Archive for ‘Writing Process’

January 2, 2010

reading, writing, and, uh, baby stuff

It’s 2010 now. My first wedding anniversary was technically yesterday, but I’ll just call it today, since it’s early in the morning and I can’t sleep anyway. This time last year I was in the airport, boarding a plane to Maui. This year I’m sitting at the computer with a baby in my belly, wishing I could take some decongestant. Alas.

1. Read a few books over the break.

The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Sea
Fuyumi Ono

12K is a (unfinished) series of Japanese fantasy novels upon which a fantastic anime by the same name is based.  This one is the third.  They’ve all three been grand, and perhaps the first was my favorite, but this one gives some glimpses into two of my favorite characters.  The books are very mythological in the way the story is told.  Sometimes the author takes you out of the story too much to explain yet another specific world-building aspect.  If I hadn’t seen the anime many times, I’d probably get confused more often than now.  Still, the books created one of my favorite anime ever, so I do appreciate them on that level.  Plus, the anime follows the books almost to the letter, which is a rare finding.

Odd and the Frost Giants
Neil Gaiman

I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman on multiple levels.  This is one of those books I can’t wait to read to my kid when he/she gets to be a bit older.  It’s a bit mature for too young of readers – issues of kidnapping, drinking, etc – but it reads similar to a fairy tale.  Not a book that will stand out in my mind when I think of Gaiman, but I believe it was a book written quickly in any case.

2. Writing

I’ve been itching to write again as I settle a bit more into this pregnancy thing.  I’m still waiting for the nausea to ease, but it doesn’t seem to be just yet.  (I just gagged while typing that.)  I’ve been so tired that I hardly even want to think.  But teaching starts up again in a week, and I’ll have to think to teach, so perhaps that will give me a nice jump start.

3.  Baby stuff

16 weeks as of yesterday (today).  Time is just flying by.  We have our 20ish-week ultrasound on the 25th of January, and that’s when we ought to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl.  I feel bad having to call the baby “it” and I’d like to start thinking about names!

As you can see, things got shorter and shorter.  I think my body can sleep again.  Ciao.

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September 7, 2009

Reasons Not to Quit

Agent Rachelle Gardner posed the question “As a writer or a publishing profesional (sic), how do YOU keep yourself motivated when you feel like quitting?”

I’d like to split the answer into two persona – myself as a writer and myself as a teacher of writing.

Myself as a writer:

1. I can’t imagine not calling myself a writer.  It’s such a part of my self identity that I’ll continue to write in order to keep that title.  It’s just what I do.

2. I read.  A lot.  Reading motivates me to write something better, if it’s a bad novel.  If it’s good, it gives me a level to aspire to.  I rarely think, “I could never write like that.”  I think, “I want to write like that.”

3. I think about the alternatives.  Do I really want to have a regular 9-5 job?  I love being at home, having the freedom to move around my own space.  I like being able to stay in pajamas.

Myself as a teacher of writing:

1. Reading the papers of my students motivates me more than anything else.  If you could read through a sample of some of the writing I come across on a daily basis, you would realize how important it truly is to focus on writing in schools.  These teenagers have the writing capacity of someone half their age.  It’s heartbreaking.

2. I fit right in the education environment.  I like learning and talking about learning.  I feel enriched by an environment that never stops thinking.  Some people hate every minute they have to spend in a classroom, but I thrive.  I’m not saying I was always the best student; studying, in particular, was not my thing – writing suited my personality much more.

3. Not having a 9-5 job.  Even if I taught full time, I’d still have much more freedom than having to stay in one place for a long period.  I want to be able to keep my future children out of daycare as much as possible, and teaching would certainly help with that ideal.

August 31, 2009

Yes I did; no you didn’t.

Jennifer R. Hubbard posted (a while ago) about the idea of conflict in a book.  Instead of letting your characters argue back and forth, which can bore your reader, let the tension build by keeping the characters separated.

My two main characters in WINGED tend to remain quite separate through parts of the book.  They only meet during scenes in which something major happens – emotionally, physically, whatever.  Besides those scenes, they are acting independently of each other, brushing each other with their thoughts but that’s it.

I mean, what’s more interesting to read: two characters in a romance novel having sex right in the beginning, or having sex later on after thinking about it for many chapters?  See, delaying conflict could be grand.

