinning,
when they go home, a certain
amount of stain remains visible.
Then, I guess, it's up to the spouse
or significant other to recognize
the meaning of that dark splotch
ghosting beneath the bleach.
Most of 'em probably don't want
to look. Don't want to know.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
How do you feel about writing contests? As the books-as-babies metaphor goes, entering writing contests is a bit like entering your kids in pageants, no? Then again, some of these contests are just plain fun. For instance, I'm writing a short story for the Genre Wars over at the Literary Lab, and--dork alert--I'm enjoying it.
Every year I say I'm going to try to win the Flannery O'Conner Short Fiction Award, and on the eve of the deadline, I find myself shivering on the floor, blowing my nose in the discarded pages of my short stories, wondering why I try--but every year I also do a ton of revising to get those stories in fighting shape. To me, contests are just motivation to do SOMETHING.
Here is what I have accomplished by losing several contests this year:
- I revised a pile of pages into a semi-finished novel that I later finished.
- I wrote Chapter 1 and a synopsis of a second novel.
- I wrote a short story from the point of view of a secondary character in my novel. In doing this I learned so much about him--why he wants to be a doctor, how he feels about his mother, that he learned to be compassionate when he was a scared little boy who had to be extraordinarily brave to save someone he loved.
Do you enter writing contests? Worth it, not worth it? What are the best writing contests? What makes a writing contest worth your effort?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
"Becoming a Writer"
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Have you read the Alexander Chee article about learning to write with Annie Dillard?
It's beautifully written and boasts all sorts of valuable thoughts on ego and writing. One of the most memorable lines came not from Dillard or Chee, but from Chee's father:
"Whatever it is you want to do, find the person who does it best, and then see if they will teach you."
In the old days, they called this an apprenticeship. I'm a writing apprentice, willing to unquestioningly wax on and wax off for the right person. That's what I'm doing when I read Speak for the 50th time, when I read On Writing and Stein on Writing and A. Victoria Mixon, Editor, the blog that recently mentioned that Donald Maass's book The Career Novelist is available for free download. (go 'nap it!)
As far as I know, Laurie Halse Anderson (aka, the person who does it best) isn't accepting any mentees, but if her book-eating daughter tweets that she LOVES a certain writing essay, I'm going to read it with an open notebook and poised pen. Does that make me a neophyte? Do I care? In the new age of life coaches, blogs, and tweets, I'm still an old-school apprentice learning my craft.
*I searched high and low on the Interwebs to find a poem I love called "I the Graduate" by Ted Joans because I think it complements this post. It's not widely booknapped, so it's probably not well-known. That's a shame, 'cause it rules. Read the whole thing on the ultimate booknapping site. Here's a taste:
I graduatedDo you read writers writing about writing? Why or why not? If you do, how 'bout some recommendations?
From my mom's womb
From childhood and family
From villages/towns/and cities
And stagnant allegiances
And fad conformity
From it all
Monday, October 19, 2009
Lots 'o people associate Monday with the end of fun, but me being sort of manic about getting things done, to me Mondays are weekly opportunities for renewal:
I start something new. I try again. No matter what happened last week, Monday signifies a time to get over it. Stop looking in the rear-view. Get this life train back on track.
I was gloomy and doomy last week. While buried in a weekend pity-gorge of hot wings and pizza, I did some hardcore self-analysis, and I spotted the the reason for my emo-ness. With a certain book as they say completed, I'm clearly suffering from PND--post-novel depression. My characters are still in a way they've never been since I met them. I keep picturing them together in a hospital waiting room, checking their watches, eating vending machine snacks. They're depressing me.
So today I write:
Dear Characters,Bloggies, it is Monday. I dare you to start something exciting. Make your fresh start more real by telling me about it in the comments. What new adventure are you about to begin?
I have done all I can for you (for now). I can't wait with you anymore. It is Monday, and I've a new week, a new story--and fine, it's true--new characters to write. It's not you, it's me.
I wish you all the best. You truly deserve it. When you meet a nice editor who makes you feel even more complete than I ever could, I'd love to have dinner with the both of you.
I am a better person for having known you.
Friday, October 16, 2009
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
at the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Like legions of crammers, procrastinators, and dreamers before me, I've registered for NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is just what it sounds like--a group of crazy writers linked by a series of tubes attempting to write 50,000-word novels in 30 days. My writing style gels well with NaNoWriMo, as I am a binge-and-purge kind of writer.
