Monday, December 20, 2010

Goodbye Blogger For Now

Oh my.  I realize I need a psychological and spiritual retreat.  So I'm closing my blog and doing my inner work.  Wish you all the best on your own journeys. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

And the dedication goes to...

Growing up, only one person encouraged me to be a writer and that's my tenth and twelfth grade English teacher, Mrs. Markovich, who was Japanese and born in the internment camp in Fresno, CA. She would work creative writing into our essays in any way she could. One red ink comment on an essay said, "Either quit talking to Erin or loose the nose ring. You're pushing it." The comment on the next essay said, "You should pursue a career in creative writing." I was 15, so at the time I paid more attention to the bossy comments. For the record, I neither took out the nose ring nor stopped talking to Erin. Not then. Not now.

It amazes me that someone told me what I should do at such a young age. I tried to fit myself into other boxes and didn't really internalize my "destiny" until I was 20, but those words are part of what got me to accepting my novel-writing fate. I can still picture her loopy handwriting in the margin of my essay about the difference between my mom's antique porcelain cows and the new funky clay ones, about the story each cow in the collection had to tell.

The next person to heavily influence my decision to be a novelist, and not just a journaler (because I've always Always kept journals on my own), is my husband. He takes the starving out of artist. He oversees all of my plot decisions. Sometimes he overrides me and sometimes I override him. Together, we keep my books from falling to their death off of cloud 9.

In Mrs. Markovich's class during senior year, I wrote an essay about my (at the time) fatherless state of being. I worked at Macy's and helped a man pick out clothes for his fifteen year old daughter. I watched on with something like envy, bittersweet and wistful. I wasn't the only one. All the worker girls were looking on in awe. It wasn't the shopping that got us. It was the sweetness. How comfortable they were together. I wrote about that moment and how boys didn't like me as much as other girls because my father wasn't around. I was a seed that got stepped on and I needed a man to water me, to make me grow into a beautiful flower that others would notice. I was a very odd sixteen year old, I know.

From all this, stems what I once thought would be the dedication in my first book:

To Mrs. Markovich, for planting the seed
and to Gabriel, the one who watered me.

As you can see, it means a lot and it makes perfect sense. But now I'm not so sure. Shouldn't the first dedication go to your mom? Shouldn't everything go to your mom? She has encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be, but always jokingly pushed me to be a journalist and be on TV.

Now I have a slew of people who encourage me.

All this is to say is that I'm not sure what my first dedication would be. It is obviously not something to dwell on. Don't worry folks, I actually do write. But its the little things that make up a big dream, and I know I'm not the only unpubbed writer to wonder what that mostly blank page will say.

Have you given thought to your first dedication? If you're already pubbed, was the dedication important to you or something to make light of? Who did you dedicate to and how did you choose that person?

P.S. No matter who I dedicate my books to, rest assured that I will track down Mrs. Markovich and send her a signed copy of each one.

P.P.S. I blogged about a teacher on Monday. Maybe its Teacher Appreciation Week in some other universe and this is the first sign in what will be the sci fi novel of my life that I am actually an alien.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Animal Writes Blogfest

I'm organizing a blogfest! Yay! It goes a little something like this...

Pick any animal.
Write a scene from the viewpoint of that animal. (First person, I should think. Green light on fantastical creatures, so long as they're not usually sentient. So boo hoo hoo for me--no mermaids)
Less than 1000 words.
To be posted on or before Wednesday October 13th.

In my first creative writing class, the teacher (a native American man who went by the name Brightrope and had many names, the rest of which he would not tells us because when someone calls him a certain name then he knows how that person knows him and if he were to go around telling everyone all of his names then the system would be broken) shared a scene he wrote through the viewpoint of a horse. I remember the sweat, the muscles, the flies, the obscured vision. It was a beautiful descriptive scene, and reading I felt like...a horse.

So have fun with this! How does your animal see and hear and feel? It would be cool to get a variety of animals, so I suggest commenting here on what animal you intend to do. But by all means, feel free to duplicate!

I haven't decided my animal yet, but when I do, I'll comment it. I'm thinking maybe a gecko since I have about fifty in my backyard, but I kind of want to try a lion. Cats are always tempting. Decisions. Decisions.

Sign up bellow and leave a comment :)

Also, use the blogfest badge to let your readers know you'll be participating, and hopefully to get a few more writers playing along. The more animals the better!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My least favorite words

Everyone has their least favorite words. My sister's least fave is "delicious," which is so effing funny because people say it ALL THE TIME and every single time, she cringes. Its awesome. Best sister revenge ever. All I have to do is say, "This is delicious" and its pay back for whatever youngest-one-injustice I was suffering.

As a side, my mom's barfs when anyone else does. Actually, she barfs when anyone pretends to be barfing. I only used that twice. I distinctly recall some carrot coming up in a planter box. Sorry Mom.

What makes me gag? Two words that I really don't want to type. I don't want to think them. I don't want to write them. OH NO!! OMG OH NO!! I DON'T WANNA....ohhh here they are..."for me" and "personally."

Achk! aheuyck blfoopflpfl ghg ghgh uhhhh OMG I did it. Now you know. Sure its not as bad as barfing on cue, but it sucks cause people say them ALL THE TIME.

That phrase and that word are totally unnecessary. I remember when I was thirteen in line at a sandwich shop and the girl in front of me said "personally" at the beginning of every other sentence. I almost died.

And "for me" is just as bad. I don't care who you were talking about before, but if you say the word "I" you don't need to put "Me" in front of it!!! Oh and I am talking about the phrase coming at the beginning of a sentence. If you say "none for me" I won't slap you.

What's your least favorite word?

I promise not to use it as revenge. *crosses fingers under desk*

I was watching a TV show and the mom character's least favorite word was "moist." The daughter said it whenever she could, of course. Can you choose the least favorite words of your characters?

Umm...I sorta...can't.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I sympathize with you, Justine. Owwy.

Hiya!! I finished reading Liar by Justine Larbalastier last night. It was a fantastic read. YA. Unique. Hilarious. Witty. Shocking. Just darn good. I've never read anything like it. It was one of those books that makes you smile every other page and has you thinking how clever! how fun! A dynamic family history. An intriguing mix of country and city settings. Plus, where you end up is nowhere near where you think you might at the start...So you know, I recommend it. Just don't let anyone ruin the "truth" behind the lies for you before you read it.

Like a good fangirl, I went on over to Justine Larbalastier's blog. Her newest post says this:
The RSI in my hands and forearms got worse.
I took four weeks off from the computer entirely. I have reorganised my computer setup. I’ve been doing a vast amount of physical therapy. I’m improving. Slowly and frustratingly but surely.
Dang girl. Four weeks! That kind of freaks me out...a lot. As you know, I rewrote my book on paper. Now I'm typing it in. (I'm at 82 computer doc pages btw). Lemme tell ya that it hurts. Typing this much sucks. Writing hurts no matter what I do though. Type. Write on paper. Its just straight up painful. And I haven't been doing this all that long. So I wonder, will I have to take four weeks off someday? Go to physical therapy?

It wouldn't surprise me, but its not something to worry about, since its probably inevitable. In an effort to slow down the process, I always:

1) Put pot butter on my wrists before and after writing (before you get all offended, its pot cocoa butter, like a massage oil and does not have any...mental side effects). It calms my wrists down quite nicely.
2) Wear supportive wrist bands/guards. I wear both when I'm typing. Just the right one when I'm working by hand.
3) Use an ergonomic keyboard.
4) Keep my chair at the right height so that my arms are mostly bent at a ninety degree angle.

It just doesn't seem to be enough though. I'm on the computer probably...eight hours a day, and that is being pretty conservative. At night, I'm still in pain.

Are you plagued by wrist pain? What do you do to prevent it and heal it?

And, don't you just love Liar? I totally can't wait to read the anthology of YA short stories that she and Holly Black (author of Spiderwick) edited called Zombies v Unicorns. Plus, did you know that Justine is married to Scott Westerfield, author of the Uglies trilogy? Oh yes, what a good fangirl I am. Indeed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The journey to an opening

Hello there!! So...I was reading my book out loud to hubby for the first time. It was rather exhiliarting and kind of scary too. (As a side note...while I read I found myself projecting the voices I imagined my narrators to have, but it didn't feel quite right. When I let myself naturally come up with a voice from the words present as I would with any other book I was reading aloud, the voices that did come out of me were totally shocking. Sort of like, did I do that? The narrators' personalities came off stronger than I'd hoped. Yay!)

At one point Gabriel said, "underline that whole part that you just read." He said that he really really liked that part and we agreed that it was where Joaviz's (one of my narrators) voice comes off the strongest.

The next day, I read posts about openings, and I wondered how much work I would put in to perfect the first five pages. My guess is that it'll be...a lot.

