Month: August 2010 Page 2 of 3

Writerly Wednesday: Food for thought

I finished rereading Hunger Games and Catching Fire last night, and I thought I would be okay, but seriously, IS IT AUGUST 24TH YET?! I NEED MOCKINGJAY!!!!!!


While I attempt to retain (or regain) my sanity, here is some interesting food for thought.

1. As a design professor once told me, limitations lead to the greatest creativity. If you had anything/everything at your fingertips, you would feel overwhelmed — where to start, what to do?! But when you are restricted, you figure out how to accomplish what you want with what you’ve got.

In terms of story, Jon blogged about how spectacular locations — or lack thereof — can impact a film:

Let’s face it, as Hollywood budgets for summer blockbusters expand, the sets get bigger, the special effects nastier, and the locations trendier. Except Toy Story 3.Think back, most of the action took place in a daycare center. The other parts of the movie were set in Andy’s house and a trash dump. Not exactly Pirates, right? Yet these set limitations set the writers’ imaginations on fire—adding a baroque texture to an otherwise boring series of sets.

2. Books are beloved. Oh, the publishing industry is terrified of ebooks, and ebook lovers call printed editions “Dead Tree Books” like they’re evil, but let’s face it, folks: we love books. I didn’t even realize it, to be honest with you, but then Lee pointed this out:

Nobody throws away books. We give away books to friends or family, donate them to libraries or prisons, sell them at yard sales or book stores, but we don’t trash them. In the worst case scenario, [when moving] books are neatly stacked next to the dust bunnies and left for the next occupant.

Where does this reverence come from?

Good question. And speaking of questions…

3. Team Gale or Team Peeta? Why? (Ooorrr… Team Haymitch? *snicker* Okay okay okay. More realistically: Team Katniss?)

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Free master courses in writing

This past weekend I set about rereading the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. (A) Because it is brilliant, and enthralling, and I love it. (B) Because the third and final book of the series, Mockingjay, comes out in LESS THAN 10 DAYS OMGYESFINALLY! And (C) It’s inspirational/educational for me as I begin my new project.

The first time around, I couldn’t stop whipping through the pages, desperate to find out what new obstacle Katniss would face — and quickly! This time, as Sherrie points out, “the tension was still there on every page, but I was really reading every page, not racing to find out what happens next.”

Yes, this time I had my writer hat on, in addition to my reader hat, and I was able to think about what Collins was doing. I could see the seeds she had sown, whereas last time I could only marvel at the plants as they sprouted. I watched for how she drove tension, how she handled the limited first person perspective, how she withheld and then revealed information over time. Dare I say it, I even mentally edited a few sentences. Collins wasn’t perfect, but she was damn near it. She was masterful.

And hey, here’s what’s so awesome about being a writer: your “Master’s degree” can be free! (Shh, don’t tell my parents. We spent, um, a lot of money on my B.A.)

Pick up any book and you can learn a world of tricks and secrets. (Note: Erika Robuck blogged about this over at Writer Unboxed, specifically discussing characters, and how authors make you fall in love with them.) Good or bad, as a writer, you can take something from any book. Maybe the prose was beautiful but the story was boring. Maybe the story was great but the characters were inconsistent. Maybe the characters were lovable but the dialogue fell flat. Or maybe it’s all spectacular (see: Hunger Games, or The Secret Life of Bees) — then just try to understand and emulate it.

Yes, EMULATE IT. Do not be afraid of trying to recreate something that worked, in your own way. I am not advocating plagiarism, but rather, apprenticeship. Like playing piano, or building a house, or calculating profit margins, there are techniques already in place, templates to take advantage of. Artists are always afraid of this, afraid of “stealing,” but trust me, if you’re really an artist, you won’t. You will make it your own.

So learn from the masters. Figure out what they did right, what they did wrong, and what you can do differently. Then do it. Practice. Every day, every word.

Eventually you too will be a master.

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Typical Friday

I was going to blog something brilliant, I swear. But then I napped instead.


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A new journey

What do “relationship reckless moving job changes” and “i wanna go somewhere away from reality” have in common?

A) They both have words that start with R in them.
B) They both represent thoughts/feelings that I’ve had recently.
C) They are both search terms used to find my website.
D) All of the above.

(I’m going to give y’all the benefit of the doubt and assume you guessed right.)

Lately I’ve been feeling my old wanderlust again — and the Eat Love Pray commercials aren’t helping. (By the way, I am loving Florence + The Machine, who sing the theme in the trailer.) Since I can’t actually get away right now, I find myself turning to the place I’ve always turned since I was 9 years old: fiction.

With the Twenty-Somewhere proposal and sample pages “in the chute,” I have time. Time to what? Good question. Anything! Read, watch Friends, snuggle with my dog… And that’s pretty much what I thought I’d do this week — take a break. But no, my fingers flew to a pen and whipped open my journal, and I spent all last night plotting. Yes, the evil P word: PLOTTING.

I’m still no expert, but after writing out several thorough synopses for the girls of 20SW, the process didn’t seem so daunting. In fact, it was — dare I say it? — fun. Who woulda thunk it?

I decided to write my YA contemporary/dystopian idea next, which is full of political and cultural subtext, lush exotic settings, and Girl Power. First I roughed out a storyline using the Six Stage Plot Structure, and then I jotted notes on key characters and their motivations. Of course, fleshing out the characters affected their roles in the story, so then I had to go back and revise the plot a bit. It’s definitely a give-and-take process, but I like that back and forth, that sense of discovery, of malleability.

I also like having this framework before starting the draft. It’s not rigid, but it’s a road map. I already expect a few detours, but the outline still gives me a sense of security, you know?

So for the next day or two, I will make sure my ideas seem logical and compelling, and then I may just dive in. I seem calm, but I’m actually squee-ing inside. (New project new project new project!) This is one of the things I love best about the writing — or reading — life: Anytime a journey ends, you can just pick up and start a new one.

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Fun in the sun

Last week, in spite of a nasty RSI flare-up, I finished the sample pages of my proposed Twenty-Somewhere revision (!!!). Today, I sent them off to an agent and an editor (well, technically their assistants). Tonight, I am going to celebrate and relax — by READING!

(And also: by starting my next manuscript while I wait to hear back from said assistants, which will probably take a few weeks. Yeah, this process never ends.)

Over the weekend, Andy and I took a real break by going up to Columbus to visit friends who recently moved there. We brought Riley with us to play with our friends’ dog Dill. Of course, Dill’s definition of play involves toys and chasing and wrestling. Riley’s definition involves walking around and sniffing things. Needless to say, Dill was disappointed.

Columbus dog park 013

Also, I totally wanted to steal this “little” Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. Unfortunately, his owners were actually paying attention to him! Who does that?

Columbus dog park 016

After doggie playtime, we humans moseyed on over to the Ohio State Fair. Lots of livestock, fried food, and Midway games you can’t win.

Ohio State Fair 021

Ohio State Fair 012

Ohio State Fair 007

What did you do this weekend?

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