Sunday, July 31, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 9

It's the last Sunday in July... so what better way to celebrate than to check out all the other Six Sentence Sunday participants!

...and thanks again for those who left comments and offered constructive criticism :) Thanks to one commenter, I was able to figure out why one particular sentence has always bugged me, and that was awesome. For those who have something to say, but are concerned about leaving negative remarks in the comments section... feel free to me-mail! Seriously, I want to know :)

Last time, you met Hector, the younger brother, so here's the next six sentences:

Simon’s stomach flipped and grumbled, but Faith had not touched her meal. Rather, she had curled up even tighter, her forehead pressed against the cool glass of the window. Her face was scrunched into a scowl of concentration and Simon stole another backward glance at his brother. The hollows in Hector’s cheeks and the gaunt angles of his narrow ribcage showed clearly through the servant’s uniform. Simon’s stomach twisted again, this time from anxiety, and in desperation, he reached out to Faith.
“Y...your hair is in knots, little princess. Why don’t you let me brush it for you.”

I'm going to be skipping the next couple SSS's as I'm taking off to the family cabin where internet is non-existent and even cell signals are spotty.

Oh, one more thing, I created a tab at the top of this page so you can read from the beginning if you so choose. Grammar is definitely my weakest point, so if you find something, nail me :) ...and I'll thank you ;)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Who knew?

So, apparently deer like marigolds...

I have already mentioned that the woods around "the witch's hut" are infested with overly aggressive deer, but one of the coolest things is how tame they are... We have a family of four, a full grown doe, a yearling buck and twin spotted babies, who often graze in our front yard. They are so comfortable that the babies (barely three feet tall they are so young) will often just wander around by themselves and even get right up on the doorstep.

So this morning I was pouring a fresh cup of coffee and looked out to see one baby deer nibbling peacefully on the grass, then lean over, chomp off a marigold flower, have another bite of grass, move to the next marigold, and on and on until every plant was de-flowered...

...and I really wasn't sure how to react. Should I be angry? After all, I spent a good 6 hours digging all the weeds out of that neglected witch-garden, then made a couple trips out for new plants and have been diligently watering them. Should I be worried? I don't know if marigolds are poisonous... but I really wasn't planning for the deer to use my garden as a banquet hall, so it didn't cross my mind to ask at the plant store. Should I chase it away? I know from experience my beagle will chase anything she's *allowed* to, but is very good when I tell her, 'no'... and she's insanely curious about the deer, especially when they are standing four feet away through a screen door. Should I laugh? It was pretty comical how the little guy was taking a bite from the lawn, a bite from the flowers, then another from the lawn...

And in the end, I did nothing. Just sipped my coffee and watched until every last orange and red flower had been delicately devoured.

Not every experience can be classified as good, bad, funny, or otherwise. Sometimes it just ends up being a good story to tell someone else, and hopefully, a memory that will give you a smile when it pops up.

So what do I want my own stories to be? How do I want my readers to remember them? What about you, do you all ask yourselves questions like this?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So, what now?

Since I'm finished with my major edits, I've sent it off to beta-readers, but don't expect feedback until the end of August.

I could work on polishing the story, but what's the point? You don't re-paint a wall three days before you take a crowbar to it...

So what I am going to do is read. Read as close to my genre, and as much of it as I can.

Here's the first chunk of my reading list:

The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Orphan's Tales Book 2 by Catherynne Valente
The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier

Basically, I'm looking for books that have a slight fantastical element with a 10-15 year old male protagonist, or dark fairy-tales. I have a couple others I have in mind, but I'm totally up to suggestions!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wa-hoo, cheesies!

Uh, sorry, that was an obscure reference...

Ahem. Let's try this again...

Crack open the champagne, or at the very least, a cold beer!

As of 5:23pm, Pacific Standard Time, I have finished my full round of major edits on Project #2, which now clocks in at a total of 71,992 words.

...yeah, yeah, I know I'm not done. I need to send it to beta-readers, receive feedback, fix more mistakes, rinse, repeat, etc before the final polish... but still...

I'm really happy!

A kind of progress

To celebrate the fact that I've finally decided on a new title for Project #2, I have written a new *blurb* for my "What I'm Working On" page.

I would love it if you would drop by, read it, and let me know what you think... though it will have spoilers for those following the SSS posts.