Today I was wondering about what snags me with an opening. (I never read jacket covers and do not pick books for subject matter or plot, so usually its the opening that gets me to read a book). I decided that its voice. Of course. I talk about voice a lot, don't I? Well, yeah. All writers do. Without a strong voice, you got shit. That's just the way it goes.

So, I'm thinking that I will take the section that gave us the strongest sense of Joaviz's voice and have it be my opening. Even though it comes from a few scenes later, I've found a way to work it into the very first scene.

This could change, of course, but I'm definitely on the path to the right opening. (Its already changed three times.) Here's the part I'm referring to:

Lily says I’m a scene girl, but I say I’m Old Hollywood plus punk.
Lately though, its just been black black black. Its not that I’m turning goth or black-cat-camera-eye (that’s what me and Lil call those slam poetry types). I’m not trying to mourn too soon. I’m not trying to do anything.
When I wake up and get dressed, I might wear a bright green t-shirt around the house, but I can’t get myself to go outside in anything but black, and maybe a little olive green. 

I tend to not like openers that feel gimmicky, like "I was about to learn that life wasn't fair" or "That was the summer that changed everything." If there's an audible voice and an interesting character, then I'm usually sold.

What are your favorite types of openers? How did you choose your own opening?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview with Natalie Whipple: Happy Writers' Society

Happy Friday, folks! Today we have an interview!!! With Natalie Whipple! On a topic near and dear to my heart!  ...Being a happy writer...
Two weeks ago, Natalie Whipple at Between Fact and Fiction created the Happy Writers' Society for those of us who are sick of angst. The post filled my head full of questions. I will be subject to self reflection for...oh...I don't know...the rest of my life. I was also wondering about her own experience and struggles, so A BIG THANKS to Natalie for

1) Creating the Happy Writers' Society
2) Answering my questions!

Here are her superbly helpful and encouraging answers:

When/how did you decide to take the challenge to be a happy writer and what led to that decision?
I feel like I'm constantly renewing my determination to be happy as a writer. This year in particular has been a challenge, and whenever I start to feel really down I try to snap myself out of it. I don't have time to waste feeling sad right now! I barely have time as it is. I've found when I concentrate on the important things, the stuff that make me sad don't matter as much.
What difference, if any, is there between being a happy writer and being a happy person?
Not much, I don't think. Crap happens to everyone, and it's up to us to decide how we're going to deal with it. Don't get me wrong, I think it's totally appropriate to mourn and regret and all that stuff. Just not forever. I definitely have my rough days, but when I do I try not to let them last long. I have a good cry, eat something awful, and then pick myself up and keep going.
When is it the most challenging for you to be a happy writer? What gets in the way?
I think the worst for me is comparing myself to other writers. I don't have this yet. When will that be me? It won't ever be me. That kind of stuff. It's totally stupid, but there it is. It's hard not to compare journeys, but then I realize my journey is my own and things will happen when they do. Just because there are people further along doesn't mean I haven't made progress. I should be proud of where I'm at, not constantly looking ahead.
When it comes to actual writing, revisions tend to get me down in a big way. For me, the first draft is a total free write. It's my chance to explore the world and figure out the characters and just enjoy the ride. Revision is taking all that and ripping it to pieces so it actually works. Most of the time that means lots of rewriting, which makes me feel like an idiot because I can't seem to get the story right. I know revision it necessary, but it totally brings out the mean perfectionist in me. I often wish my process was different, but when I try to be more organized I get down too! So I remind myself that this is just how I work, and that's okay. Luckily, there's no one way to write.
How does being a happy writer actually improve your writing?
I don't know about others, but my productivity suffers a lot when I'm down. I get into a really negative thought pattern that prevents me from getting words on the page or finishing edits. But when I'm happy? I feel like I could write all day! I want to write all day. The words flow, and if they don't I know they'll come. I know revisions will improve my work and do them quickly and confidently. I attack my ideas with passion, instead of poking at them tentatively with a stick. I like what I'm writing, and I think it shows. Basically, everything goes better when I'm happy, thus I try to be happy as much as possible.
I really enjoyed that interview!! Didn't you? It hit me on a super personal level. The beginning of the week, I was doing so well, but then once I finished my rewrite, I hit a bout of bummed-outness. Here are some of the things that I've been thinking about/learning/struggling with...

The need
I joked with hubby: "Why can't I be like a chill hippie chick who's like oh I just write all day and then you know I go to the beach. Sometimes I write at the beach. And I just cook and hang out and relax and write some more and just enjoy it. Instead of, oh my gosh am I going to write today? Is it going to work? I think I have to write today, but I have to cook. Oh my gosh I have to catch the bus. Oh my gosh, but I have to cook. Should I go to the beach? I don't know if I can write at the beach today. On no I have to eat. Ok yes. What am I gonna eat? Oh my gosh, I have to write."
Making the choice
I don't want to buy into the whole being a writer equals icky drunkenness and continued sorrow gambit. The crazies ain't goin' nowhere, but perhaps me and my Muse can entertain each other instead of engaging in hair-pulling and name-calling during that lovely little thing called my bedtime.

Not being afraid
All writers feel something when they look at a blank page. Something BIG. A jolt of electricity. A buzz. A high. Its up to us to decide how we're going to react to that feeling. Do we classify it as fear? This results in worry, feelings of inadequacy, and labeling oneself things like Crazy or Nuts. Or do we classify the jolt as excitement? With this option, we can smile and be in love words. We can feel good about the passion.

How to trust
My step-father-in-law/spiritual guru said to me, "Trust your heart. You know your heart is good." Everyone says to trust your process and give your self-permission and forgive yourself for your mistakes. These classic pieces of writing advice are valuable, but Trust your heart. You know your heart is good is so much more helpful for me. Whatever I do in life, this phrase can keep me from worrying, about the past and the future. This advice is all-encompassing to me.

Writing and life are not so different
We all know that it is no good to walk around wishing you had some Loeffler Randal pumps. (Instead I must be thankful for my Target flipflops.) It is no good to sigh in front of mansions or swoon over Ferraris. And so it goes with writing. We have to be thankful. I'm good. I'm pretty good for my age. I like what I write. I can do it. We all fall into the wishing well sometimes, but we have to "snap out of it" and give thanks. The simple act of writing is a blessing (in an angst-filled disguise.)

THANKS AGAIN NATALIE!!! Writers or not, you've given us all something to think about.

So what about you? Are YOU a happy writer?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hawai'i is Beautiful as Always (blogfest)

Hey everybody! I'm participating in my very first blogfest:

Its hosted by Roh Morgon @ musings of a moonlight writer. Click here for more info and to read all the entries! The blogfest is in honor of back to school. Scenes must be set on a campus and less than 999 words.

I decided to step out of my element. I never write in third person, and I never write about boys. So...


Title: Hawai'i is Beautiful as Always
Words: 964.

Simon’s backpack rammed into the palm trees as he passed by a bunch of picnic tables, ignoring all of the college kid’s nervous writing and pencil-biting. He did listen in long enough to hear some chick say in to her cell phone, “Thank you for the gifts, and please tell me your address so I can send you a thank you note. Alright? Hawai’i is beautiful as always. Call me soon. Thank you. Love you…” And then in a final act of desperation, she said, “Bye.”

Simon was new in this weird place called Honolulu, and he didn’t really get why people sacrificed everything to come here. It was dirty, hot, and third-world in some places.

When he got home, he would freeze the coke he had bought at school until it was just getting sloshy, and then down it guiltily. Mom and Dad were much busier in Honolulu, and he was in seventh grade now. Seventh grade! So he didn’t need as much looking out for. The only thing that made him really nervous was having to walk through the college campus to get home. It was the fastest way, and all the cool kids were doing it, but he wasn’t walking with them.

Simon continued on, brushing past every palm and fern with an angry oomph of his over-stuffed backpack. There was a woman on the ground with plumeria flowers all around her, stringing them into leis. What did she think this was, Waikiki? Well it wasn’t. Do college kids lei each other on the first day of school?

Simon chuckled to himself, and the woman looked up past her hardpressed wrinkles thinking him a rude child, rude like all the rest. Just perfect…

She held out a lei to him and he stopped laughing. Eww. Now this hag wanted some five-foot-nothing, blond bowl-cut action? Simon didn’t think so.

Wiping some sweaty strands off his forehead, he turned his back to her and kept walking.

“You need some Aloha, boy,” she croacked out. Her lips were totally nonexsitent and her tongue a little sleeping slug.

Simon said, “no thanks.” All this tourist shit was following him everywhere. He lived here now. He needed to be a local boy. Walking around with a lei wouldn’t help that. Just then a plane flew overhead, and at the same time one of those random, powerful, gusty, unexpected tropical breezes scattered the loose plumeria blossoms across the old lady’s many skirts. The finished lei smacked Simon in the face.

