Friday, August 28, 2009

It happened!

I wrote something!

You know that writer's block I was under? Well, it was mighty heavy. I sort of got in a fight with writing. Like, you know when you're with someone and one day you're like, why the hell am I trying to make this work? I don't even like this person. Well that's how I was starting to feel about writing, and we've been married since I could hold a pen so it was super-hard.

Last night, I got drunk and went to writing's apartment at 2 AM. Well, not really. "I'm trying to be metaphoric," as Vee says in Hush Hush.

Anyway, I didn't edit novel pages or write a new scene or anything productive. Instead, I wrote 2500 words of stuff no reader will ever see. I wrote out my most important characters' names, and I wrote the novel from their points of view. Not the whole ginormous novel, more like a synopsis. And it was fun! It was painless! I did not even stop to change Calibri to Times New Roman or switch off that infernal default formatting in Word 2007. Nope, I just typed my little heart out and smiled and I realized that it wasn't over for me.

"It still ain't over!" as Noah says in The Notebook.

And when I woke up this morning, I didn't feel dirty, so writing and me, I guess we're meant to be like Noah and Allie and peaches and cream.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

From: Handcuffs

"I should probably explain about my ex.

'Take your shoes off Parker.'

I probably should explain, but I don't have the energy.

His TV is on, his laptop is defragging, there is a CD playing over speakers angled throughout the narrow bedroom. He's wearing headphones, but the cord is dangling, not plugged into anything. Kind of like me."

Bethany Griffin

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Name is Marie, and I am a Dork

A Kindleis upon us!

I've complained that audiobooks, although I love them, don't allow for convenient booknapping. e-books, however, allow readers to highlight, make notes, bookmark, and search the entire text for a phrase--a booknapper's dream.

Perhaps we are moving one step closer toward my ultimate wish: a Find function for life. Do you use the secret codes in Microsoft Word? Like control S is save, and control X is cut, and control Z is undo, and control Y is redo, and so on and so on and so on.

Control F is my favorite. Yes, I am aware how dorky that makes me sound, but I've embraced my dorkdom--I mean, I have a blog, for Pete's sake. Control F brings up the "find" function, as in Find where Character Zero said "I wrote her off for the tenth time today," and boom, the 'puter locates it.

My point: I often wish I had control F in life. When I can't find my keys and I'm late for work, when I know there was peanut butter in the kitchen but now there's not, when I put the cell phone in the fridge: I scream "Control F!" Husband thinks this is my dorky way of saying the F-word, but really I am just wishing I lived in the Matrix.

So do you, and YES, I realize how dorky I am being, have a favorite computer function? Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poetry Isn't Dead, or Quiet

Despite what the Debbie Downers would have you believe, people still write kick-ass poetry.

Want proof?

You can listen to Kim Addonizio read one of her best poems, "You Were," at poems out loud, which features poets reading poetry and other poem-related frackery.

From: "Tones of Home"

"I always thought this would be
the land of milk and honey.
Oh, but I come to find out
that it's all hate and money,
and there's a canopy of greed
holding me down."

Blind Melon

Monday, August 24, 2009

How to Kill a Genre with your Bare Hands

Question for today: Do we choose our genre or does it choose us?

Nathan Bransford polled his readers the other day, asking them to vote for the genre they work in. If you’re wondering what genre is under-represented, it’s middle grade and nonfiction.

Contemporary realistic YA, the genre I write, earned 6% of the vote, which got me wondering why we write what we write. Sure, I read a lot of contemporary YA, but lately I’ve been reading a lot of paranormal YA. Do I write contemporary YA because it’s what I do best, what I love best? I’ll be honest with you; I have no idea.

More importantly, do I have to stick with it? Should I ever publish my novel, am I condemning myself to a lifetime of single-genre writing? The commitment-phobe in me shudders at the thought.

There are genre-rebels, you know.

Take Elizabeth Scott. She goes around writing perfectly wonderful YA like Something, Maybe and Bloom, books where young girls deal with boys and sex and what have you. Then she sneaks Living Dead Girl under my nose, and I’m all whoa, Elizabeth Who?