Honestly, the whole blurb thing is pretty new to me, so any advice would be greatly appreciated :)

...and yes, I have toured Query Shark :)


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 8

Happy Sunday all you Six Sentence Sunday participants! Grab your coffee, a danish (or maybe the leftover pizza from yesterday) and dig in!

Thank you especially to you lovely commenters :) ...y'know, I like criticism too, 'cause it pushes me to write better :)

Last time, there was world-building (hope I didn't bore you), sorry, there's a tad more this time, but also the introduction of the third main character!

“Are you watching the dredge-line, or the river?”
Simon glanced at Faith, trying to gauge by the angle of her head what exactly she was looking at, but with her blank expression it was impossible to tell what she was focused on. His eyes followed the river north to where it met the sea and, with a shiver, Simon took a step back from the window and turned to look at his younger brother. Hector was leaning against the open doorframe with both hands shoved deep in the pockets of his rough, brown trousers. In the five days since they had come to work at the glass house, Hector had not once spoken to Faith or even entered her room.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A moment of revelation in the oddest of places

I was taking a break from editing Project #2 and reading Calvin and Hobbes (my all-time favourite comic strip).

I've got that awesome 3 hardcover book complete collection box set and was reading a Spaceman Spiff Sunday strip in the second book when, from some dark crevice in my brain, it suddenly hit me who/what Mari and Seth are from Project #3.

...and my jaw just dropped...

...'cause I have no idea if I can pull it off in a convincing and understandable way (since it's MG)...

...and I have no idea what genre it would even fall under... paranormal? speculative? fantasy? magical realism?

I feel like the whole thing just got a lot more complicated.

So, I tucked it back into my head and flipped the page to read another Calvin and Hobbes strip. I'll let it toss and turn awhile, let it fester, stew, secrete and absorb other unconscious thoughts until it leaps out again from the folds of my brain, but hopefully with more information than just a vague sense of *knowing*.

I hope all your brains send you tasty teasers!

Friday, July 22, 2011

J.C. Martin's 1 year birthday bash

So, something different... J.C. Martin's blog is 1 year old!

...which I crashed after finding out about it from Sue's blog.

Considering my editing-exhausted brain is searching for distractions, I thought I'd join in on the party:

Write a story (or a personal account) that begins with the phrase:

“A lot can happen in a year…”

The catch? It must be a drabble, i.e. exactly 100 words long, no more, no less. The starter phrase will not be included in your word count.

Some guidelines:

Proper nouns (names, etc.) count as just one word, e.g. ‘New Mexico’ is one word
Hyphenated phrases count as one word, e.g. ‘self-defence’ is one word
I shall be lax with conjunctions: you may count them as one word! 

And there are prizes! Go check out the site, join, write, have fun :)

So, here's my 100 word submission to follow after the phrase, "A lot can happen in a year..."

I could say the glitter of sunlight in spring dew is just as beautiful and the scent of night jasmine in the evening air is just as haunting. The yellow scrolls of new ferns and the threads spun by newly hatched garden spiders are familiar and warm. If all I focus on are the sensory moments that tug emotion and memories from my heart, then I can pretend it’s simply the smells, the tastes, the touches of the season that draw out these melancholic tears. As each new month and year passes by, I will wait and breathe and dream.

Bogged down, twisted up and thoroughly tapped out

Do you ever feel like this when editing?

Because I edit while I write, my first drafts are generally pretty clean and complete.

Except when I force myself to write 30,000 words in 10 days.

I have finished editing 102 of 131 pages (I always keep my files single spaced with no page breaks for chapters), have added almost 10,000 words to the draft, and have now come to the point in the story where large chunks need to be filled in/re-written. I'm not talking about missing sections of plot... I mean proper character development grinds to a halt and from here on, this reads only slightly better than a set of stage directions -> Character A gets to Point B (scraps of setting), scowls angrily, "dialogue here", scene change...

Which is a bad thing, of course.

It's heavy editing. Suffocating, almost. And my brain keeps looking for a-thousand-and-one distractions.

I'm sure everyone finds it equally difficult to keep two or three character's emotions/desires in their head (plus what the off-scene characters are up to) while focusing on a single scene, but still trying to keep in mind the overarching necessities like pacing and how that one scene relates to the ones around it.

At times like this, I truly wish I had a hard and fast deadline hanging over me like a guillotine. 'Cause I'd get it done, even if it nearly killed me.