The hag cackled and pointed a crooked finger at the maroon, yellow, and white flowers that now slumped over Simon's shoulder. Everyone was staring, he was sure of it. But when he looked around no one seemed to care. Of course. 

“Told you so. Need some Aloooohaaaa! Hahahahaa!!” the lady said, laughing.

Shruging off the lei, Simon let it fall to the ground. So fast it made Simon jump, the lady skittered to her feet and grasped the lei. “Don’t let it fall!” she said. It was already too late. “Don’t let it touch the ground.”

She brushed the bad air vibes off the petals and extended her arm, waiting. Simon just stared at it for a second, then turned to leave, smacking into something warm and solid. He pulled back.

A college girl. Older than his sister. Pretty. She had boobs, real boobs, like boobs that were probably done growing, and she was six inches taller than him. “Sorry,” he said.

The girl said it was alright and turned to leave, but when she saw the lady’s stubborn, wobbly arm, she paused. “Auntie?” she asked.

With a sneaky little grin, the lady said, “Give that boy some Aloha.” 

The girl had golden skin. Black hair with sunkissed streaks. Ethnicity: indeterminate. She inched her book bag higher up her shoulder and let the lady ring the lay around her fingers.

With the lei’s soft petals fragrancing her small hands, she turned towards the boy, but he was already slamming into some other plants in his heated race for a caffeine fix. She presented the lei to the old lady, who held up one obstinate finger and shook her head, stiff wiry hair unmoving.

The girl gave a little bow and ran off after the boy. “Hey. Wait!” she said.

Simon could hear the tropical lilt in her voice. Less like a lilt, more like deepness. Something extra added. Like the umami flavor to the mangoes or the natural spice to the coffee. That something extra didn't make him turn around.

The girl held the lei in one hand and spun him around firmly with her other. “Just take this,” she said.

“Why?” He definitely wasn’t trying to impress this girl. What he needed was a friend his age.

“Because today is my little sister’s birthday,” she said, a wink betraying an idea.

“So?” Simon asked.

“There she is. And don’t forget the kiss on the cheek.”

Simon knew all about that. His parents had paid an extra thrity bucks for them to all get leid upon landing. A younger, tinier version of the girl parted a pair of palm leaves softly and emerged onto the lawn.

Simon heard the old lady cackle, but he ignored her and stepped into some less sweaty version of himself. He placed the lei around the girl’s neck, kissed the air next to her cheek, and said, “Happy Birthday.”

The girl recoiled and tugged on the lei. At least she kept the thing on as she walked away silently. Simon was going the same direction, but waited, let them walk first, and then went on slowly, not wanting to catch up. He was embarrassed and fully convinced that Hawaii was a really weird place.

p.s. in case you don't know this already, everyone in hawaii is one big ohana. kids call people older than them uncle or auntie. someone same age you call brudda or sista.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WIP status, rewrite over. scared proud and stupid!

Its official folks. I've written the same book twice.

Oh, I don't know...about two minutes ago, I wrote the last vignette of my book. !!!!
Hey, wait I need a little more excitement !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pardon my explanation points.

It took me 36 days to write 370 pages by hand. I did it! I accepted that my first go at this story was shit. And now I'll accept that this draft is just stinky farts. Not as bad, right?


PROS of the experience:

My book has four or five more scenes, but its half as long as the first time. Yup that's right. More story. But half as long!!!! (Meaning I stopped describing every little effing thing and have wayyyy less dialogue.)

I don't like to preplot, so the first time I had all these crazy things going on that didn't lead anywhere. This time around, I knew exactly what the story was about, so I could write it, and only it, nothing else. There is not a single scene in this book that does not affect the story in a major way.

I learned what was important. I stopped rambling on about meals and measley logistics and just got to the good stuff. I learned how to summarize the things that lead up to the major scenes and then detail those scenes in all their glory.


I sound like a dumbass.
SOMEONE: "So, hey what are you writing?"
ME: "The book I wrote last summer."
SOMEONE: "Like, the same book?"
ME: "Yeah, I'm writing the same book twice."
ME: "Because it wasn't good enough the first time."
ME: "Yeah."

I'm a little worried that I'll keep getting stuck in this book. I looked back at the beginning of what I rewrote, and again thought amateur!!! But I refuse to rewrite it again. I'm going to work with what I got.

I still can't look past line-edits. A good editor can look past confusing sentences or icky paragraphs to the story, and see if there are any weaknesses with the major aspects of the story. I still get caught up in each and every little word. This has not changed.


In order to ensure that I DO NOT get stuck in this story, I'm giving myself six more months. I can only be as good as I am right now. This draft is better than the last one. If I were to rewrite it again, it would be better, but I won't. I will edit. For six months. ARE YOU LISTENING, SELF??? I said six months.

That's right. Count 'em. Six. Then I'll move on, cuz I got lots a stories to tell.

I can only be as good as I am right now.

HOLY COW! I'm moving on to editing. Can I look past the words, and find the faults in the story? And stop changing the lines so that I can improve the character development and the plot?

I guess you'll have to stay tuned to find out. And feel free to give me any editing pointers, or point me to your fave posts on editing.

AND stop by tomorrow, because I'm participating in my very first blogfest, which is a scene set on a school campus.

Time to celebrate. Guess how I'm going to do that? Let myself out of this neighborhood for the first time in seven days. Oh how kind I am to myself. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

To write about me, to not write about me? That is NOT the question

At first, I thought creating an MC who was a version of myself was bad news: too easy, self-involved, embarrassing. Then gradually over time I accepted that both my female MCs are like me in some ways...well, a lot of ways.

And that's okay.

I say:

Write about yourself. Don't write about yourself. Either is fine. You'll probably end up doing both. This is the disclaimer: don't make the decision before you start writing.

You never know what sort of situations your characters will get themselves into. If you're a pre-plotter you might know, but you probably won't fully understand what moments in your life those events are based in. You won't understand what personal truths draw you to the fictional story. For most writers, the story comes and then they understand the core later.

Don't block your own experiences. If you can't stand the thought of people likening you to your MC, you will deny the things that make you similar. As a writer, you have to assimilate with the MC. You have to be sensitive to what they're going through. You have to empathize. If you make the decision that your MC will not be like you then you may subconsciously block the material you have to tell the story.

You need all of your life experiences available--as clay to the potter--to tell your story.

I say:

Don't decide. There are those writers who badmouth writers who make stuff up. They think fake fiction is not rich, unimportant...commercial. There are those who think writing about yourself is not challenging enough. Let all those other writers fight about it.

Be open. Let your characters carry you where they please, whether that be to a story you know nothing about or to the very heart of a memory that is deep inside of you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Climax day jitters

Starting to write my climaxes! I've got 6 vignettes that make up the climax, and today I hope to write 3. Sooooo jittery. Freaking out! Ahhhhhh.

I'm trying to remind myself that its just another scene. But its not. Its the climax! I'm scared. Well, my narrator is scared, so I guess I'm just following my own advice.

Well, I'm gonna get back to freaking out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't find your voice

Voice is a confusing concept. Everyone says "Find your voice." That's what every writer must do eventually, with time. Practice. I agree...

But, not really. My current concept of voice is more like this:
(Or so I discovered today as I had the most emotional release I've ever had from writing fiction. It was like intense pent-up journaling. I cried after writing my first scene today. Cried. Writing fiction has never made me cry before.)
We have so many voices in our heads. Characters and critics. Goofballs and meanie-heads. Some want to sabbotage us. Some want to sway. When the voice is weak, it isn't because the writer doesn't have a voice, its because he has too many.

So, I say: Don't find your voice. Listen.

Listen to just one voice at a time. You are the filter. Your voice is actually your ear. Your characters are the speakers. Listen to one voice with one ear at a time.

Focus on the narrator first and foremost hearing no one but your narrator. When its time for dialogue, listen to the other characters, but never loose connection to the narrator (whether in 1st or 3rd) because they are still telling who to listen to and how.

Don't find. Filter.

Filtering your voice is a lot like growing up. You slough off all of those things that other people wanted you to be, that you wanted you to be, and you're left with the common denominator. The core. The thing that needs to be said.

Your voice is already there. The question is: what, if anything, or who, if anyone, is blocking it? Give your narrator the mic.

You may be thinking, but I'm supposed to have the voice, not my narrator. Your narrator is a part of you. So as long as you are listening, really listening, to what the narrator needs to say, then you will be the one who is speaking.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I heart criticism and copper

So ladies and gents, I had my very first jewelery making class today!