Walt Whitman, my literary forefather said:
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

In other words, break the rules. Screw the very elements that make us think we need rules. Change.

We write in the age of Tribes and niche marketing and specialization, and I’m praising variety and range.

Farmers switch up their crops every few years to keep the soil healthy. I'm thinking of tilling my mental soil. I’ve been toying with the paranormal. But here’s the thing—you can’t hold me there. I won’t stay. I write for adults and young people and freaks and geeks and even normal people. I am non-genre-girl, defender of the label-less.

As a reader I enjoy all sorts of genres. Reading different genres makes reading more fun. I don’t get so used to conventions that I lose the enjoyment and surprise of reading. Would this transfer to writing? Might we escape falling into ruts by writing a romance or a mystery, something completely different from what we are expected (even by ourselves) to write?

Why do we choose a genre and stay with it?

Friday, August 21, 2009

About: If I Stay

So I just finished an awesome YA novel called If I Stay.

Here's some context: I started it yesterday at 5:17 PM. It's now 7:45 AM. In other words: great writing, cool high-concept hook, emotional core like all get out.

Oh, and one more thing. The writer listens to Mark Twain. I nominate Gayle Forman as The Writer Most Likely to Use The Right Word, Not it's Second Cousin. Some perfectly chosen words in If I Stay: eviscerated, cauliflower (Thanks to Karen Amanda Hooper for pointing out the beauty of that one), implodes, and see inconvenient below.
"'You and Adam never struck me as a 'high-school' relationship,' Mom said making quote marks with her hands. 'It was nothing like the drunken roll in the back of some guy's Chevy that passed for a relationship when I was in high school. You guys seemed, still seem, in love, truly, deeply.' She sighed. 'But seventeen is an inconvenient time to be in love.'"
Gayle Forman

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Shorter of Breath and One Day Closer to Death"

I am under a writer's block.

I don't believe in regular writer's block because you can just write I have nothing to write over and over until something comes along or doesn't.

"Under a writer's block" means life is heavy and consuming and there is seriously no time to write. OK. In all honesty, I could have put down Wings last night, but I'm just so tired from working and -- fine, I admit it -- I did some life-living this weekend, some fresh air-breathing, talking to live humans, music-and-dancing life.

And oddly, I don't feel bad about it. This is weird because I am a certified guilt factory.

Just so you know, the absolute worst part of writing is the waiting. Still not being done with this novel reminds me of suffering through last period in high school. No matter how much I rage inside, time will continue to move at a rate of 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, and so on. There is nothing to do but, well, whatever you do.

When writing, every time I dream up an awesome idea that needs to be foreshadowed in an earlier chapter (which is already finished), I have a mix of dread and glee: happy I found a missing element in my plot, pissed I am adding yet more time to an already much too lengthy task.

I want it done. I want it to have a cover and starred reviews and readers who wish they could meet my main character. And I want it to be exceptional; that takes time.

I suppose that's why I don't feel bad about relaxing under this writer's block. I'll get up soon. My words will still be there, and I will have a little more experience, and hopefully some freshly cooked patience.

Moral of the story: Doing fun shiz is part of the writing process. Do you agree?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Still Alive!

sort of

I'll post something in the A.M. Promise.

Until then, read this hilarious blog Janet Reid turned me on to.

Friday, August 14, 2009

From: "Fight Test"

" lose I could accept,
but to surrender I just wept
and regretted the moment..."

The Flaming Lips

Thursday, August 13, 2009


"Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."

Ambrose Redmoon

Facebooknapped from a status update posted by nonfiction writer Maria Housden

From: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

"'Adults are idiots. They think they're in charge and they think they have some kind of authority, but you know what? They're idiots. They're just grown-up kids with more money who listen to shitty music and hate everyone younger than them because they know they've screwed up their lives and they want another shot at it. But all of us, all of us kids think that adults are in charge too. They've got us messed up, up here' She points to her head. 'So they get away with all kinds of crap.' She sniffs. 'But if you have the balls to tell them to shove it, they crumble. Easy.'"

