Monday, February 28, 2011

Feelings


Last week I read a post from writerjenn about writing for revenge or out of anger and it started some interesting thoughts about emotions while writing.   At least I thought they were interesting which is why I’m blogging about them.

I can’t write when I’m feeling any extreme emotion.  Now I know that at first glance this seems counterproductive but let me explain.  As an author I need to feel the emotions while writing or the reader won’t feel them while reading correct?  The thing for me is that I have to be feeling the characters’ emotions not my own.  If I’m having a huge emotion day, maybe I just had an argument with someone and am still angry, or I just got a book deal (I’m imagining the explosion of joy I would feel (after the shock wears off of course) but it hasn’t happened yet so it’s still theoretical.)  Strong, intense emotions tied to my life keep me from being able to slip into my characters’ lives and world.  I’m too much inside myself at those times. 

I know I need to experience strong emotion so I can recognize it when my characters feel it and recreate it on paper, but if I can’t forget myself long enough to sink into my character it’s no good.  I need the possibility of emotion when I write.  Just enough to keep me open to my characters’ feelings but not overwhelm them with my own.

Do you write during emotional highs, lows, or in-between?    

Friday, February 25, 2011

Enjoy Life

I have family in town so no blog post today.  I encourage all of you to make a new friend, connect with an old one or just live life.  Live so you have something to write about tomorrow. 

Enjoy the day. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What's your story about anyway?


I’ve been meaning to put something in my profile about my current novel.  I’ve been waiting until I can write the perfect paragraph.  Or at least not a sucky one.  You see I’ve been burned before. 

I do the rounds of the agent and publisher blogs.  I’ve seen them repeatedly telling us to perfect our one line and one paragraph pitch.  Intelligent as always I put it off.  You see I’m a stay at home mom.   My water cooler gossip happens with cartoon characters and my board meetings are at the changing table. Nobody I know in person asks about my writing other than “You still working on that?”  Except my mom and The Engineer and they already know more than they want to.  So who is going to ask “what’s your story about?” 

Then my cousin discovered I was writing a book.  She called and asked the fateful question.   Now, if I had listened to all the wonderful advice I would have had a breathtaking, smooth, enticing answer.  Instead I stumbled and mumbled, “You see he wants…. But she’s really…. And then they go to this place….That sounds kinda dumb but believe me it’s really interesting.”  That’s the point when I got the sharpie marker and wrote LOOSER on my forehead.  Then I got to work.

 I’m still trying to find the right turn of phrase, something that doesn’t inspire me to write on myself.  Hopefully I’ll get something up soon, especially now that I’ve finished the plot rewrite. (Hooray!)

What about you?  Want to share your pitches?  I’m still looking for good examples to copy…I mean learn from. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Joy,or Pain, of a New Idea

I was puttering in the kitchen when I had an image come into my head; a teenage girl on the beach staring out at the ocean.  I knew who she was and what she wanted and how she was going to get it. There it was, a bright new shinny idea.  Was I excited?  Not exactly.  I made a sound of exasperation and The Engineer asked what was wrong.

“Apparently my book is a trilogy.” 

“Shouldn’t you finish the first book before you start working on others?”

There indeed is the problem.  I’m in rewrites of the first book, the sequel is half done (thanks to Nano and its beautiful fifty thousand words last November).   I do like this new idea, love it even.  It feels right and it feels like a good ending to the story I’m telling.  But.  It’s going to be awhile before I get around to this lovely new book.  Part of me desperately wants to start exploring this girl and her dreams, but realistically I can’t.  I NEED to get the first book done.  I don’t want to be the person that is so consumed by new ideas that I never finish anything.  And really, I still love Far From the Sea.  I mean, sure, we have our differences and rewrites aren’t always easy, but I like molding and shaping, improving ,and trying to turn it into something I can send out to agents.  I want to be ready to query when agents open up after the holiday break in a year, and to do that I can’t allow myself to be distracted.

Still I’ll hold this new idea close, cuddle up with it when I sleep at night.  After all, I had the ideas for the second book for almost a year before I did Nano and wrote (half of) the thing.  These ideas are good ideas.  They’ll keep until I’m ready for them. 

