Month: March 2010 Page 2 of 3

Leprechauns, yetis, and puppies, oh my!

I’m… surviving. The past few days I’ve had almost no free time until dinner, and by then all I wanted to do was eat and then sleep. (Or at least veg out.) For the record, I’ve STILL met my word quotas every day. Despite really really really wanting to skip them and go to bed instead. The WIP is now at 16,000 words.

The reason for my exhaustion: Our move (work, not home) is now exactly 1 week away. But surprisingly, things seem to be under control. (I think.) A lot of that is because my coworker had her college-aged son and two of his friends come be my slaves helpers. They moved furniture around in our new office space, and packed up the basement of our old building. They were great — both as helpers and guys — but it was a little strange to realize that they probably thought of me as “old” just because I’m in the working world and they’re still students. Being considered old = -_-

Fortunately, the best St. Patrick’s Day story ever = ^_^

No seriously. READ IT.

Also, as promised, here are a few pics of Riley’s new next door buddy, Sunny:

doggy friends 033

Please note that Sunny is a whopping 8 weeks old and already as big as Riley.

doggy friends 031

Also, he has this weird habit of going to lie in the mulch around the a/c units. Don’t ask.

doggy friends 019

Also, he always wants attention. Weird, right? It’s like he’s a puppy or something.

Where the "magic" happens

Last week Rebecca over at Diary of a Virgin Novelist did a great little giveaway whose entry requirements were to take a picture of the place where you write/blog and email it to her. I didn’t get my pictures in before the deadline, but I still thought it was a fun idea. So here’s where I write. (Sometimes.)

my home office 001

Of course my supervisor always monitors me from his comfy perch.

my home office 003

Yes, my bed is that close for a reason. Late night writing sessions usually end with me stumbling into bed. The closer it is, the more likely I will actually make it there.

(And oy, ignore the fact that nothing matches!)

I like to keep myself surrounded by various tools and sources of inspiration, such as pens, writing books, and clippings of some of my characters (courtesy of Seventeen magazine). Whether or not I actually consult them is irrelevant.

my home office 004

In a closeup, you can see the specific writing books, as well as the 5 Hour Energy that I keep on hand “for emergency use only” (no, really). My favorites are Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate and Stephen King’s On Writing.

my home office 005

I also write at the couch and the dining room table, but this desk is my “official” space.

Someday I’ll have an office with hardwood floors, giant windows, a piano, and a mirror and barre (so I can dance too!). And of course everything will match. But for now this works just fine.

What about you? Where do you write/work/blog? What’s your dream office? I’d love to see pics, but you can just tell me about it if that’s easier.

Hair grows back and fiction isn’t real, so take some chances!

Motivated by a combination of fear and stubbornness, I’ve had pretty much the same haircut for a decade now. Sometimes long, sometimes short, my hair is always cut straight across. No bangs, no layers, no nothing. I figure you can’t go wrong with simple, right?

Mmm, maybe.

But always playing it safe is boring. That’s true for hair, true for life, and especially true for writing.

So lately I’ve been trying to take more chances. Please see Exhibits A (a week ago) and B (today):

More interesting, no?

The side bangs will take some getting used to, but I like them. Also, the stylist tried to get both sides of my hair to flip in, but as usual my hair did not cooperate. Is it weird that I take a certain pride in how stubborn my hair is? … Anyway, I think I’ll be happy if I can just get both sides to fall straight. I am so inexperienced with this stuff.

Of course, this is about much more than hair.

When it comes to our writing, we have to learn not to be stubborn. We can’t hang on to passages, words, or plot points just because we like them. Sure, you may have worked really hard on that scene, but is that scene really working for your story? If not, cut it. And that metaphor you just wrote? It’s beautiful, but pointless. Cut it. Two characters who serve the same purpose? Cut one. Adverbs that subtly but significantly clutter your manuscript? Cut ’em.*

Trust me, your ms will look better with a little trim.

In addition to trimming, writers should push themselves to experiment. To let go of all fears and inhibitions. For me, half the fun of fiction is getting to “do” and “experience” things I would never otherwise do or experience. Like traveling to another world (in my current WIP) or getting completely wasted (in Twenty-Somewhere). The other day, Erin asked me what I thought about writing characters who do bad things, like lying or stealing, and I had to admit that I find it fun. It’s my chance to be a little naughty and crooked, since I’m such a straight-edge in real life. (Coincidentally, Rachele Alpine blogged about “bad” characters today too!)