What about you? How do you keep yourself in line when you feel like this? Do you need another person to offer words of encouragement help, or scold you to be accountable?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Project #2 now has chapters!

...I needed a mental break from editing, so I decided to figure out each logical place for a chapter break.

Chapter breaks were on my mind because a few days ago, I read this post and was delighted and intrigued by how curious a reader (me in this case) could get simply from a list of chapter names...

Considering Project #2 still doesn't have a new name (though I have narrowed it down), I wondered if titling chapters would be as hard as the entire book... so set about to experiment.

...and I had a blast :)

Keep in mind these may change, and I have only titled up to the point where I have finished editing, so there will be another 3-4 chapters when I'm done... but here's my list!

Chapter 1: Walls Of Iron And Glass
Chapter 2: The Sea’s Temptation
Chapter 3: Patchwork Repairs
Chapter 4: In Unfamiliar Territory
Chapter 5: White Star
Chapter 6: Into The City
Chapter 7: Guilt And Indecision
Chapter 8: Rescue
Chapter 9: A Slow Burn
Chapter 10: The Two-Faced River
Chapter 11: Underlying Ugliness And A Lick of Magic
Chapter 12: What Was Hidden
Chapter 13: Brothers Divided
Chapter 14: Refuge
Chapter 15: Caught In The Rip-Tide
Chapter 16: Breakdown, Breakthrough

Comments and suggestions are extremely welcome :) I have already changed two of them because of CP feedback.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being brave

There is a writer whose blog I really enjoy reading.

This is particular is a fabulous post dealing with fear, failure then picking yourself up and continuing onwards.

She's honest, plucky and 'too stubborn for her own good'. That last one is her words, not mine, though I agree with it.

Perseverance is something I strive for, I recognize in others, and I admire, no matter their situation or profession.

I think there are many different kinds of bravery. I've talked before about how I hate fear and how I throw myself whole-heartedly into things. An all-or-nothing kind of personality. The dog chasing the disgusting, slobbery ball in the dog park until it collapses. I think mine is a mix of stupid, naive, and pig-headed bravery. I get sucked into things before realizing the ramifications, then I fight like a cornered dog to survive.

I hate to fail, and on the edge of impending failure, my pride always gives me that second wind and a burst of adrenaline. I'll make it through the fight, but I'll be pretty scraped up and a little skittish.

There's quiet bravery. I've seen it in a close family friend as cancer slowly ate her up. Even after the diagnosis, she always had an amazing smile, a grace, a peacefulness despite what must have been continuous, excruciating pain.

There is determined bravery. Like a friend of mine who is a firefighter. Or one who is an engineer volunteering on water projects in the middle east right now... as soon as the project is complete, it gets blown up and he starts all over again. Or the writer of the blog I linked.

There is reckless bravery. That person who forgets their own self-preservation in an emergency and risks life and limb to save someone else.

These are all good kinds of bravery, but I think there are bad kinds as well. Okay, not true bravery, but the facade of bravery...

The person who puts on a brave smile even though they desperately need someone to talk to... and are surrounded by people who would do just that, if only the person would drop the front and speak honestly.

That person at work who says, "I don't need help" then ends up dropping the ball on a major project.

When we craft characters, bravery is often one of the attributes we choose for the protagonist. More often than not, it would fall into the *good bravery* category. But *bad bravery* might make a more interesting character... what do you think? When we look at the negative aspects of our characters, how can we use them to have our characters make mistakes? Could *bad bravery* end up saving the day in the end?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dyslexia sucks

Okay, give me a moment of your empathy...

Spelling is hard enough... I often rely on the *red-idiot-squiggles* to point out the majority of my spelling errors, but recently I have been battling something a normal person might not even think about.

Word verification.

Yup. You've seen it before and probably only think of it as a minor annoyance. When you set up the comment section of your blogs, you have the option to require that people type in a displayed series of letters and numbers to verify that they are, in fact human., do you realize how in-human I feel when I fail these? Not only once, but often multiple times in a row?

I love participating in Six Sentence Sunday and every week I visit every other site (except for the content-blocked ones with the warning screen) but it takes me a good couple of days to get through them all, mostly 'cause if I'm going to read them, I want to leave a comment, but trying to *win* at word verification is a fast way to a prize migraine, so I have to take a lot of breaks.

