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?