August 26, 2009

Reading = Writing

If you want to write, I think the second most important thing you can do (beyond actually writing, that is) is read.  Read, read, read, readreadread.  Everything.

My daily reading generally consists of
1. a book/graphic novel of some sort
2. blogs (concerning food, writing, publishing, news, humor, and friends)
3. news sites, such as my local newspaper’s feed and CNN.com
4. student essays (not necessarily a positive in my reading development, but it happens almost daily)
5. whatever else I stumble upon

If you feel like this list is way too much, try to shorten it just a bit.  Read a book every night before bed.  Pick a few writing/publishing blogs to follow.  Pick a news site to read religiously (two with differing points-of-view are better, if you can).

Reading boosts my writing life in so many different ways.

1. Reading inspires me.  Other mediums can often do the same (movies, TV shows, art) but reading a book, especially in my own genre, gives me such a jolt.  I think, I want to write something equally as awesome.  Or even greater.  I actually began writing because of what I was reading as a kid.  I wanted a really good story to read, so I figured I’d write my own.  Even bad writing can be inspirational: “If that got published, then maybe I can.”

2. Reading makes you think about writing.  You see the words on the page, the way they’re put together, the patterns they form.  The language of them flows in your head.  I’ll finish a book and have the language floating around for days afterward.  For some reason, my own writing style comes out so much stronger after I’ve read a bit with a very distinguished writing language.

3. Reading lets you know what’s hot.  I especially like to pick up a book off the New York Time’s Bestseller list every once in a while.  If people are buying it, that’s what they’re into.  Keeping in touch with current trends can make you feel like your book has a future.  For instance, fantasy and paranormal is in hot demand right now.  So is romance.  Write a paranormal romance and you’ll at least know you’re writing in a genre that’s selling.

4. Reading educates you.  It tells you about writing and the world.  If you need to have a scene where one of your characters blows up a truck holding jet fuel, what are you going to do?  You probably can’t test it yourself and Hollywood is no help, so you need to research it.  If you want to write about Nashville, TN, you need to 1) actually go there, and 2) read about it.

So yeah, reading is one of those things I could do for hours.  Finding a fantastic book to pour into is the greatest high I could ever get.

In honor of this post, I’ll start sliding in little notes about what I’m currently reading and how it’s going so far.

August 19, 2009

show coffee shops some respect before you lose them

So apparently some coffee houses are getting pissed off that people are hunkering down in them for hours on end, while only buying a single cup of tea or coffee or nothing at all.  Many of us writers (and others to boot) are moving our laptops out of the house and into coffee shops.

I, for one, am a big fan of the coffee shop.  I spent many weekday evenings in my favorite coffee shop near Iowa State plugging away at my laptop or grading papers.  Coffee shops have just enough white noise to keep me focused – my home is too quiet, and music does not help.  The bustle of many conversations with a background of low music is the perfect writing mood for me.

However, I can understand why some coffee shops are getting a little upset about the boom of laptop users.  Why cater to all these people when the single cup of tea they buy hardly covers the energy they use?

So here are a few ways to coexist in the coffee shop world.

1.  Buy something.  I can’t believe people would actually stay for hours at someone’s restaurant and not buy anything.  I would feel weird sitting for hours at a bookstore reading their books without buying, so I wouldn’t do the same at a coffee shop.  Buy versus the amount of time you’re going to spend there.  I figure that a cup of coffee/tea buys me two hours.  If I’m going to stay longer, I need to buy more, like a muffin.  Or another cup of coffee.  Ha.

2. Take up as little space as possible.  I love going to fido here in Nashville because they have large tables and bar space that people can share.  So I don’t feel like I’m taking up an entire table.  If you can, go with other people who will also buy drink/food, so you’re not using up a table all by yourself.

3. Run off battery power as long as you can.  My laptops can usually last four hours as long as I’m only running Word and Thunderbird.  Why suck up the coffee shop’s energy if you don’t have to?  Does your laptop really need to be plugged in?  At least run off battery power for an hour or so.  You’ll make the coffee shop regret their energy bill less.

4. Don’t go during peak hours.  The coffee shop I frequent becomes super busy during lunch, but quietens around 1pm until the early evening, when it picks up again.  I also used to frequent my college coffee shop in the evening after dinner.  If you take up space in the coffee shop when they aren’t busy, they probably won’t mind so much.  But taking up table space when there are others who can’t eat their meals… that’s just rude.