Know what also throws me?

Words like:

bow, tear, wound

bow... a weapon? or the male version of a curtsey?

tear... what happens when you cry, or when you rip something apart?

wound... a cut on your skin, or 'wind' in past-tense?

...oh crap, now I've added wind to the list... wrap string/twine/yarn, or currents of air?

So thank heavens for the online dictionary! ...since half the time I look at the words I've written and I get a sudden and horrible inkling that I've used the completely wrong word...

Please tell me this happens to *normal* people too!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vampires, zombies and romance, oh my!

I think that my *what the monkey writes* sidebar might rub some people the wrong way...

But y'know, I still don't want to change it because:

a) I don't write about any of those things, nor do I see that changing any time soon.
b) I'm a person who would rather disappoint someone by telling the truth than lie/lead them on.
 (For those interested in personality types, this is spot-on accurate for INTJ.)

Please note that those things are specifically listed under the *what I write* section. It's not *what I don't read* or *what I don't like*.

Just because I don't write about zombies, werewolves, aliens, vampires, etc, doesn't mean I hate those things, or stories that have those kinds of characters. 'Dracula', by Bram Stoker, is one of my all time favourite books and I've probably read it more than 50 times since discovering it at age nine.

The reason I love it so much is because Dracula, in Stoker's tale, is a monster. Seeing him through the other character's eyes, he has no humanity, no sense of morality or empathy. He is a manipulative predator. An animal. There's no way you could possibly confuse him as a human.

I empathize with Susan in this El Goonish Shive comic strip. I just can't connect *monster* with *sexy*.

Perhaps it's because I read Dracula at such an early age, but when creatures that logically should be monsters are portrayed as humans, the whole *suspension of disbelief* thing just doesn't happen 'cause my brain keeps screaming, "That's not right!"

The appeal of monsters is their monstrous, in-human qualities clashing with the sensibilities of humans. If that isn't there, then what's the point in having it be a monster in the first place? If the only differentiating factor is the character shape-shifts, sucks blood, has wings, horns or a third eye, but is otherwise entirely human in thoughts/feelings/psychology, that seems like pretty weak characterization... and if I can't believe the character, I can't get into the story... the same as I can't get into a Mary-Sue-type-character. A psycho who kills women in a dark alley and drains them of blood for fun is more realistic than a vampire who is essentially a human trying to get into their victim's pants (and veins). At least the psycho is a monster who is written as a monster, not as a misunderstood bad-boy suppressing his (thinly veiled sexual) desire.

 A true monster is not sexy. A true monster is terrifying.

Now, while I say all that, I'm not averse to reading stores with these kinds of characters. In fact, every other member of my writers group loves zombies, vampires, and all other kinds of beasties that go thump in the night. I read their drafts, I obsessively get into their characters (like a dog with a ball), and our meetings usually end up being a debate about character motivation, the practicalities, limits and weaknesses of the inhuman critters, right down to asking if vampires could drink coffee by adding a few drops of blood so their bodies wouldn't reject it. Yup, that suggestion of mine made it into version 2.0 of one particular story.

(...and that makes me so happy!!! Squeeeeee! Just as happy as when they give me an awesome suggestion that ends up in a newer version of my stories. I like seeing the fingerprints we make on each other's stories)

I don't think it's a bad thing that I don't normally read/write this kind of subject matter. Because I don't know the usual conventions of the genres, I end up asking (sometimes stupid) questions that my group members might not have thought of... of examining all the daily human rituals and seeing them fresh through the eyes of their in-human characters. Just as they ask me questions I have not thought of. Having different interests and liking different genres is what makes our conversations not only more interesting, but more valuable.

Romance is a similar thing. I don't have a romantic cell in my body. The only reason I know my wedding date is because we have a dvd of our wedding with it clearly printed on the front cover. I'm serious. I don't believe in love at first sight, soul mates, or any of that kind of stuff. I married my husband 'cause he was/is my best friend. We get each other, and that's a rare and amazing thing.

Despite that, I have no problem beta-reading stories where romance is the main focus, but I'm always going to read it through the eyes of a sceptic... looking for clear character motivation, a logical sequence/build-up of events, etc.