Aside from providing me with extra guilt for the non-writing moments of my life, NaNoWriMo provides all kinds of glorious wonderfulness:
- The NaNoWriMo site boasts a procrastination station. Having to search for my own diversions is time-consuming, so this is handy.
- Freedom to genre jump. I know most of you take zero issue with genre jumping. When I wrote about the ties that bind me to one genre, many of you commented that you have no genre loyalty. That got me feeling adventurous, so I may try writing a middle grade novel or some hardcore dark YA during NaNoWriMo.
- My Betas joined too. Writing is more fun with those ladies around.
Nice words to write by, no? Are you joining NaNoWriMo? How come? Got any tips for a newb?
Monday, October 12, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
P.S.: Thanks to real-life friend Trilby for suggesting this quote for a booknapping.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I love when someone views writing from a fresh perspective. In this post about the space of writing, Causey views fiction through the lens of architecture. It's on the long side, perfect if you have time to let your mind loll around and consider new ideas.
One of my favorite parts:
"[P]ositive space—not just positive thinking, but positive space—is as necessary to our mental health and our survival as that negative space—that moving, ever onward. We need the connections around us, the grounding in the here and now, the raft of joy in the midst of a chaotic world, to replenish the soul and the well of creativity. You can go a lot of years without doing this, and still function. I can attest to that. But you’ll be missing so much."Man, that just speaks to me, ya know? Thanks to literary agent Janet Reid for leading me to this post.
Now, go writers. Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
"If you want to be a writer... [y]ou’ve got to do the work. Lay down sentences and paragraphs, like an athlete lays down miles. Put words through your fingers, like a musician drums scales. Go on your metaphorical knees to the mystery of inspiration, like a priest before an altar."
I heart simile.
Ballads of Suburbia
Monday, October 5, 2009
Direct your browsers to Awful Library Books, a goofy literary site where librarians post the worst books clogging their shelves. When you're done laughing it up, head over to Paul Brians's Common Errors page. Paul Brians is a no-nonsense professor with a PhD in comparative literature. In other words, he knows his shiz. I don't think you can spend time at his language errors site without having at least one ah-ha writerly moment. Go learn something, bloggies.
Good sites come to those who hyperlink. Found any literary sites worth sharing lately? Post 'em in the comments, please.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.
-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Thanks Audrey Owen of Editor's Notes, who regularly sends writing advice and author's quotes to my inbox. Finding Kurt Vonnegut in my inbox is like a hickey from Kanicky (aka, a Hallmark card).
Friday, October 2, 2009
this blog by a successful publisher the other day, and I wanted to blognap a quote from it and share. Some of you are querying in vain. Some of you hate your day job. Some of you have had horrible weeks and can't wait until 5PM so you can get slothy for 48 hours.
Some of you want to give up.
Well, this successful publisher dude gave some solid practical advice for how to talk yourself out of quitting. His words are simple yet genius:
"[W]hen Gail and I have a fight—yes, we do have fights—I ask, 'So why should I stay in this marriage?' Instead of pushing that question down like holding a beach ball under the water, I let it surface and embrace it. 'What is at stake?'
But notice: I’m not asking 'Why should I quit? because I will get answers to that question too. The mind is tricky that way. It will attempt to answer whatever question you ask it, so you must be very careful with how you frame the question. Instead, I focus on the positive. I am looking for reasons to keep going."
Why should I keep going?
Why should I quit?
I'll help you get started. One reason I keep writing: because some stories hit me with a truth so big and obvious (yet not) that my heart feels like it's going to explode out of my chest, and I want to make other people feel that. What's one of your reasons?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
According to Wikipedia, the most freaked-about flaw in people who have body dysmorphia is acne. Wrong again, Wikipedia. Meet my new anxiety disorder (I have several. I collect them.):
I have no friggin' clue if my writing is any good. How does one tell? Just this week, I've described my writing with one or more of the following adjectives:
crisp / stilted
funny / cheesy
gripping / WTF?
You know those people on American Idol? You know the ones! So confident they're going to blow the judges away, they open their mouths and we viewers are stuck between laughter and the immense guilt of watching someone's genuine dreams crushed on international television for our entertainment.
What if I'm one of those people?
Perusing the web-definitions of dysmorphia, I came across this tidbit:
"Body dysmorphic disorder interferes with functioning and may lead to social isolation..."
Oh my, yet another symptom I exhibit. While my friends hit the local hipster hangout, I lock myself in a tiny upstairs room à la Bertha Mason, deleting and re-entering commas, reading aloud, pacing. I am sick, y'all.
Writing brethren, two of my non-virtual writer friends tell me that writing dysmorphia is rampant. In fact, they say everyone has it. Is this true?