Barry Lyga

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Seriously, why are we doing this?

Today's post title is a question we have to ask every once in a while because the unexamined book is not worth writing.

When I started this blog, I promised bouts of self-doubt. Well, you can’t say I don’t come through on my promises.

Life is getting in the way. I am getting in my way.

You ever just want to stop this novel and start a new one? I do right now. I want to divorce my novel for not being everything it vowed to be when we moved in together. I want to tell my novel what I really think of it. I want to leave my novel and find an out-of-the-way hammock where I can read and read and read, even though that just makes it worse. Reading is how all this writing trouble got started.

Do you know that some people get into writing to make money? I taught literature for a while. One of my students spoke up one day to explain that he didn’t think we should bother reading poetry because “those people only write that crap to get rich.”

I'll wait until you're done laughing. Go ahead. Take your time. OK. Ready? No? One more minute? Sure, okay. Now we can go on.

I've written about writerly disillusionment, feeling like an outcast, wondering if I have any talent at all, contemplating why I can’t just be satisfied with what I have, always searching/trying/wishing for something more--

What makes me/us do that?

Sometimes I think the urge to write may be a chemical imbalance.

Why can’t I be as cool as The Intern, or savvy as this book guy, or talented as Simone Elkeles, whose book I am devouring like mint chocolate chip ice cream? She makes it seem so effortless.

Update: For some reason, I burned under the misconception that Perfect Chemistry was Elkeles's first book, but she's got 5 others listed on her writer page. Makes me feel a little better. Literary phenoms upset my equilibrium.

More annoying thoughts: I’m not smart enough. I’m not good-looking enough. I’m not nice enough. I’m not skinny enough.

The crux: I am not enough.
The unbelievable truth: I am enough and gosh darnit, people like me.

Anyway, I am reading. I am not writing. What are you doing?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

For Your Procrastinating Pleasure

What do you get when you cross adorable animals and modern snark? That's correct. You get a hilarious time-suck.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Found on The Writer's Almanac

"Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up. But the writing is a way of not allowing those things to destroy you."

John Edgar Wideman

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Novel: As Seen From the Moon

A while back I blogged about revising, and Booknapped reader Milli Thornton (and writer of a cool screenwriting blog) extolled on the virtues of Microsoft Word's Print Preview feature. I love Print Preview too, but it occurred to me that others may not be using this feature the way I use it.

First, a story:

Because I drink too much caffeine, one day my finger was shaking on some computer button and I inadvertently shrunk my Print Preview down to 10%. Talk about seeing your manuscript from a new perspective.

When I revise, I highlight areas that need work. The amount of yellow in my manuscript shows me how much work I've yet to do. Here is a Print Preview of several pages from the last quadrant of my novel in its current state:

As you can see, I still have miles to go before I query. Put the coffee on. It's going to be a long night. I dare you to open up your manuscript and view its Print Preview. At the very least, you will be amazed at all those words you wrote--your entire novel splayed out before you like a patient etherized upon a table (sorry, couldn't resist).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Grasshopper, You Have Much to Learn

Janet Reid said it eons ago, and I balked, but after some consideration (and the realization that I have indeed written one novel before, and tucked it safely into the past), I suppose I will have to agree with the sentiment Jonathan Evison explains so well on Three Guys One Book:

"My advice to the overwhelming majority first times novelists: first, finish the fucker, even if you sense it's not working on any number of levels-- you've got to get into the habit of seeing things through, or you run the risk of being a serial starter, or worse one of those people that has “a novel in them” who spends more time talking about it, than laying bricks. Second, bury the fucker when it's finished, forget it ever existed, and start another novel. Chances are you'll be burying that one, too."

And he also said:

"One of the problems I have with all these beautiful sentence writers that are coming out of writing programs is that the glare of their shiny sentences sometimes seems to blind them to the mechanics of story. When I read Jack London, I forget he's there. ... If I ever teach another writing class, it might be called: how to be invisible."