We writers sit down and write all day, using our brains and our hands. I need a little physicality in my life. making! It was meditative and technical...but whimsical too. I loved it! I was still using my brain and my hands but I could touch the tools! (Have you ever tried to pick up 'dialogue' and hammer it into a scene of metal?)

At one point, I thought I was done with my piece, but I wanted to use some different tools. So I asked my teacher what other things I could do to it. She pointed out some places that needed to be smoothed out and showed me what shape of sanding tool to use. I smiled, thanked her, and sanded.

Being the obsessive writer that I am, I thought about writing. Why can't it always be this easy to ask for criticism? When I asked for criticism on my novel about six months ago, my stomach twisted up and I had a dumb grin on my face. I was...too happy. Weird. I asked my betas questions. I listened intently, and I did the best I could to address the issues they found. But it wasn't easy. Or all that fun. It was nerve-racking. (BTW, my response to nerves are a blank stare at home but a dumb grin in public.)

A few weeks ago, I went to a writers group, and read a piece. They said it was good, powerful, and strong. I asked for criticism. It was easy. I wasn't emotional about it. I just hoped that someone could help me.

Learning how to take criticism requires work, practice. It truly is a skill.

I'm glad that I'm getting better at it. Throughout this whole class, I'll be trying to make pieces that I like. Its not about pleasing the teacher or the other students. Its about having something to take home that makes me happy.

I've come a long way. Today in class, I did not ask "How should I stamp this?" "What else should I do?" "Do you like it?" "Is it good?"

What I asked instead was, "What else could I do to this that would teach me another tool?" I knew what I wanted, and I asked the right question.

When I'm done with my rewrite, a round of edits, reading it aloud to my husband, and another round of edits, I will give it to my betas. It will be much more anxiety-inducing than making jewerley, but hopefully the idea that creating...making...shaping...learning...are all FUN! really rubs off on me.

Asking for and making use of all types of criticism can be...FUN! 

I hope that you can take a moment and heart your WIP, no matter what stage its in.  

I was given a 20 gauge sheet of copper. After using a saw blade, a drill saw, and various sanding and stamping tools, I present to first handmade piece of jewelery that did not involve a bead! It is a very silly thing, but I like it.

I'm thinking it could become a choker. I just need a black leather cord! Oh, and in case you're wondering, the D's are for me, and the G's are for my hubby, Gabriel. I tried to put just one G and D but I did the D backwards, so I flipped the thing over and tried again. I did it backwards AGAIN! So then I just went all willy nilly on it. 

I invite you to spread the love. All the silly stuff leads to the good stuff. All the comments that are hard to hear lead to the ones we all want. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Writing riskily (blog + vlog)

I'm heading into the climax of my rewrite. But first I have to prepare myself for all the crazy scenes to come, so I'm thinking of everything my two main characters have gone through thus far and amplifying it, asking myself "What is the most intense version of this emotion?" and "What is the biggest form these struggles can take?"

Dorothy Allison says:
I believe the secret of writing is that fiction never exceeds the reach of the writer's courage. The best fiction comes from the place where our terror hides. Until I was...writing about exactly the things I was most afraid of and unsure about, I wasn't writing worth a damn.
Eudora Welty says:
If you haven't surprised yourself, you haven't written.
Not sure who said it first but people always say:
If you haven't risked anything, you haven't lived.
I think we could combine those to say:
If you haven't risked anything, you haven't written.
Anne Lamott describes an experience reading one of her father's short stories with a friend when she was a teen. I don't have children yet, but I've wondered what it will be like to be a writer and a mom. To think of risking harm to our parents is one thing, but what will it be like to wonder how my children will receive my books? We can't wonder. Can't restrain ourselves. Here's the Lamott quote:
This is wonderful, I thought, throwing my head my back jovially; my father writes pornography.
So I ask myself What do I risk by writing this book? As I go into the climax, I think its important to note. Every story I write will incur different risks. Here are some specific to my current WIP:

I am willing to expose my daddy issues and how much I truly miss my hometown friends, even when they've seem to forgotten about me: they never call. I am willing to risk showing the world that I don't often feel like I belong anywhere. That I sometimes make things up to push people away. That I don't really understand boys, with the exception of two. That I feel lonely. I'm willing to risk letting my family know that I would leave and never see them again if some brand new world opened itself up to me, if I could go to Hogwarts or the blue and dangerous planet, Pandora. I know that sounds cheesy, but if fantasy became reality, I'd dive in.

There are many risks for me with this story, one of which being failure of course. It's been one year since I finished the first draft! Eek! But its all good, because I just effing love this story.

So, when you meditate on your own WIP, or when you blog, or when you comment, I ask that you answer this question: What do you risk with your current project?

(If you decide to post about your answer, link to this post, and comment your link below).

AND, just for you, here's a video. I did it first thing this morning so I could hurry up and get to writing, so do enjoy the bedhead...NO wait...the rockstar hair...NO wait...Hahahaha the writerstar hair. Oh dear me, somebody needs her coffee!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Book in the bathtub

Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy Oh BOY!!! I'm excited. Reading books in the bath is the best thing, especially when I open both doors in the bathroom, so that there is a hallway of tropical breeze rustling the pages. Poor writer girl here. I got no scrill, so I count on others to take me places. I can be comfortable, wet and warm. Even drink a beer in the bathtub.

Oh boy Oh boy OH BOY!!! I'm excited. Book. Bathtub. Beer.

It is a three-day weekend, afterall.

So off I go into bath and book and beer land. I am currently reading North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. Put it on your reading list. I am rooting for Terra more than I've rooted for a character in a long time...too long.

Hope you writers and readers and writer/readers are having an exciting three day weekend as well. You may be wondering why I'm so excited about a three day weekend, when I don't even have a job. I'll tell you. Its because my darling is home! I love having him here.

P.S. I have written 27 of 46 vignettes for my rewrite. Over halfway there! I'll be plunging into the climax soon. Gotta go deep, folks. Real deep. I'm scared!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Combining minor characters

C'mon, if The Hills can do it, you can too. Like we're supposed to believe that Stacy the bartender/homewrecker of Speidi all the sudden was Kristin's best friend with absolutely no explanation.

And that Spencer's sister Stephenie was conveniently in Lauren's class and served as Heidi's replacement of sorts. And then Roxy who was Stephenie's sidekick in some blatantly Lauren-hating drama become Whitney's sidekick and business partner in New York.

And then both Kristin and Audrina fell for both Justin and Brody? Well...we can believe that. All The Hills girls love bad boys, with the exception of Lo.

Anyways. MTV is brilliant. Because they listen to fourteen year olds? .......NO!! Because they combine minor characters! You can do it too.

I had to do it. During the climax of my book, I killed off a recently introduced character. Later on, it occurred to me that not only was it trite and unconvincing but also bereft of emotional impact. I need someone to die for the climax to work, so I decided to kill off somebody else, who was in the story earlier on. Somebody I like. I don't want to kill him, but it's gonna happen. Making this change pulls his family members into the story even more, and since they were already featured, it makes a lot of sense.

Do you have a minor character that you can do away with? Is there a character who plays some necesarry part in your story, but whose action could be given to someone else, thus eliminanting him? How do you shorten your cast list?

Why is this even important? I guess because it gives the reader less people to remember, thus ensuring they can be more acquainted with who's left. Maybe also because it highlights the little-worldness of the story, that all these characters are orbiting around the main one, affecting things time and time again.

p.s. don't hate because I watched the hills. its over alright? its over.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

30 seconds in word heaven/an influence of mine

Sandra Cisneros is inspired by Lewis Carol and Hans Christian Anderson and "pretty much anything in another time period." Don't believe me?

I am inspired by Sandra Cisneros. I still count The House on Mango Street as my all-time favorite book. The first time I read it I was in ninth grade. Influential! I fell in love with vignettes, descriptive details, and dream-like writing because of that book, and those are still the things that are strongest about my writing, possibly because they came first.

Who has influenced your writing and how?

This is a very lovely video. It hits you like lightning then trickles down your spine.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

WIP status, 1/3 through rewrite

Right now I am working on rewriting my entire novel, which you may already know. I am a bit over 1/3 of the way through. Part of me feels bad that I'm only that far, but part of me is happy about it, because its only been twenty days. Twenty days! Hey, you know what, that's pretty good!

If you like math, you may have already guessed that I'll be done with this book in forty days. No. I will not. It will probably take longer. Possibly twice as long. Why? Because the middle is much much harder to write than the beginning. I think it should be. So does John Irving:
The craft of the novel is to make it better, more compelling, more unstoppable on page 400 than it was on page 40.
More unstoppable means more work. More brain power. More time. Definitely.

So I don't know what the future holds. I don't know how long it will take to do this rewrite. And I don't really care. Because I'm so proud of myself right now. Probably the proudest I've ever been. I was proud of myself the first time I wrote this book too, but I was going too fast. I wanted to be on Oprah too bad.