How about you?  Do you easily get distracted by the bright shinny idea?  Do you forget the new idea if you don’t work on it? 

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Publishing Pie

There is a great video of Margaret Atwood talking about the world of publishing and the author as the primary source.  Well worth watching just for the illustrations.  It's half an hour long, I ended up watching it in two parts.  I found the link on Rachelle Gardner's website so I'm linking to that. 

Hope you enjoy. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rewrites

I know there are as many ways to rewrite as there are to write.  This means at least as many as there are writers.  When I finished the first draft of Far From the Sea I knew there were some plot issues. There were sequences that didn't make sense, missing bridges and no concept of the passage of time.  None of my other projects made it past the first draft so it was with great trepidation that I faced the necessity of doing rewrites.

As I have read through the ms I have come across a few (ok a lot) of scenes with unnatural conversation, common descriptions, bad metaphors and poor craft in general.  At first I wanted to stop and correct, rewrite, and polish each word but it just wasn't possible.  I decided that for this pass through I would focus solely on plot.  I wanted to be able to feel the flow of the story without being hung up on whether it should be "a" or "the".  Best decision of my life. (Other than marriage and family, of course, and getting an education, ordering pizza rather than cooking tonight….All right, best writing decision of my life.)

While at times it has been completely depressing to see in my minds eyes the line of scenes waiting to be edited which seemed to stretch into infinity, mostly it has been liberating.   I don’t feel so overwhelmed since I only have to worry about one aspect of the novel.  I know I can get the other stuff later.  I'll make as many revisions as I need.  One step at a time.

How do you rewrite?  Do you do everything at once, or make several passes?  Or do you actually know what you're doing when you start so there isn't much need for rewriting?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines

Before I became a full time mother and part time writer I worked at a floral shop.  At the time the very words Valentine's Day would send me spiraling into PTSD and The Engineer (my husband) would find me curled in a ball shuddering at the back of the closet.  All right it wasn't that bad.  Quite. 

The hardest part was the pettiness of the day after VD.  Poor hounded fellows would come in with written appologies and tearfully ask if we had any roses left.  Granted a few of those men probably had done something stupid, but the majority of them had tried to make a nice day.  These guys  would tell us that it hadn't been good enough, they needed something more. She had a dollar figure she wanted spent on her, or some other arbitrary expectation.  I was often astounded at what they told me.  (One thing I will say is that you get a lot of insight into people and their relationships at a floral shop.  Flowers are very personal.  Great inspiration for writing.)   It was this more than the long hours or insane boss that ruined the holiday for me, and I no longer wonder why so many men hate this holiday.

It has been eight years since I worked a valentines day and while I know there were days when the exhaustion and stress of three consecutive twenty hour work days would have me in tears.  I can now look back at the good times. I loved working with flowers, being able to experiment with shape and color.  We always had a larger variety and supply of flowers at VD so that was fun.  I loved the gratitude and love some people showed.  And I loved the happiness the arangements brought to most people. 

Even so The Engineer and I have never brought ourselves to celebrate VD.  At the most we'll order Chinese.  However you celebrate or not, I wish you all a happy February 14th.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mistakes

The people over at Wordplay have been doing posts on the most common mistakes of fiction writers.  I'm linking to one I especially liked but you should really check them all out.  I'm off to check my manuscript for these offenders.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing and Doughnuts

Scott Bailey over at The Literary Lab said the other day “Inhabit your writing, but let the writing be bigger than you are.”  I found this an astute observation and have been thinking about it ever since. 

First off, inhabit your writing.  This is necessary for a writer.  You have to live, eat and sleep what you write if you really want it to ring true.  I hear a lot of writers say “I see what is happening” which is great.  The next step (which will really take it to the next level and make it a spectacular novel that agents will fight over) is to BE the person as it is happening.  Sure you can see they look surprised but unless you ARE the person you won’t know that the surprise is hiding fear.  These inside emotions and descriptions, the truth you put in by being that person when you write, are what make a novel come alive. 