In other words, what I’m saying is that we should all follow Ms. Frizzle’s advice: “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”

Because it makes for fun hair, interesting lives, and great writing.

*Note: Contrary to popular writing advice, I believe there is a time and place for adverbs. But I also recognize that a lot of writers tend to overuse them, myself included.

The sun will come out tomorrow today

The weather here has been pretty awesome lately. A balmy 50-60 degrees and mostly sun. (Hmm, a complete disconnect from my current header image… Oops. Oh well.) Riley’s been having a blast walking around the neighborhood again, and playing with the new puppy next door. They are painfully adorable together. I’ll work on getting pictures.

I’d like to blame the weather for my complete lack of productivity today, but I can’t. I’ve done exactly nothing on my to-do list today, and it’s mostly because I’ve been reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Until page 60, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the book or not, but since then I’ve been completely absorbed. Ford’s prose is simple, elegant, and moving. And I’m so glad, because he seemed like a wonderful person when I met him at a local reading.

My other reason is that things at work are busier than normal, because we’re moving to a new building in a couple weeks. Between now and then, I’ll be handling a lot of logistics, plus after we move I’ll go back to a 5-day work schedule for a 10-week transition period. I’m not exactly looking forward to the reduced writing time, but my work has been very accommodating to me and my writing so far, so this is the least I can do. (And hopefully after the 10 weeks pass, I’ll have figured out a way to make my 4-day part-time schedule work in the new location.)

Furthermore, I’m hoping that my recent consistency and good habits will help keep me on track through the move. Because that’s the thing about being a writer, you know? There’s never a perfect time or situation. So you always have to make it work. Make yourself work.

So yeah, that’s what’s up for the foreseeable future. But hey, at least my workspace (both current and future) has lots of big windows so I can enjoy all this sunshine!

Why Sandra Bullock gives me hope

WIP update: 10,500 words! I’ve crossed a threshold! I’m really doing this! I can totally write this book!

Granted, I might have gotten a little farther if it weren’t for the Oscars last night… but whatever.

What I’ve noticed is that 500 words (my Mon-Thurs quota) has become easy for me. 1000 words (my Fri-Sun quota) isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard anymore either. Even on the nights when I start my writing at 11 p.m. — which unfortunately is fairly often — I can usually expect to collapse into bed around midnight or 1 a.m. I think my average is 500 words an hour. IF I’m focused.

(Which is why even though technically I can write at work, I never really get that many words down. There are just too many interruptions.)

Given that, I may up my daily quotas to 750 and 1250, respectively. Maybe in, like, a week? I don’t want to rush it, because the key is to set myself up for success. I want to make sure I set goals I can realistically achieve. Or else I could fall into that negative cycle of failing, beating myself up for failing, going into the next day/goal with a pessimistic outlook, and thus failing, beating myself up for failing, and so on and so forth…

Hey, can we go back to the Oscars for a moment? (Why, yes we can! Because this is my blog and I say so.) Besides all the glam and glitz, I enjoy Hollywood because it’s all about the same thing that I’m all about: stories.

Whether comedy, drama, thriller, or what have you, movies (like books) are about good stories. And I’ve learned a lot, both from movies and TV shows, about good storytelling. The compelling nature of friendship, from Sex and the City. The shades of grey that characters can (and really should) live in, from Battlestar Galactica. The simple power of real life highs and lows, from Life Unexpected. The list goes on.

(Obviously you can learn a lot about what not to do from bad movies and TV shows, too. But I like to focus on the positives.)

So last night (the Oscars) for me was a celebration of good stories, and the people who make them successful. And I have to admit, I was really happy when Sandra Bullock won for Best Actress. Because hers has been a long and varied career, from Speed to a Time to Kill, Practical Magic to Crash. And that’s what I want: variety. I’m terrified of being pigeonholed. Literary, Young Adult, New Adult, fantasy, mystery, chick lit… Truth be told, I’d like to try my hand at all of them. But nowadays, in the world of “author brands,” I worry about how much flexibility I’ll really have.

(Of course, Andy’s (extremely practical) advice is to just get a book published first, then I can worry about the next ones. But it’s so much easier to worry now!)

I know it’s a different industry, but still, Sandra Bullock gives me hope. That I too can experiment with different styles and roles. That I too can flop a few times and still come back strong. That I too don’t have to bend to my brand; I can make my brand grow to fit me. That I too can find success while staying true to myself.

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