Month: February 2010 Page 2 of 3

Progress!

Things are moving. Up, down, sideways, I don’t know. But they’re going, and that’s exciting!

The evidence:

  1. I am Kiersten’s first Query Week victim guinea pig winner! (Er, no, it wasn’t actually a contest… but whatever.) Today both Kiersten and her agent Michelle Wolfson — and several helpful readers! — gave me feedback on a query letter I’ve been sending out for Twenty-Somewhere. Overall verdict: well-written but vague. So I’ve already taken that feedback, revised the query, and will send it to a few more agents. It’ll be great to see how responses compare to the Before and After versions.
  2. I finished my outline!!! That means I’m ready to start writing my WIP! Well, almost ready. See, I’m going to start writing it — today! today! — but I’ll have to stop at Chapter 3 if I can’t think of a name for one of my male characters. I mean, I guess I can put {Insert Name Here} as a placeholder and do a Find & Replace later. But somehow I think that’s not as fun.
  3. Okay, there is no 3… yet! But hey, how about those Olympics?

No really, how about those Olympics? Is anyone else watching? Who are you rooting for? Do you like how the media turned the Chinese pair skaters Shen and Zhao into a fairytale? I actually did enjoy that, and I cried for them a little when they won gold. (Yes, I am a sap.)

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In it for the long haul

Okay, I bought and finished Catching Fire, and can I just say: IS IT AUGUST ALREADY?! I want to read Mockingjay. Like, NOW!

Aaauuurrrrggghhhh.

{deep breath} Okay, anyway…

Since I can’t speed time up and make it August, I will just finish my reading binge (4 books in 3 days so far) with Scott Westerfield’s Uglies. I admit, with all this reading I haven’t been diligent about my outlining… but I will get back on it tonight! (I was going to say tomorrow, but we all know how easy it is to never make “tomorrow” become “today”.)

In the meantime, I think this “essay” by author Dani Shapiro is a must-read for any writer. A few gems:

“It doesn’t appear to be a matter of talent itself,” he wrote. “Some of the most natural writers, the ones who seemed to shake their prose or poetry out of their sleeves, are among the disappeared. As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is what I call endurability: that is, the ability to deal effectively with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as from without.”

Today’s young writers don’t peruse the dusty shelves of previous generations. Instead, they are besotted with the latest success stories: The 18-year-old who receives a million dollars for his first novel; the blogger who stumbles into a book deal; the graduate student who sets out to write a bestselling thriller — and did.

The 5,000 students graduating each year from creative writing programs (not to mention the thousands more who attend literary festivals and conferences) do not include insecurity, rejection and disappointment in their plans. I see it in their faces: the almost evangelical belief in the possibility of the instant score. And why not? They are, after all, the product of a moment that doesn’t reward persistence, that doesn’t see the value in delaying recognition, that doesn’t trust in the process but only the outcome. As an acquaintance recently said to me: “So many crappy novels get published. Why not mine?”

Writers now use words like “track” and “mid-list” and “brand” and “platform.” They tweet and blog and make Facebook friends in the time they used to spend writing. Authors who stumble can find themselves quickly in dire straits. How, under these conditions, can a writer take the risks required to create something original and resonant and true?

The latter two I think are true of a lot of industries, not just writing, nowadays.

Yes, my generation grew up believing that things can (and should) happen right away. And yet, we also grew up goofing off online, wasting time but telling ourselves we’re just multi-tasking. It’s a funny contradiction: wanting results immediately, but putting off or drawing out the work indefinitely. There’s a lot written about how this is a problem for today’s employers, but I wonder if any of us are aware of just how big a problem it may be for us.

Anyway, I’m not here to pass judgment. I’m just saying that as much as I am a product of my generation — as much as I would love “the instant score,” and as much as I do waste time online — I am aware that writing is a long-haul kind of industry. And I’m here to go the distance. I’m here to cross that tundra. I’m here to work and wait as long as it takes.