Beta-readers are all different and we all bring our own personal tastes into our reading/critique along with our strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to grammar, it's better to ask someone else, but when it comes to logic, plot holes and character motivation/development... that's where I shine, especially if you're asking me to *believe* in something incredible. In fact, it's often those situations where I get the most fired up because I want the writer to convince me, I want to fall prey to their characters, their world and their storyline.

So, just because I don't write about those things, doesn't mean I hate 'em.

It's just that there are other subjects and characters that I want to write more.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 7

Hello all you Six Sentence Sunday visitors!

...and anyone else who happened to wander in :)

Last time you got a little one-sided conversation between Simon and Faith, but she was ignoring him and just staring out the window... well, here's the next six for you. Comments, suggestions or rambling tirades that are somewhat constructive are always welcome :)

“What are you looking at?” Simon leaned closer, knowing what he would see, but hoping he could tempt Faith into conversation, or at least stir up some kind of reaction from the girl he had been watching over for the last five days. 
The morning sun had dyed the hills and valley a blazing orange, the same hot, stifling color of molten iron in the factory fires. Far below in the river were dozens of children fighting the currents with loosely woven canvas sacks, their bodies stained brown by mud and sun. Tied like glass beads to long ropes, they worked to dredge mineral-rich silt from the swiftly flowing water. The full bags were passed up to the shore where teams of two and three children dragged them up onto the bank and into the sun to dry. Stacked in neat lines, the water would slowly drain out through the canvas before they were carted off to the glass factory.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wrath, fisticuffs and first drafts.

I've mentioned before that I beta-read a LOT for various people.

Three of the most common problems I come across in first drafts are outlined in this post:

Do your characters get upset... and then forgive each other right away?

Have them walk away angry and fume for a while.

Does one character seem to pop up in every conflict-filled scene to work as a peacemaker, diffusing the tension?

Kill them.
Are your characters upset with each other because of some sitcom-esque misunderstanding that can be (and is) easily resolved?

Pump up the tension, give them something real (and really complicated) to fight about, and let them duke it out. Perhaps literally.

As civilized human beings, we are taught to avoid conflict. That jerk who cuts you off in traffic... sure, we get angry, but it's not like we follow him to his workplace and take a Louisville Slugger to his drivers-side door. The snippy receptionist who would rather talk to her girlfriend on the phone than help schedule your next appointment... we put up with it. We may tap our fingers on the counter, sigh and mutter under our breath, but how often would we lean across the counter, unplug the phone and say, 'Get off the phone and do your job'?

Unless you've already mastered the sadistic tendencies necessary to be a writer, having characters really fight is hard. Escalating the tension, the stakes, the emotions... this takes both guts and craft to pull it off. Especially when it's drawn out anger in an intimate relationship (and by that I include family/close friends/etc). Think back to some of the things you fought about that almost (or did) ruined that relationship.

How do you write about anger? Do you fall back into your own, natural civilized avoidance cycle, or can you truly get inside the head of a character who is furious?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Where am I?

Funny how just after I finished writing a post on voice, I should flip to my dashboard and read this awesome post.

Go, read it.


Are you back?

Here's the part I especially wanted to highlight:

One thing I need to understand in order to make my characters breathe on the page is what piece of me is in that character. What of my own core emotional truths does this character have? This is usually the key for me to an authentic character voice.

The truth is, pieces of ourselves show up in all our work. I have been surprised many times by unplanned pieces of me that show up on the page, usually spotted long after the book went to print and I acquired some distance from the story. Since this happens even when we don’t intend it to, we might as well consciously choose which parts we include and let them do some of the heavy lifting for us.

But how do we consciously develop our characters’ voice?

Well, if voice is an author’s core emotional truths and personal wisdom, combined with their use of language, then to evoke a real-seeming, authentic character we need to understand their emotional truths, personal wisdom, and use of language. And while some of ourselves will be in them, they will in large part be wildly different from us, not unlike how kids have some of their parents in them, but are also their own unique selves.

This is something I've *known*, but not known. It's great to have other voices, other writers out there to translate a vague feeling in your head/heart into something concrete.

If you've beta-read for any first-time-writers before, you're probably familiar with authors who write themselves into their story as the main character. Usually it's a wish-fulfilment sort of book where everything turns out alright in the end.