Second, let the writing be bigger than you are.  Let’s face it the world is a whole lot bigger than any mere mortal.  We have to tap into that, not let our own limitations cage our novel.  Have you ever read a book that just didn’t quite make it out of the driveway?  You could tell that the author had blinders on when he wrote it and refused to expand him or herself.  That kind of writing leaves you wanting, and not in a good way. 

Then Scott said something else that stuck with me-“Anyone ready for a doughnut?”  Oh Scott, of course I am, especially if it’s a chocolate covered, chocolate doughnut with nuts on top.  Mmmmmm. 

Sorry, had to stop and wipe drool off the keyboard. 

So, what’s your favorite doughnut?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Endings II

Talking about endings last week, of course, made me think of mine.  Originally my novel was going to have a, well, what most people would refer to as a sad ending.  A large part of my novel is Paul trying to make his wife, Anna, fall in love with him.  In the original idea she wasn't going to change, but stay unresponsive and uncaring. The story was going to be Paul learning to live with his disappointment and loneliness.  There are so many options, does he leave her and find someone who loves him as he deserves?  Does he stay faithful to his marriage vow but turn bitter and angry? Can he forgive Anna?  I still get excited thinking of that story.  But as I delved deeper into the story I realized I wasn't writing the story I thought I was.  As I understand it this happens a lot to writers. 

As the story currently stands there is a happy ending, but it isn't really the end as I've already started a sequel (thank you NaNo).  But it has an ending that could leave the book as a standalone novel.  I'm happy with this ending because it fits this story.  Though I have found I need to walk a careful line between happy and sappy, closure and a never ending novel. 

Do any of you write series or sequels?  Do you leave the ending as a cliff hanger or make each book so it could be a standalone novel?  Which do you like to read?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Endings

Susan over at All the World's our Page blog had an interesting post today about endings.  She talks about the never-ending story, a story that lives long after you are done reading.  I'm not going to quote everything she says because you can hop over there and read it for yourself.  She quotes from John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, which now I have to have.  

Her comments stuck in my mind because yesterday I read this post by writerjen about open vs closed endings  She argues one should leave a little ambiguity, some unanswered questions for readers to continue wondering and thinking about.

As a writer I see the need to leave the reader wanting more, connected in some way to the story so that it says with them.  Whether they're wondering about the future or thinking about the past and what each previous encounter in the book meant now that they understand the characters better.

I want an ending that reads true to the characters, that isn't so spontaneous that it's unrealistic and one that fills me with a strong emotion.  Any emotion.  One of my favorite books is Celestial Navigation by Ann Tyler and the ending is one big miscommunication and the loneliness and despair that it created.  Yet I love it.  It rings true to the characters and it leaves me with emotions that I have to process and think through and often makes me flip back through the book.  In other words the book stays with me, never-ending.  Open or close, happy or sad, it's the honesty and truth that makes an ending good.

The hard part, of course, is writing that perfect ending.  It has to be true and consistent with characters, be so well written that it looks effortless and leave a reader wanting more.  Wait did I say hard?  How about near impossible.  How many times have you read a book only to be dissapointed by an ending?  There was one book that the climax was so wrong I laughed out loud even though people were dying and Serious Things were happening.  I don't want to have that effect on people.

What do you think about endings?  What are some good, interesting, or bad endings you've read.  Do you prefer happy or sad? Open or closed?  Or is it most important that is feels true?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chosen

I've heard people say, "I didn't choose writing (acting, art, etc), writing chose me".  I understand what they mean by it, but I'm not sure I agree with the statement.  Writing is a choice.  Sure, I may have a drive, a passion for it.  I still choose to do it.  Writing is work.  Hard work.  There is research, learning craft, revisions, rewrites, edits, the constant search for the perfect word, the best description, and let's not forget just getting our seat in the chair.

It's not easy to find the time or resources.  Life doesn't open up a three hour block and say "here, write, you were chosen".   We eek out the minutes and hours foregoing eating and cleaning and sometimes friends and sleep.  Having that drive to write doesn't guarantee that we will improve, find an agent, or be published.  Only our choice to keep working can do that.

Each day I choose to sit down in this chair and be a writer.  And I'm all the better for it. 

What do you think?  Is being chosen enough, or do we need to choose our own path?