(At least until August. Then I’m taking another reading break. :P)

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Getting lost in a good book

Things I am supposed to do today:

• Finish outlining my WIP
• Blog
• Take care of the dog
• Go to a fancy Valentine’s dinner with Andy

Things I have actually done so far today:

• Read Suzanne Collins’ AMAZING book The Hunger Games

For 5.5 hours, her book, her world, her characters are all that were on my mind. I raced through the pages, and even now that I’m “done,” I know I need more. I will probably beg Andy to go to Barnes & Noble tonight after dinner so I can buy and devour Book 2, Catching Fire. And then I will pathetically count down the days until Book 3, Mockingjay, comes out.

And that sense of urgency? Of addiction? Maybe that’s another answer to the question I asked in my previous post. Why write? To drive readers mad. To make them crazy with emotion, excitement, and anticipation. To satisfy them, even while making them long for more.

Because if anyone ever feels about my books the way that I feel right now about Suzanne Collins’, then you know what? I done good.

Now the great thing about books is that there’s something out there for every kind of reader. Maybe you have no interest in teenagers fighting to the death on reality television in a dystopian future (seriously? no interest? none at all? but it’s so good! okay fine, I’ll stop) but maybe you devour memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love. Or great literary fiction. Or Civil War novels. Or romantic Amish paranormal thrillers! I dunno, but whatever it is, it’s out there, and its writers desperately want you to read it.

With that in mind, I’m going to start buying at least 1 new (not used) book a month. Either for myself or as a gift for a friend. So for about $15 a month, I can support writers, support the publishing industry, and most importantly, support reading. Maybe it’s cheesy of me, but I do believe this world would be a happier (& smarter) place if everyone got lost in a great book more often.

By the end of tonight I will have purchased 2, which I guess makes up for missing January. First up, of course, is Catching Fire. Second is the fabulous Kiersten White’s debut book Paranormalcy, which I pre-ordered on Amazon. (Actual release date is Sept 21.)

Of course I’d love for all of you to join me in my little book-loving campaign, but even if you don’t, I want to know: What would you buy if you were going to? What books have you been dying to read? Or what have you read in the past that got you all revved up like this? Let me know in the comments!

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Why write

Lately I’ve been thinking about why people write. What are people’s reasons for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), and are those reasons “legitimate”? Is there such a thing as a bad reason to write? Do you have to have a reason at all?

Eric is the one who got me thinking about all this, when he tweeted and then blogged about being (what I termed) a “word-doctor”:

I see myself staunching wounds. All the pages of all my books going into a great hole in people and slowing the loss of blood.

I, on the other hand, probably provide the laughing gas:

My writing… is more like the anesthesia. It takes you to your happy place, lol.

Erin is the teacher:

Good writing has the ability to make us feel things we may not otherwise be in a position to feel, and because of that we are fuller, richer human beings.

It has the power to convey profound truths without us having to experience them for ourselves.

To heal, to entertain, to educate… Just a few reasons from a few writers. Hardly a complete list. And if I had to guess, I’d say it’s likely that we’re all motivated by a combination of these reasons, even if one is chief in our minds at a certain time.

For example, if I had to boil it down right now, I would say that I write because I think and feel deeply when I look at this world, and I want to share those thoughts and feelings in an eloquent and meaningful way. A way that might make other people think and feel deeply too.

That’s true whether I’m writing a literary short story about dead deer, a web series about 3 twenty-something girls, or a novel about teenagers with superpowers. (Believe it or not, hahaha.)

What are the reasons that you write? What do you hope to accomplish, if anything? Do you write for yourself, for the whole world, for your cat?

Do you think why we write even matters?

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Happiness is…

  • Sparkling grape juice
  • Playing in 6″ of snow with your dog
  • Building a world (done!) and outlining the accompanying novel (started…)
  • Good sports games, good food, and good friends (go Saints!)
  • Dreaming about Spain

What is happiness to you right now?

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