I've been asked before which character is *me* in my first book (Project #1), and I've always felt like I was lying when I would say none of them are. Because parts of them are me. Even the most ruthless, obsessive and abusive characters. I wouldn't have been able to write any of them unless I understood them, or at least understood the jumping-off-point from which their characters/personalities suddenly boomed out of control. I can look at every character, even the small, side ones who never get a name or a line of dialogue, and *know* them. I can slip into their skins when they throw other nameless characters off a roof, when they devour their classmates, or when they light someone on fire... just for the fun of it.

But none of them are me.

...did you just breathe a little sigh of relief? I swear, I'm not a cannibal. I don't even like pork.

So how much of yourself goes into your characters? Do you agree with the linked post, or not? What are your thoughts on slipping into a character's skin?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Aspects of *Voice*

I read this post on the weekend and it has me thinking about what aspects make up my writing *voice*.

Why did that particular post make me think of voice? Because that post perfectly describes me... both good and bad (except for the unsolicited advice thing... I don't do that).

Under the negative traits section, this is the sentence that got me thinking of voice:

Honest people can lack the social skills to judge when complete honesty is not wanted or needed.

In social situations, I suck at small talk... comments about the weather, asking about jobs, kids, talking about current events, movies, tv shows and all that kind of stuff. I tend to skip over the PC gloss topics and throw myself right into the gritty *real* conversations... like someone I first met who has an Aboriginal heritage, I launched into questions of identity, the conflict of trying to save/preserve his original culture vs modern society and the deep-set corruption within the prevailing leadership.

...and about 30 minutes into this conversation (35 minutes after we had exchanged names),  he stopped mid-sentence, blushed and said he was uncomfortable talking about this to someone he'd just met... although, by that time, I was mostly just listening as he talked.

So yeah, I do this. And I know it's not the best way to give a good first impression.

So how does this relate to my writing voice?

In whatever I write, dialogue is relatively scarce. When characters do speak, they only talk about things that *have* to be talked about. The important and necessary things. What may seem like small talk is never actually small talk. When it is there, dialogue is loaded with meaning, sometimes two or three different meanings which would only become obvious on a second reading.

So that's one of the things I can think of that defines my individual writer's voice. What about you? Have you analyzed your own personality/habits/quirks to see which of those influences your writing?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 6

Another fine, summer weekend, another Six Sentence Sunday to enjoy! I know I can't wait to read them all... how about you?

Thanks to everyone who visits each week, and especially those who leave comments :) You totally make my day :)

Last time I introduced you to Simon and Faith, so now you get a bit of (one-sided) dialogue. By the way, just like a few of you commented that Simon doesn't seem like a servant, Faith also *isn't* a princess... he just calls her that.

“Good morning, little princess.”
Though his words and the rattle of the glass door had broken the silence, Faith did not turn, make a noise or even twitch to suggest she was aware of his presence. It was as if she was shut off completely in her own little world.
With cautious steps, Simon crossed the small room and placed a tray by Faith’s side, his breath loud in his ears against the soft clink and clatter of breakfast dishes. The smell of fish broth and salted butter made his mouth water as he stirred a spoonful of precious honey and goat milk into her tea.
“Are you hungry, little princess? It’s your favorite, baked clams.”
Her long black eyelashes were in profile, so still they seemed decorative, like the fine wire jewelry worn by the artisans and factory owners of the glass city.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The trip-lines of writing rules

I read this a couple of days ago.

I completely agree that those three rules don't work for me either, but the last line in particular resinated for me:

"Writing is hard enough without putting obstacles in your own path."

Writing rules are great... from reading the processes that different people use, I can connect with some, and it makes me feel that I'm not wrong. That I have company. There are others out there with similar methods that are as strange and illogical as mine.

But writing rules also have the other side. Until I started to actively hunt out and read other writers' blogs, I had never come across anyone who wrote like I did... and had that impression that I was *doing it wrong*. A few short years ago, I had no knowledge of writing... other than very basic, general kind of stuff. Writing was a fun escape, something that I had to do (on occasion) 'cause ideas were keeping me awake, well, more than ideas, it was characters... and I had to get their darkness out of my head. I had never thought about writing rules. I just wrote what I wanted to write, however I wanted to.

Then I joined a critique group... and read a couple books on writing... which introduced me to the rules, the formula of *how to write*.

I think a lot of times I got stuck or just plain avoided writing was because I was trying to do something in a way recommended by someone more knowledgeable, but their methods just ended up tripping me up and making writing a frustrating and brain-hurting adventure of Sisyphus-ian proportions.