This point from Dennis Haritou is pretty good too:

"Beethoven revised the coda of his 5th Symphony several hundred times. That part of the work takes about a minute to play."

Oh, just go read the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Booknapper's Code of Ethics

"There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees."

Victor Hugo

I saw this quote on the Interwebs this morning on one of my many quote of the day feeds, and I fell in literary love as I often do. The quote was attributed to Victor Hugo and copied all over the place, but no one said what work it was from.

The editor in me is annoyed. What if it wasn't Hugo at all? What if it was Napoleon or Mussolini? It matters. Words are important. That's why you're here.

Anyway, I visited my favorite virtual place (aside from Booknapped) and scanned Les Miserables and there was the quote in a love letter from Marius to Cosette.

Something else I learned? Hugo says "There are moments when..." quite a bit. We all have our little stylistic turns of phrase, no? My beta tells me I say "then" a lot. She means too much, but she's being nice, and I appreciate that.

Anyway, I got sucked into Les Miserables and I time traveled to my childhood when my father took me to see the play at the Walnut Theatre in Philadelphia, and made me read the book first. Made me research Victor Hugo at the library. Took me out to dinner and made me talk about the differences between the book and the musical.

The Booknapper was born.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Go to Gutenberg and read a book or even part of a book. Think of the long line of writers, and innovators, and individuals who made possible reading classics online free. Think of your own words and how you labor and agonize over each one. They should be read, and they should be attributed.

Booknapping is human. Giving credit is divine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

They're Coming to Take Me Away

My fairy god-writer, Laurie Halse Anderson is doing a write-every-day-in-August thingie. If I grow up, I want to be just like her, so of course I'm going to take her challenge.

But it’s starting to seem like there’s always a writing challenge.

I’m ALMOST getting tired of linking to these write every day/write 5000 words a day/write a novel in a month challenges. ALMOST. I’ll still link to and tell you about them because I think they’re useful.

One reason I like these dares is the sense of community inherent in them. I like that the lady who conceived of one of my favorite literary characters is also my writing coach, even if our connection is only virtual. Another thing I like is that writing challenges get us to approach our work in new ways. Writing outside our comfort zone, at a different phase of day, for a specific length of time: these steps teach us what doesn’t work as well as what does.

Interviewers always ask writers if they outline, like it matters. One person’s outline is another’s noose. If there's one thing I’ve learned from reading countless writing edicts, it’s that there are no rules. If you put words on paper, and something amazing emerges, you should be shocked. It’s striking gold and winning the lottery and being visited by Santa Claus. Yes, I want to know how you did it. No, the same steps might not work for me, or might.

The blathering on of my writing community is essential to my work. This letter from a successful writer to her dreamy young self had me so excited this morning. Devon Monk was writing to me too, whether she knows it or not.

Writing is lonely, and let’s face it, a little psychotic. Hearing that others are having my delusions is good for my self-image. The other day, Nathan Bransford blogged about the “Am-I-Crazies?” – the occasional wave of terror that makes us wonder if we are typing our lives away pointlessly. Yes, we are crazy. Many of us are crazily typing for fifteen minutes a day. Many of us are writing letters to former selves. We are alone, and un-alone, no?

Thanks so much to you strange people who dare me to write daily, who tell me to keep trying despite insurmountable odds, who suspend your disbelief and enter my stories.

Writing is a delicate balance of loneliness and community. How do you balance the two?

Monday, August 3, 2009

From: "Mr. Mastodon Farm"

Birds fall from the window ledge above mine.
Then they flap their wings at the last second.
I can see their dead weight
dropping like stones
for small loaves of bread
past my window all the time.

But unless I get up,
walk across the room
and peer down below,
I don't see their last second curves
toward a horizontal flight.

All these birds just falling from the ledge like stones.

Now due to a construct in my mind
that makes their falling and their flight
symbolic of my entire existence,
it becomes important for me
to get up and see
their last second curves toward flight.