Do you have writing dysmorphia? Have you any idea whether your writing is good, bad, or fugly? How do you gain this objectivity? Cure me, peeps!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
1 : food; especially : a suspension or solution of nutrients in a state suitable for absorption
2 : intellectual sustenance
3 : something (as writing or speech) that is insipid, simplistic, or bland
I could use some pabulum (the #2 definition, not the #3--I have enough of that, thanks).
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
So here is my question for you: If you were going to get a literary tattoo, what would it be?
Monday, September 28, 2009
My dad nodded. 'It'll have to be beef country,' he said. 'The forest's gone.'
He nodded, then squinted while he like clawed something from the roof of his mouth with his tongue. He told us, 'Yeah. Jefferson Park? Yeah. That was knocked down to make an air factory.'
'You're kidding,' said Violet.
'Yeah, that's what happened,' Dad said, shrugging. 'You got to have air.'
Violet pointed out, 'Trees make air,' which kind of worried me because I knew dad would think it was snotty.
My father stared at her for a long time. Then he said, 'Yeah. Sure. Do you know how inefficient trees are, next to an air factory?'"
Feed, by YA author M.T. Anderson, is like, super good. You need to go read it. Like now. Especially if you miss Kurt Vonnegut.
You digging anything special right now? Tell me what you're reading and loving.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Am I the only one who thought that rather than reading other people's manuscripts, a better use of my time would be going over my own work with a fine-tooth comb?
I can't be the only one. I've traced this seemingly selfish behavior back to my MFA program. Before there was beta-ing, there was workshopping, or weekly in-person beta-ing. Imagine the frustration of repeatedly reading someone's work, offering color-coded comments, and listing suggestions for further reading, only to get my own story back, not even creased because it was never actually opened.
I found my beta readers by accident. Blogger extraordinaire Megan Rebekah was blogging about how she wished she had a writing group. She posted her stats, sort of like a literary eHarmony profile, and the gates were flooded with wannabes. Well, maybe not flooded, but there were quite a few of us. Megan set up a private blog and named us the Word Stringers.
Some word stringers flittered away, and then there were four.
Anyway, we didn't beta at first. We posted pics and useful articles. We dared each other to meet word count goals. And then someone was like, Hey, we should beta. I was like, Great, 'cause I got spare hours lying around for that malarkey.
Then I read this article about writing workshops at Glimmer Train where writing teacher Jeremiah Chamberlin argues that, "Being forced to analyze the effectiveness of other writers' stories and to then provide them with clear, concise, specific suggestions for improvement will do more to develop a writer's craft than almost anything else."
Once I realized beta reading was purely selfish I was all, sign me up!
This week my betas have been helping me out big time, so without further adieu, meet my beta grrrls, along with what I love most about each of them:
Nat is a ray of positivity from the West Coast. She's straightforward, and she doesn't waste time with self-doubt, or minor details, or wondering what so-and-so would think about whatever. Like Nikey, she just does it. Clearly it works, as she's just secured representation from formidable literary agent Sara Megibow. Again, that's not Nat in the picture; that's the state of her living room since she's become a represented writer.
Karen is awesome because she's not afraid to lay it all on the line. She's all, here's my writing. How can I make it better? And when I get done critiquing, she's not all, boo hoo, you hurt my feelings. Instead she's all, thank you ma'am can I have another? I admire her tenacity. That really is Karen, btw; isn't she crazy?
I am changed, peeps. I am PRO-beta. My beta readers point out ridiculocity in my writing, like that you can't move across the country and start school on the same day, or that if two hands are brushing the cymbals, another can't be tightening a bolt on a separate drum. But the best part is how much they teach me, and also the support, my god the support.
What do you get out of beta-ing? Give your betas some love!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
At 10:57 (Eastern) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009, my seven favorite songs are:
"Say it Ain't So" by Weezer
Dear Daddy, I write you in spite of years of silence...
"Killing in the Name of" by Rage Against the Machine
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me...
"Vienna" by Billy Joel
You can't be everything you want to be before your time...
"Better Get it in your Soul" by Charles Mingus
"Creep" by Radiohead
I want a perfect body; I want a perfect soul...
"Sweet Jane" by Velvet Underground
Anyone who ever had a heart, well they wouldn't turn around and break it...
"Birthday Boy" by Ween
I'll be around. I'll be in town if you need a place to stay...
Now, I have to tag seven peeps to keep this game going. So hey, peeps, tell me your seven favorite songs:
Karen Amanda Hooper
Frankie Dianne Mallis
Now that my important work is done for the day, I can get back to writing.