Going fast is not my problem. Didn't you know that I cranked out 160,000 words in three months? Now, I'm challenging myself to go slow, and really plan everything out.

I've written one scene today. And I've got one to go! What are you up to?

Jumping into novels too fast: Patience or preference?

Wish I was as patient as Steven King:
The novel is a quagmire that a lot of writers stumble into before they're ready to go there...I started with short stories when I was eighteen. I sold my first one when I was about twenty...I got very comfortable with that format and I never wanted to leave it behind.
But I am not. I do not write short stories. Why don't I write short stories? Because I don't like to read them. Maybe this will change. Maybe I'm just not looking in the right place, but I'm sick of overly sad literature. Can I get some happy endings? Short story recommendations are always welcome. But I am a pessimist in that regard. Every time I read a short story, I have one of the following responses:

1. Feel sad
A. because the story is depressing. B because I'll never write that good
2. Hate or pity the characters  
3. Wonder where the fairies and goblins are
4. Get mad
A. because I found the fairies and goblins and B. now the story is over or C. I hate the characters

I grew up with Harry Potter, folks. He was 11 when I was, but then nature did a very odd thing and his birthdays took longer than mine. Until I met Gabriel, I thought I would marry Harry Potter someday. When I met Gabriel, I knew he was much better for me, but Rowling has still made me hard to please when it comes to books. There are seven books. Seven. Heaven. Sent. Books.

And you want me to read one short story about someone that probably should just kill themselves, or go to jail for killing their baby, or stop feeling sorry for their rapist, or whatever horrors of humanity literary types freak themselves out with.

I don't think so.
So what do I do? I write snippets. And novels that can be massive series. Really tiny and Really big.

I can't do the things that other writers tell me I ought too. I have to go at this the way that I go at it: which is cutthroat, hardcore and willy nilly.

Steven King writes ten pages a day everyday even on his birthday and Christmas. It is quite obvious that this works for him. I write twenty five pages some days and four pages on others. Some days, I write lines that make me so happy that to me they're worth five pages alone. Some days, I watch Family Guy.

I have to do this like me. Even if it means that I don't do short stories (for now. Its always changing.)

Even if that means that when Steven King meant to say soft miry land* I thought...

*this phrase is the definition. i actually had to look it up. do i care that my vocabulary is ish? not at all. what i lack in vocabulary, i make for in.....well....a lot of other things.

Do you write or read short stories? If yes, how does this improve your writing? If no, why not?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Try It Out Tuesday: What writers hold dear

This is a questionnaire. Imagine that you are
1: famous and I am interviewing you
2: an obsessive writer who wants only to explore and develop her talent
3: both
4: fun, fast and frisky.

The questions are in bold throughout the post. Read on to know where they come from or just go ahead and answer them. If you decide to answer the questions in depth and if you decide to share them please:

1: Post them in your own blog and link to this post
2: Post a link in a comment below so that we can read what your room is like!

Read Monday's post FIRST. Or else ONLY the bold stuff will make sense. Up to you.

You are trapped in a circular room. Or maybe I am holding your hand too tight and I really suck at singing kumbaya. Who could suck at singing kumbaya? Not me, I assure you. Its that other writer on your right.

And I LEFT OUT A REALLY GOOD QUOTE!!!! Here is something from Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. She will also be quoted often. Why??? Because I read really slow and I'm doing an 'instructional' post a week! I'll try to include a variety of authors, but I take too many notes so it takes me sooooo loooooong to read. Always. Here she is:
There [is] something noble and misterious about writing, about the people who can do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods or sorcerers.
SO perhaps we are not sitting in a room. Perhaps we are sorcerers. Perhaps we are little gods. Oh God, please no. Please don't let me a little god. hehehehehhee. I really don't wanna.

Fireblossom's comment on yesterday's post made me wonder. It got me thinking that maybe Forster's room is just that: Forster's room.

Today is about finding out what binds YOU to writing. As long as you know that, then you don't have to be in the room. You can be any where you want to be. I like to write everywhere, and I would be very angry if someone put me in a room.

I like to write by the beach, on a mountain, in the car, on the bus, on a train, in the rain, with a shoe, when I'm blue. I ain't Dr. Seuss so I'll stop. You get it. Forster put us in a room for the purpose of his book. It made it easier for him to analyze writers and writing if he took us out of our element and put us in his. I WANT OUT of Forster's room. What is your room? What is mine?

What is your imaginary writing haven? Do you have only one or do you have many?

If I had to pick one imaginary writing haven that I could create, it would be on a small clearing half way up a mountain in an all glass room with curtains I could draw all the way shut if I wanted to. But mostly, I'd leave this open. Behind the room is a gigantic mountain face with lush green foliage. In front of the room is a cliff face that drops off to the ocean. In the room is a big luxurious bathtub. There is a desk and pens of paper of course. But there is techie stuff too. I can type in the bathtub. And the room records what I say, but only if I turn that feature on. The computer screen can be big or small. I can write on a pad that converts my handwriting. I can use my hands and touch paragraphs or phrases and verbally send them zooming into the beginnings of other chapters, to be worked in at a later date. I have many more techie needs, but I'll leave it at that.

What does your writing room say about you?

My writing room tells me that I want to see the world and also shut it out. It tells me that I'm in love with, and respectful of and thankful for both nature and technology (but I don't dare attempt compare the two, not today anyways.) It tells me that I want to record everything, that I wish that my journal could link to my brain. Also, that I love water. I am a bathaholic. And that I'm okay with being watched by the animals and the people that come to my clearing, as long as they accept that I'll be watching them with a writer's eye.

What does your writing room say about your writing?

My strength would be my attention to detail and how I recognize and make purposeful use of what inspires me. My weakness is that I have a hard time letting go. Of the fact that my journal is not my brain. Of characters. Of my story. But my story is not finished yet, so I have to trust that I will be able to let it go when the time is right.

Release, give in, sustain.

Feel free to answer these questions if its suits you. You may answer them in your house, with a blouse, on this blog, or on a hog, or in a post with me as your host.

Remember though that all the world is a haven if your perspective is right.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. my little tiny line got good. That needs to be bigger. I'll say it again:

Remember though that all the world is a haven if your perspective is right.  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Learn Something Monday: What writers hold dear

What binds writers together? What are we really? What sets us apart? What's wrong with us?

We're overly sensitive. This makes us acutely aware of the minute details in everyday life and gives us the ability to create an emotionally charged-fictional scene. And we have a wrogan.

I am going to include many quotes from E. M. Forster in the following weeks, but his book Aspects of the Novel makes me sigh. Lucky for us, when he wrote it in 1927, he admitted to purposefully keeping it conversational, in line with its originally oral delivery. So the prose reads like an old dream. This, my writer friends, is the real deal:
We cannot consider fiction by periods, we must not contemplate the stream of time. Another image better suits our powers: that of all the novelists writing their novels at work together in a circular room. They come from different ages and ranks, they have different temperaments and aims, but they all hold pens in their hands, and are in the process of creation. Let us look over their shoulders for a moment and see what they are writing.
This is pretty amazing. For one thing, its intuitive and true and gives me the warm fuzzies and makes me want to hold hands with all of you and sing kumbaya around a giant mother tree. For another, its unique. E. M. Forster was the first novelist to be invited to give the annual Clark Lectures, usually given by critics, scholars and historians. He dared to look beyond the date of an author's birth and the subject matter and the school of the thought and the trend. Forster desires to examine what all excellent works of fiction hold in common: "The Story; People; The Plot; Fantasy and Prophecy; Pattern and Rhythm."

But looking at the elements of fiction was not new of course. Aristotle anyone? Still, the idea that writers do more than combine the elements, just like the craftsman does more than use the tools, is very appealing. 

Why should I be so very touched by this image? Why the hell am I so sensitive? Forster says, 
The novel's success lies in its sensitiveness, not in the success of its subject-matter. Empires fall, votes are accorded, but to those people writing in the circular room it is the feel of the pen that matters most.
Isn't that so true? Don't we just love the action? Sure, we devote ourselves to our characters, but they come and go. What marries us to writing is the feel of it. We are more alive and more aware than ever possible.

Its the rush that we're after. Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French say that "we write for the satisfaction of having wrestled a sentence to the page, for the rush of discovering an image, for the excitement of seeing a character come alive."

It is so very pleasing. Here is a giant mother tree I am fortunate to know on a near daily basis:

What do you think about Forster's image of all the writers of all times everywhere together in one circular room? Do you feel the rush that Burroway and Stuckey-French describe?

the first photo is of me and my friend and the second photo is from this blog. i pride myself on not being a google ganker. and the Burroway/Stuckey-French quote is from the book Writing Fiction: A Guide To Narrative Craft. worry not my writer friends, those writer ladies will be featured many a monday on this humble blog. as a side note, I misspelled Aristotle so bad that spell check suggested "prostrate." Prostrate anyone?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My wrorgan

I have made up a new word. It has now become a "page" on my blog because I know that I will inadvertently refer to it often.