5. Find the coffee shops that don’t mind.  There are plenty of places out there that don’t mind if you sit for a few hours.  Find them and patronize.  Tell your friends.  If one coffee shops starts to post rules about using laptops, either follow them or find another place to hang.

P.S. Starbucks, at least, doesn’t mind (and in fact encourages) users with laptops. However, I’m a great supporter of local business, so I’d use them as a last resort.

August 10, 2009

The Recession and Me

So, in fact, the recession seems to still be going on.  The music industry is still hurting and thus my husband’s job (though there have been a few positive things of note lately).  I never know how many hours I’ll be able to receive as an adjunct.  Luckily, everyone still needs to take English, but as an adjunct, I’m on the lower end of the pool for receiving classes.  Home sales in Nashville for last month are still down 11% from July 2008, but at least they are continuously going up month to month.

As an aspiring unpublished writer, it’s certainly disheartening to see that book sales are down 20%.  When you’re struggling to pay the mortgage and feed your family, you really don’t have the funds to spend $25 on a hardcover book.  Or even $8 on a mass market paperback.  I know I have been buying fewer books this year than I did last (for myself, at least.  I have bought at least four books for other people).

Pimp My Novel (yes that’s their name) is a fantastic blog all about what happens to your book after it gets accepted for publication. Today, they started a series of blog posts about the sales of various kinds of books, starting with fantasy.

So here is the good news:  fantasy book sales are up.  No, really.  Apparently, when people are down in the dumps, all they want is good escapist fiction.  Or bad escapist fiction.  In any case, this raises my hopes a little bit.  I mostly only write fantasy (except for a brief obsessed-with-aliens phase when I was between 13-16).  A few recent science fiction short stories don’t count – they’re really just to get unfinished ideas out of my head.

The reader in me is also thrilled with the news.  A higher interest in fantasy means more fantasy will be published.  I’m always looking for another great read.  Especially if it doesn’t concern vampires.

July 30, 2009

10 Way to Deal with the “Am-I-Crazies?”

Nathan Bransford posed the question yesterday “How do you deal with the Am-I-crazies?”  You know, that dark ‘n’ heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach that keeps gnawing at you while you write your novel.

The Am-I-Crazies can make you quit writing.  It can put doubt in your mind and remind you that this novel that you have spent so many hours on may never even see publication.  It can cause you to give up.

So how do I deal with the Am-I-Crazies?  Here are a few tips that get me through the writing haul.

1. Print out my novel for editing.  It’s actually kind of impressive to see all those words on so many pages.  I think, I wrote all of that!  Go me!  It’s a nice ego boost.  At least, until I start reading it

2. Read books.  Many, many books.  Reading always makes me want to continue writing, no matter how bad the book is.  This especially works if I read something in my own genre.

3. Read blogs.  Find the blogs of authors, agents, and editors.  They can answer any question I have, and some I didn’t even think of, from character creation to query.

4. Eat.  There’s nothing worse than trying to write while I’m hungry.  Being hungry always adds to my stress level.

5. Find the right atmosphere.  I live with three cats (actually, we’re down to two now, which is another story) who are very needy.  Like, if they’re awake, they want attention.  So if I need to focus, I have to go into the office and shut myself away from them.  Sometimes I also want music.  Sometimes it helps to have the TV on, but muted (don’t ask).  Sometimes I just need to get OUT, so I’ll go to a coffee house.

6. Daydream.  I’ve thought up my best scenes in the shower.  Why?  Because my 15 minutes in the shower are set to a specific routine, so I’m left with all this time to just think.  If I have a scene that I just can’t seem to write through, I’ll picture it in my head and work it out that way.  Sometimes it really helps to get away from the computer to be creative.

7.  Talk to other writers.  They’ll share your pain.

8. Focus on what you’re doing.  If I get too wrapped up in thinking about being published, I’ll forget about the fact that I have to finish this book first.  Writing books is like being in a relationship.  If you only think about getting married, you’ll forget that you have to fall in love first.  And what’s the point of marriage if you don’t have the love part?

9. Accept that you’re crazy.  Dude, you make up things in your mind.  The sooner you accept this, the better.  Stop fretting about being crazy and get back to work.

10.  Picture yourself never writing again.  If I try to imagine my life without writing, I’m so sad that I’m motivated to keep at it.  Maybe I AM crazy for thinking I could actually publish this stuff, but I’d go even crazier if I couldn’t write.