I've kind of turned a corner now... well, maybe in the last year. I'm back to focusing on what I want to write and I'm doing it the way it works for me. I'm not thinking too hard, I'm just having fun. The best part is, since I stopped trying to force myself into a mould that didn't fit, the tales that are spinning out from my fingers have also opened up. Having confidence is the key, and that I have it at all is still a little surprising, but I'm not constantly questioning every word before it hits the page, and after. I'm going with my gut.

How about you? What writing rules have and have not worked for you? How did you find confidence, and in what?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tearing down fear

I've been thinking about fear a lot lately.

Partially, it's 'cause of the move to "the witch's hut". There's so much wrong with it, and I know it's silly, but thinking that the old electrical will catch fire or the water pipes will burst in the night, or the giant trees will crash down on the roof... I can't stop thinking about these things, even when I'm enjoying the sound of the rustling leaves and the smell of the ocean... and yes, even the overly aggressive deer.

Partially, it's 'cause I got sick. Whenever I get stressed, I get sick, and since I almost died when I was little from fevers, I get really nervous whenever I feel one coming on, even though I know it's completely irrational.

Partially it's 'cause I haven't been able to write/edit for a couple of weeks due to all the things that have to be done when moving an entire house-load of stuff to a new location. I'm afraid that when I finally have the chance to get back to it, I won't be able to re-click into the mindset I was in before this all started... the one where I finally understood a key character in Project #2.

I think fear and stress go together most of the time, and because you're dealing with two things instead of one, it makes it just all that much harder. Worry often joins in on the party and, like three fat dogs in an inflatable swimming pool, they take their toll and you end up paralyzed, unproductive and ultimately deflated.

But what's amazing about fear is how efficient you can be, and sometimes incredibly creative. Sure, it only lasts for a short burst, but it can push you to accomplish enough that your sanity is preserved for one more day.

Fight or flight.

It's a self-preservation mechanism.

Self-preservation (of varying degrees) is often a theme I write about. It's more interesting to have an underdog rise above the odds despite fear and uncertainty than it is for a hero to stride forth and gut an entire army on the battlefield. Achilles was only interesting because of his weaknesses.

When we overcome fear and press forward, we get stronger, we get smarter, we gain confidence.

So, to all those who are stressed and afraid right now, how about you make a pact with me? This week, choose something you're afraid of and face it head-on.

One of my ever-present fears is highlighting errors in my writing... so yesterday, I did something about it.  I'm going to be entry #5. I'm entering the first 250 words of Project #3, the story I realized completely sucks just last week. Anyone can comment, so check it out and do your worst.

Edit: It went live today!

What fears will you face this week?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dead Monkey Day

I'm not feeling so great, so will be spending today in bed catching up on sleep.

Happy July 4th to all you Americans out there!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 5

It's that time again! Six Sentence Sunday!

Originally, this story was titled 'The Glass City', but regrettably there is another book (already published) called 'City of Glass', which is just too darn close for my liking... so I should think up a new title for this soon, rather than continue to call it Project #2.

Last time you had the fairy-tale opening. For this week, here are the next few sentences which introduce two characters within this glass-city-world. It is intentional that Faith's description has the word 'savage' in there, which carries over the description of the world from last week. Also, the idea of being 'lost' is one of the themes of the story :)

In a glass house by the river, Simon slid open the door to Faith’s bedroom. She was in her usual spot on the window-seat, curled into an embroidered cushion as she stared out the window. Her thin limbs were almost lost in the whiteness of her nightgown and her black curls spilled over one shoulder, savage and tangled from sleep.
As his eyes settled on her hair, Simon touched his chest, his throat, his lips. A reflexive ward against drowning, though an incomplete one. He remembered his place just before spitting a wad of saliva onto the tile floor. Instead, he cleared his throat, taking care to keep his voice low and steady. Appropriate, for a servant.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Take a breath

My writers group met last night, not to talk about our writing, not to throw around ideas, not to critique first drafts or short stories. We met to have dinner, take a breath, relax and just enjoy each other's company.

In anything you do, you need breaks.

I think with writing, because usually it's a solitary thing, taking a break means going out and enjoying time with friends. See a movie, try a new restaurant. Have coffee. Laugh a lot.

Give yourself that much needed mental break, even when your fingers are itching to get on that keyboard.

What do you do to take a break from writing?