The desired result of the writer life is to satisfy the wrorgan.

Because your wrorgan is very needy. It is your writer's organ that only writers have. I guess you could think of it like a stomach. If you don't feed it enough words you get really cranky and act like a beezy. If you feed it too many words you barf some of them back up.

My wrorgan is lower than my tummy though. It's in my gut. Pretend like somebody sucker punched you in the gut or you got the wind knocked out of you and say HUH! The place where you bend in on yourself is where my wrorgan is. This is also where the third chakra is, which is the personal power place.

So, be powerful and satisfy your wrorgan and you shall you have a happy life.

and hell yes when the wrogan is hungry it goes roar!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

I changed my template...again

Hello lovelies,

I am playing around with this whole blogging thing, and am trying to get my theme/focus just right. I'm thinking the paper background is good because we already know that I love paper. And its bright and light and not too restraining. Also, my last picture was straight up weird, and I'm really not that weird, or at least I pretend not to be. I have realized that this blog is about teaching oneself how to write. So I'm giving it a schooley vibe.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No man's land

Rewriting is limbo. It is neither here nor there. Rewriting is the in-between. There are so many rules of editing and so many rules of writing. Good rules. Excellent rules. One of them is that the two don't mix.

Don't write and edit at the same time.

That is a rule. And for very good reason. You gotta just get it out! If you keep tweaking something when its half done, its very likely that you won't get a full rough draft.

But what about re-writing? As you know, I am rewriting an entire novel on paper. I am extremely tempted to type it up, but I told myself (and even tacked the written rule to my wall) that I am not to type in what I've written down until the whole thing is done. The logic is that if I type it in, I will be tempted to edit it while doing so, but since I'm writing, I ought not edit. Thus, I ought not type it in until I have written THE END.

But lately, I've been doubting the rule on my wall. Probably just because it is a rule. And who likes those? Not me. I've been pondering (gasp!) typing in what I have so far (gasp!) before its (gasp!) done. But I resisted the temptation, somehow.

That means no retyping or editing. Not for now. The more I write, the more I understand the process. There are more than just the two stages of editing and writing. There are many in-betweens.

Like a spectrum.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I'm getting "out there," wherever there may be. Moving is so intense...oh so intense! Its like writing. Not just for its intensity but also...necessity. I have to move. I am something of an escapist. Or an adventurer. Or a traveler. How do you want to put it?
I wonder if it'll ever stop. The moving I mean! Not the writing. No. No. The writing will never stop. But...will I ever stop moving? I believe that I will. That we will. How do I know this?

Well...get ready for intense...because I know how I want to die. Or at least, where I want to be. I see myself as an old crinkly woman living on a rounded mountain peak in the middle of a nowhere forest in some tropical Latin country surrounded by dark-skinned children. I am in a village, and it is muddy. I have been here for a long time. Here, I am respected. And the children love my stories. (Y por supuesto, cuento las historias en espaƱol.)

You don't get to be an old woman like that if you move all the time. I know that Gabriel and I will find the "right" place someday. I see it as a place inside my heart. My secret garden. In a way, we are already here. And part of being here is searching for there. Moving closer and closer. Going deeper and deeper inside the heart of the future we imagine.

And its fun. Its life.

We have our first visitor since moving to Hawaii. It is so great to have you-know-who here!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My pacing trick

Every chapter or vignette or scene must have its own arc and its own beginning middle and end. Its own climax.

My book is told in vignettes, and I have two narrators. It switches from one narrator to the other. They get about 2-7 pages each time.

Sometimes I get confused on what the climax is for every scene. It always comes back to this: what is the main point? Before I write a vignette, I ask myself, What are we learning in this scene? What is the question that is being answered? For example (not related to my book) a boy tells a girl he loves her and we want to know her reaction. So the question is, what is her reaction? The answer to the question should come near the end. It should be the climax. The rest of the scene should lead up to it. Once the question is answered, another question should form.

Like, what is he going to do about it? How are they are going to resolve their differences? Whatever the question, it should be more exciting and interesting than the question before it, but not as exciting or interesting as the question it leads to. This keeps a nice pace.

Every time something gets revealed, something else comes up. You never want your reader to loose interest. Nor do you want to give them too many questions and no answers. ( the TV show Lost). 

This also ensures that the climax of your book is the most interesting part. The book's climax answers the book's biggest question and changes the main character's life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Over analyzing

Jackie's comment on Get distracted sparked the idea for this post. I loved the comment, because it made me laugh at myself. And it made me realize how important my ridiculousness me.
Guess what everybody??? I over analyze. I over analyze everything. All the time. Call me self-depricating, self-loathing, self-loving, or self-involved. But over analyzing is what I do. And I gotta do it.

BUT only for what I did. Never for what I'm doing.

Blah blah blah. That even confuses me. How to break this down? Lets look at the key elements of writing. They are PERMISSION, ANALYSIS, and FORGIVENESS.

The first step to writing something is to give yourself permission. Let go. Don't worry about it. Let it just come out of you. This is what many people say is the fun part. But its also the scary part. The most vulnerable part. What is going to come up? Is some personal issue that you're not ready to look at going to surface as some new character or event? Are you even capable of letting go and not worrying about what comes out? This is component of writing is all about trust.

Here comes the icky part. Analysis. This is just as necessary as giving yourself permission, but of course it has to come later. You can't start analyzing what you've done until you do it. Seriously. Finish that first draft. The whole thing! Before you pick up that red pen. Once your done, have at it. Tear it to shreds. That's how you find the real story. Question everything the characters do. Discover what the most important plot lines are and the themes present in the story. You still have to love what you did, though.

This brings us to forgiveness. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you made, recognize that its all part of the process. Love the process. Accept the process. Be ready to move on. Its not about trying to be perfect, or not making mistakes, or not falling off the horse. Its about getting back up. So GET BACK UP.

Talent vs. dedication

Gabriel: I didn't get much done today.
Me: Are you in trouble with yourself?
Gabriel: With myself?
Me: Yeah. That's the only person I'm ever in trouble with.

And its true. I am my own boss. My own motivator. I am the force that keeps me going.

I want a place where boss-me and worker-me can get along. But they're always fighting. Jupiter-dominated, creative, crazy, adventurous, irresponsible worker-me wants to write about all sorts of silly, fleeting things. Or about important things that just can't get done right now. Worker-me wants to write about all the books I will write. About all the characters I create, step away from, and then meet again with well-performed surprise.

But Saturn-ruled boss-me wants to see the numbers. What is the word count so far? What is the daily goal? Where is the schedule?

When will this part be finished? And the next?

Worker-me is so ambitious, but also very slow. And so, I am always in trouble with myself. Always inwardly fighting to develop some sort of idea of productivity and success.

The definitions are still a little shaky, but mostly they center around groundedness and peace, and fame of course. Ah, fame.

There is a little gauge in my head that lets me know when to put myself in trouble. Boss-me gets angry with worker-me for not doing enough.

But worker-me is insightful and cunning, and will often question boss-me's vision, demanding that boss-me redirect the efforts. I suppose its a functioning relationship.


This is the little frog that lives in our front yard. Isn't he cute? Very elusive and very fast, he can sometimes be seen hopping around the planter boxes by the door. He doesn't really like being spotted, but he kindly let Gabriel take his photograph.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Get distracted

Many writing maladies can be prevented. Editing may present the cure, but Writing deserves prevention. I have the tendency to over describe. Adjectives on top of adjectives and six-clause sentences. Lovely? Maybe. Important? Maybe not.

When I pack up my Mead journal and head to a picnic bench on campus (pretending to be a student hehe) or to a coffee shop or a touristy beach, I write A LOT better.

Isn't that odd?

I thought writing was about cabins in woods. I had my cabin in the woods. It worked pretty darn good for productivity but not so good for the understandability factor.

When people are laughing, eating, drinking, mixing, texting around me, I find that I write only the most important things. Only what the character is thinking in that moment. My character can't pick out every little detail in the scene, because that family over there is fighting about when to go back to their hotel and that girl is waiting for her boyfriend and that floatee is flying away and that cappuccino is ready...and...what was I saying?

Oh scratch that detail! Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. Focus. Only the most important things.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paper paper paper



Warning: this is not a real blog post. This is me letting you know how much I love paper. Smells nice. Feels nice. Crinkles nice. Wrinkles nice. Takes to ink real nice.
Gets water and coffee spilled on it real nice. Dries nice. Reminds me of the little girl I've always been. Hording splotchy-covered Mead journals.