Neeka looked at me. 'I want to blow up. Have people knowing my name. I want to walk inside a subway car and have white people be giving me big respect instead of looking at me and my family like we some kind of circus act or something.'"
From young adult novel After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I’ve been thinking about the definition of high-concept lately—mostly because the other day, one of my betas, who knows quite a bit about all this fiction stuff, asked, “All the agents say they want high concept, but I don’t know if my book is high concept.”
No one does, grasshopper; no one does.
But like obscenity and good writing, agents know it when they see it.
I am going to make a bold, unconfirmed assertion:
Your story is high-concept, because high-concept is all about how you present the idea.
I know. Scandalous. Please, let me explain.
At a writer’s conference I attended, the great YA writer Lara Zeises explained that high-concept means that your book has a big idea, something that is easily summed up in one enticing line. For instance, I’m going to throw out a couple of one-sentence enticing lines that describe current, popular high-concept books:
- Girl falls in love with teenage vampire.
- Boy listens to tapes on which a girl he liked explains why she committed suicide.
- Girl gets to decide whether she will live or die after her parents and brother die in a car accident.
- To save her sister, girl volunteers to go on a reality show where teenagers fight to the death.
All that stuff is important to the books, but it wouldn’t mean a damn thing if there wasn’t a central high-concept plot that made those details significant.
In perhaps the greatest description of a query EVER, the great Miss Snark once said, “Give me six sentences of less than ten words that tell me WHO is doing WHAT to WHOM and why I should give a rat's ass.”
I love succinct explanations. It really does warm my little writer heart. And that's most of what people mean by high-concept--that the conflict of your story is clear.
In an interview posted at Word Hustler, YA agent Katie Grimm said, “A one-liner type hook, even if your book isn’t high-concept, helps me determine just exactly what your book is all about.”
The definition of high-concept is that one sentence could theoretically sell the story. That’s how exciting your central plot is. I assert that you can make your one-liner as exciting as a high-concept book even if you're not sure that your book is high concept. Leave out what you must. Keep only those details that are essential to getting people to read further. But still be honest about what your story is about. Tricking your way through an agent’s inbox will only piss them off. Writers have enough worries; they don’t need to be pissing off agents.
If your story can’t be broken down into an enticing line, I offer the same advice I offer for pretty much every problem in life: try harder. Give it a few weeks. Ask your betas for an outsider’s perspective. Your one-liner is basically the view of your story as seen from far away. Focus on the big picture, not the details.
Extra credit: Can you name the books I described in those one-liners above?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Dear Suzanne Collins,
I think I speak for everyone when I say, More Gale. Seriously.
P.P.S. Why didn't I write The Hunger Games?
P.P.P.S. In my opinion, yes, Catching Fire is just as tense and romantic as The Hunger Games. Readers, do you agree?
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
PS: Cartoonist Robert Leighton created this gem and a gajillion others. Check out his work. (BTW, you can always click on my images to see bigger, clearer versions.)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
As promised yesterday, I have some fresh-baked optimism for you today. Ah, writing: the cause and solution of all my problems. I love words so much I write them all day at work and then all night at home while I gaze lovingly at the shiny red cover of Catching Fire on my end table.
If you want to catch up you can read yesterday’s post about the bad side of writing for a living. If you want to skip to the good stuff, here you go: the very best parts of getting paid to write:
- I get to write off books as research. Other write-offs: felt-tip pens, writing classes, and laptops (basically, my favorite stuff).
- My co-workers love stationery and coffee and poking fun at the unintended hilarity of bad grammar just as much as I do. An office-mate stumbled into my office early one Wednesday with a freshly printed manuscript and said, “I love the smell of toner in the morning.” Two. Shea.
- Writer’s block is for amateurs. I can just imagine my boss’s face if I told her that I couldn’t write a thing today. It wouldn’t be a nice face; I’ll tell you that. When I was a waitress, I never had server’s block. As a teacher, I never had instructor’s block. Paid writers learn not to block their writing, not if they want to get paid anyway.
- Seriously, the best thing? You just learn things when you write, edit, and are edited on a daily basis. We all learned a few things just by listening, and I guarantee that you are harboring some incorrect belief. Maybe it’s the difference between stationery and stationary, or principal and principle. It’s not your fault. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to know everything about the English language, but I also know that you pick up a lot of knowledge about craft when it’s your bread and butter.
So how many of you write by day and by night? What do you absolutely love about getting paid to write?