Yeah! You go paper!

I'm writing a novel in a Mead. Its so nice.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Is it just me or is it hard to tell when its okay to name-drop? I lean on the side of too much name-dropping, and its been making me a little nervous. I took a step back to examine the issue. Its all about familiarity.

When reading non-fantastical novels, I tend to enjoy name-dropping. This restaurant. That girl. The next two streets. It helps me picture that the character is actually in Dallas...or Dubai...or wherever. Its nice to hear professor's names, aunt's names, etc. I can keep up. Or at least, I can tell when I should keep up. Its easy to see who the author is highlighting and whose name shows up just to make it feel real.

With fantasy on the other hand, too much name-dropping is seriously overwhelming. I have such a hard time figuring out who I'm supposed to remember in fantasies. Is that guy important? Are they ever going to go to that place? The complete lack of familiarity with just about everything (especially in epic fantasies), makes it much more difficult to distinguish between You Need To Remember Me and I'm Just Here For Street Cred.

The most enjoyable fantasies use far less name-dropping than the most enjoyable non-fantasies.

So watch out. Do you have too many whacked out names in your WIP? Will your reader be able to keep up?

When it comes to fantasy, take out all the names you can. Especially ones that rhyme with Thoralinakalitaphinax.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The rhythm of voice

A great book has a powerful and consistent voice, a voice so unique and essential that it can draw you into the story and help you remember what's happened so far even if you've put the book down for a week. To create such a voice, define the vocabulary and syntax of the narrator.

But that's only part of it. Any person can say anything or feel anything. Its always about how they say it. There's a certain cadence or rhythm. Elusive, abstract and moody.

It's like salsa. Quick quick slow. Quick quick slow.

What is your narrator's rhythm?

Silly silly sad goofy. Silly silly sad goofy.

Stuck-up stuck-up embarrassed stuck-up humble. Stuck-up stuck-up embarrassed stuck-up humble.

These patterns can happen in a couple sentences or take a paragraph each.

Its all about reaction. Let's say your character is feeling sunny. How long does it take him to be cynical? A voice that maintains an optimistic and bright tone for only half a sentence creates a very different character or narrator than the voice that stays ecstatic for an entire scene but then crashes hard.

Anyone can say anything (within their vocabulary and syntax range of course.) Anyone can feel anything. How long do they let themselves feel it? What is the pattern of their mind?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to be your own best critique partner

(Yes, I know I'm NOT supposed to be my own critique partner. Yes, I know I'm supposed to meet other writers and get their opinions. And yes, I am actively on the hunt.)

Step 1. Figure out what you want. For me, its questions. I like it when someone writes in the margins things like: Would she really say that? Maybe she says it, but does she believe it? Did he get caught on purpose? Why do they trust each other so easily? 

Questions are good because they help me draw out the story within, instead of throwing other ideas on top of it that don't fit. Sometimes a reader will have a really good idea, but often times its nicer if they just point out the issue and leave it open ended for me to decide.

What is your dream critique partner like? Does he scrutinize your dialogue and act it out to show you its faults? Does he amp up the action?

Step 2. Print out your WIP. Print it out! Do it on paper. I don't care if you're a child of the digital age. I don't care if you've been typing since you were five. Print it out.

Step 3. Be your dream critique partner. (Did I mention that my dream critique partner also likes to sit in bed and eat ice-cream while reading? Lucky me.) Do the things that your dream critique partner does. Ask yourself questions. Question anything that is weak or easy or convenient. Tell yourself its too long. Tell yourself you don't need that part. Tell yourself that people don't talk like that.

It's simple really. It's just like life. "Decide what you want to be and go be it." --Avett Brothers

Children's literature

Let's talk about children's lit. You've got picture books, chapter books (aka middle grade) and young adult. People usually separate them by age, but it hit me that on an individual level, they may be more about how a kid feels about the opposite sex (or whichever sex they are attracted to.)

For example,

Chapter books are for when girls and boys are friends.

Middle grade is for when girls and boys don't like each other.

Young adult is for when they do.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In case you were wondering,

I haven't posted in a while, because I didn't want to let you in on my dirty little secret. But now that I've come to terms with it, I have to tell you what it is: I'm rewriting my first book!

I want to feel terribly embarrassed by this, but I worked through the self-hatred in a matter of days. Awful days they were though, lemme tell ya.

My go-for-it attitude got me in a serious bind. I've already told you about my rookie run-in with word count, so here comes another newbie mistake:

For my second draft, I fine-tuned the voice differentiation of my two narrators. For the third draft, I reworked a few scenes. For my fourth, I took out a scene, and I added one. For my "fifth draft," I've decided to rewrite the whole thing.

I'm editing backwards! Going from small to big! What the heck is up with that? But I'll still have to get back to fine-tuning. My revision process for this WIP is a mountain. I am my own Aristotelian Arc.

Had I been a reader of blogs before revising, I may have come across one of Natalie Whipple's endlessly helpful posts, like Stages of Revision or my personal favorite, When I go hardcore. I would've known that it is super silly to fine-tune something you might later scrap, but honestly...I should've known that anyways. I was plagued by the belief that my story couldn't change, that what happens is what happens, an ailment Natalie has also written about. Thank goodness I'm not the only one.

Won't I always have this problem? Won't I always be able to write better at the end of a project then at the beginning? Couldn't I just write circularly, chasing my wisening tail round and round and round 'til I've got one story that took one seriously repetitive lifetime to write?

No. I will resist the temptation. Too long word-count and backwards editing are not why I am rewriting. The real reason is because of my ultimate newbie mistake.

When in first-draft mode, I couldn't pick a genre. For the life of me, I simply couldn't get myself to stop saying, "YA Fantasy." Was my WIP YA? Or was it fantasy? I couldn't decide! I didn't know my reader's age or their favorite section of the bookstore. I teetered between teen and adult. Between YA and fantasy. My book teeters too.

When I finally did decide on YA, I had a third draft that read like bad fantasy. Not bad metaphor fantasy. But bad information dump fantasy. I know. But I just couldn't leave it behind. Well, I'm tougher now.

And so, I begin again. I'm doing it forwards this time. I've spent the last few months doing a lot of research about what it is to write a novel. The amazing part is that I'm excited about this. This time around, I know the story so well that the voices and characters aren't being as overwhelmed with the lore and conspiracy. The back story is staying where it belongs and the writing is fresher for it, just like YA should be.

I'd like to hate myself for this absolute ridiculous, but I don't. Its all experience. Its what I want to do.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Why I write YA

Because I'm too young to write anything else.

No! That's only part of it. The real reason is this:

Endless possibilities, for me and for my characters. They can fall in love for the first time, travel the world, learn who they are, discover what they want in life, take down the bad guy, or they can do it all. So can I. I can be what my generation strives for. A little behavior that I like to call genre-bending.

I am a genre-bender, and YA is the ultimate platform for it. Adventure-paranormal-scifi or historical-thriller-romance or western-fantasy-horror. So on and so forth! Wait wait wait! Did I just say western-fantasy-horror? Hmm...maybe I should try to pull that off someday...

In the adult world, things get all separated. Books can be literary, or they can be "commercial" (a most problematic label). Books need to find a home in the bookstore, meaning that writers have to fit their stories into those categories. They can draw on multiple elements but ultimately their book has to be suspense OR romance. Horror OR fantasy.

As an aspiring YA author, I don't have to do that. I can have it all. That's not to say there aren't limits. My main characters must be approximately between the ages of 14 and 19, and must deal with coming-of-age issues along the way. But I like that. They have all the possibilities in the world open to them. They are just beginning their crime-fighting or bad-boy-loving or zombie-slaying lives.

I feel their freedom.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The delete button

I have lost my delete button privileges. One of my goals with revising my WIP is of course, brevity. I'm at about 150,000 words right now, and my max goal is 100,000. I'd really love to keep it under 90k though. Yesterday, I felt delete-happy. I took out things that I thought were unnecessary. I was so Brilliant. I was doing a Great Job.

Then today I read the 'finished product' and wanted to bang my head against the wall. I took out phrases that developed character! That brought intensity! Leaving me with bare-bones information that was wayyyy tooooo calmmm for the fear the character was feeling at the time.

Luckily, I hang on to old drafts. Every time I start changing things, I save the old one and do it in a new doc. So I'm going to scrap what I did and start anew with the second-most recent version.

It's never that simple though. I need punishment: no more direct delete button. I am going to do the double-check system, something I think all rogue/just-go-for-it/impatient writers (like myself) should do. Print out what you have, then cross out lines, words, paragraphs with your favorite read pen. Then at least one full day (or one mood change) later, take the words out digitally.

"Chickity-check yo self before you wreck yo self." -- Ice Cube

You gotta know what they know

There's been a lot of thought about grad school going on in my brain lately. You'll find the following statement to be held as absolute fact: "You don't have to have an MFA in Creative Writing to be a published, successful author."

No, you don't.

But that's a limited statement and it leads to an anti-academia world view, as in I-can-be-haughtier-than-that-haughty-degree. I get it. Its tempting to want to remind oneself that the rigors of the institution are unnecessary and that letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and deadlines are for geeky, dull and depressing literary types. Very tempting indeed.

I propose an addition to that self-satisfying statement: "But you gotta know what they know."

In all actuality, that means me. I gotta know what they know. I gotta have what they have: a critique group.

To my family and friends, don't take this personally. Your comments helped me, but not enough. Only writers can give a writer the critique she...ahem...I need. It's not that readers can't point out the same problems, they just don't usually do it with the same jargon, the exacting mumbojumbo that lets me know I'm among friends. Ex: "The first person point of view gets too chatty in this scene and slows down the suspense, throwing off the pacing you created during the exposition." Yes, I tried to throw jargon in there purposefully. Yes, it actually makes sense. Right?

I can't blame it all on jargon though. I may not have asked my family and friends the right questions. I may not have been ready to hear the answers.

And so, I have decided to not decide yet. About the MFA, that is. The first step is to apply, which I will force myself to do. WTF, GRE???

In the meantime, I must devote myself to learning what the MFAs know and especially to forge a critique group. So I place myself awkwardly in the hands of social networking sites in an attempt to find friends that speak my language.

If I cannot wade through the creeps and if I cannot carpool to the writing group that is too far away, then rest assured that the next round of my beloved readers will be asked many probing questions, until the language barrier is breached.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Your new favorite library

Walking up to the Hawaii State Library on South King and Punchbowl Streets, one is surrounded with old, colonial-style buildings, a palace and a church. High rises line the horizon, never too far away. You cross the busy street with ten others and are the only to pause on the corner, to take in the shadow of the giant lacy tree on the sprawling bright green lawn and the eight considerable white columns and the three, iron and glass two-story doors. You see that someone is walking on the lawn, so you do too.

You come up to the middle door and open it. It isn't heavy. Immediately inside the space is bare. What catches your attention is the loft above you, with tables and chairs filled with people and aisles filled with books. You stay on the first floor, find your way to the young adult section, swap suggestions with the friendly librarian, check your books out, and ask where the bathroom is. On the other side, she says. You notice a large glass door opposite the one you came in. You open it and find that you are in a courtyard.

The sun abruptly, vividly pours down from the cutout circle in the ceiling, enough to light the stone planter that holds ferns and vines and other green tropical things. Three tall palm trees emerge, their fuzzy heads poking far beyond the roof. The floor is uniquely patterned. Bricks in different shades of sand and cream create a star that stretches out from the planter.

In the shadows, against the flat square walls, patrons sit at iron tables--reading, eating, or talking.

You walk around the planter, open the door, and your eyes adjust to the darkness. There is a whole other library! It wraps around and around, a child's "Chase Me!" dream.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The cardinal sin

I think I finally get why people say that Stephenie Meyer is a bad writer, probably because I finally just read Twilight. I loved it. I couldn't put it down.

Stephenie Meyer is not a bad writer. Bella and Edward both feel like real, breathing characters and their love feels real. The plot is smooth and well-timed and fast-paced.

But I think I know why people complain. She breaks the cardinal rule. A lot. That rule't-tell! Writers are supposed to show-not-tell whenever possible. For example, in one scene Bella is in an elevator and says that the other people in it are agitated (because she ran in when the doors were about to close.) Most writers would have shown that, by saying "A woman slammed her fist on the first floor button" or something like that.

Meyer does this a lot. But somehow, it works. It moves the story along quickly. We don't care about the woman in the elevator. We just want to know if Bella can save her Mom!

In truth, this rule-breaking also serves to develop Bella's character. She's smart. She likes literature. She uses all-encompassing words instead of details.

Words like "exasperated" and "agitated" stood out to the writer part of me, but the reader part of me didn't care. The story is good. Really good.

New Moon is on its way. Wow. Ain't I late to the party?!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Revisions aren't so bad

I'm reading a lot about revising right now. My inner critic is nice enough to say "This part needs to go" without turning that into "The whole thing is crud."

Inner critics are so helpful. And so are outside gurus. Here are a few of the many insights into revising that I've encountered.

1) Are there evasions of conflict? In real life, most people avoid conflict (except of course the ones that you don't want in your discussion class because they want to fight with anyone's comment even if it be about peanut butter). I avoid conflict. You avoid conflict. Writer's sometimes want to avoid conflict too, but they shouldn't. Not only because it isn't interesting, but it doesn't move the story towards change. "Take a look back in the story where explosives scenes should happen--places where characters ought to confront or defend." --Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French in Writing Fiction.

2) "What is the pattern of change?" --Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French in Writing Fiction. The authors hold that "discovery and decision" are the forces behind action. Everything else is just a list of events. When a character discovers something, the toast is burning, his wife's a harlot, his truck is ablaze, he makes a decision that develops his character and moves the story forward. What are the discoveries that lead to decisions? What moves the story forward and changes the character? Those are the scenes that matter and need the most attention, all else can be improved to be just as important, summarized, or removed.

3) What is my intent? This one I thought of while reading Nathan Brandsford's post The One Thing Writer's Should Never Ask Themselves When Reading. The important thing when reading is to discern the author's intent and base criticism accordingly. What is the author trying to do? Did he/she do it? For everything I read in creative writing classes, I always had to answer those two questions. Authors can keep these questions in mind when reading their own work. What is your intent?  Does this scene fulfill it? Does that line?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writer-review: Looking for Alaska

Just finished reading Looking for Alaska by John Green. My experience of a book always combines the fact that I am a reader and a writer. I enjoy spicy imagery and unexpected characters but always always am thinking about craft. Same when I watch movies. I can never just watch a movie. I am always noticing how cinematography plays with mood and how perfectly and/or annoyingly dialogue serves as exposition.

Anyways. Looking for Alaska was a wonderful experience for me. The story was interesting and engaging, awkward and scary. And the writing was seriously superb. John Green knows what's up with dialogue.

I don't like to underline things when I'm reading for fun, so you'll excuse me for not providing you any quotes.

Actually don't bother. You're glad I didn't include any. Because you want to read Looking for Alaska all on your own and knowing as little about it as possible beforehand. Trust me.

The techno man

Gabe told me today that there is a man in the UH library that is there every time Gabe has been. He is a man with a white beard. He is always at the stand up public computers, reading, surfing, watching TV and listening to techno really loud. Who is this man? Why is he always there? An internet addict? Homeless? A retiree?

Ward's Rafters

Our landlords took us to someone's attic. "They have concerts in their attic," the lovely Sheri had said. Gabriel and I were confused, and intrigued, and we so went. Sheri said it was a BYOB, and we came fully prepared.

Come to find that that someone is Mrs. Jackie Ward, a tiny old woman with fuchsia lipstick on her slack mouth and soft red curls escaping a floral scarf. After we walked around the side yard of the big two story house and went upstairs and waited with a man on crutches for the song to end, we walked in and met Jackie Ward. She took our donations, greeted us with a smile.

There were about fifty people in the lofty open beam attic, complete with kitchenette and bathroom and only three chairs left. On the raised stage was a banjo player, a guitarist, a bassist, and a female fiddler playing blue grass. Our landlords took the two seats in the back, and Jackie Ward said to Gabe, "Go downstairs, go to the dining room or the bedrooms. Go anywhere, find yourself a chair and bring it up." So he did, and he came back with a wooden chair and placed it in the aisle next to me, a couple rows back from the band.

The four of them played pretty good old school blue grass, and sometimes the banjo player and the fiddler would do duets: gorgeous Irish or Scottish jigs that brought a sweet, archetypal love story to the backdrop of my mind.

It was amazing really, sitting in this old woman's attic, drinking a Modelo, with all these other lucky souls of all colors and ages, listening to some seriously talented musicians, and just breathing, feeling alive.

At one point, I went to the attic bathroom, but it was occupied. The door's sign read, "If occupied, go downstairs and turn left." So I did. I found myself in what was clearly an old woman's house. A big empty and glossy dining table. Doilies on the hall furniture. The paint in the bathroom mint ice-cream green. Little framed paintings of ducks and faded plastic flowers in tiny upside-down straw hats.

When the music was over, we left, but not before I happily put myself on the band's and on Ward's Rafter's e-mailing lists. On the car ride home, Sheri and John told us that Jackie Ward is eighty four. Eighty four! I'd guessed 72! And that her husband had died in WW2. She's at once a relic, and a new-found gem.

What a wonderful lady, to give me an experience like that.