Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's now or never

Sooooooo, I've been using my sister's laptop for about a year and a half.  Well, using it when she's at work, anyway.  Writing in the mornings while it's still quiet in the house has been when I get the most (and usually the best) work done.  But I can hear the kitchen TV while I'm typing, even sometimes with headphones and the Rolling Stones in my ears.

So I took the plunge and bought my own laptop.  I'm not online yet with it so I'll be using my sister's setup for that still, temporarily.

I work part-time and that laptop took a chunk out of the bank account, I'll tell you.  Thought about a netbook, decided it wasn't right.  I had a gradual realization of "If not now, when?"

I want to be published.  I can taste it, I can see my WIP as a physical book as I write, I can even picture myself going through revisions based on an editor's suggestions.  When I think about not writing anymore, my insides freeze up.  My head explodes.  Writing is what I do; I can't set it aside.  For over a decade, one of my sisters and I shared an alien universe and wrote - in longhand - dozens of notebooks about the same group of characters.  We hardly stopped to eat, sleep, feed the cats, notice if it was day or night, summer or winter.  We defined being consumed.

Life intervened and I didn't write much for a number of years.  Once I got back to it and hit my stride, I felt a sense of loss over the time I can't get back that was not spent writing.  I also felt that I had found myself again.  You writers out there, you get it.  Anybody who once put down the thing that keeps them breathing and came back to it, you get it. 

My Muse is fully awake.  She stalks my subconscious like Zeus, ready to fling lightning bolts.  I offer myself, without reservation, to be used however she chooses.  It's more than a renewed commitment.  It's a deep and relentless obligation.

To those who know the pain and radiance of being a writer: rock on!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I'm working on my WIP this morning and had a fascinating moment of writing insight.  I was struggling over how to have a character get something across, then I wondered if it needed to be said at all.  I had this sensation of being pulled down a narrow whirlpool that cut me off from everything else.  I could feel myself get sucked right into the conversation.

I realized the thought I wanted the character to explain might only be important to him and me, but that readers might not give a darn.  Maybe I'd gotten so wrapped up in the conversation that I lost sight of the scene's purpose.

Thanks to my inner editor for being so clear.  I wouldn't mind if she continued to be obvious with me, just maybe with another visual.  I can't swim!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Life is just a classroom, always in session

Writing is cool for sooo many reasons.  One reason is I'm always learning stuff, whether I'm aware of it at the time or not.  I've realized that I, probably like a lot of avid readers, absorb tangent info while doing research.  These things pop out unexpectedly in my WIP, or a new understanding shines out while watching the evening news.  I can honestly say that I'm aware of so much more about life than I was a year and a half ago.

For example, I've realized some "heavy" things.
a)  People who serve you in restaurants, keep department store shelves stocked, check you out at the grocery store, empty your trash bin at the office, drive city busses: these people have names, families, lives. They’d like to be recognized as human beings.  They are not our slaves, they are the same as you and me.

b)  One of the frustrations of writing is hearing your characters’ voices in your head, and being limited to the page to convey them. In a movie, everybody would hear Neal’s slight accent, how he slurs some of his syllables together, and how fast he usually talks. Instead, I have to write out those missing syllables so readers can understand. Readers therefore are missing something. Grr.

c)  So much is filtered through Neal’s eyes. I feel, at times, like there’s a telepathic connection that’s permanently switched on. News stories in particular piss him off because the media so often talks about bad stuff people do to each other. That immigration controversy in Arizona? oooo, I won’t get started on that. I have to sometimes actively remind myself that his opinions are not always mine. It can feel like I have two personalities!

And some fun stuff:
a)  There are layers and layers of instruments and vocals in recorded music. Until I did serious reading about how music is recorded, I didn’t think a whole lot about why I liked some songs. Now I hear bass like never before, tambourines and triangles, tiny cymbal shimmers, rhythm guitars running under the melody, soft piano notes tinkling like falling icicles. I find myself pressing the headphones closer. It’s a far richer world than I realized.  Adding an effect because the listener feels it more than hears it?  Didn't make sense to me before, but now I get it.  Music is glorious.  Those who make it are gods.

b)  Some stuff I used to enjoy just for the activity itself now has a strong layer of learning. Watching TV dramas: that plot twist didn’t make sense, but why not, exactly? If I wrote this episode as a novel, would I have to change this part and why? How do I get across visual cues in writing? …etc. Thing is, I love learning and I can relate so much to writing and/or music that I don’t mind losing some of the “purely for fun” aspect.

c)  Having begun to re-familiarize myself with Spanish, I had a moment of amusement in the grocery store. I noticed that the Mexican beer Corona has a 6-pack of smaller bottles, which they labeled Coronita: “little Corona” is one translation. I “felt” that translation without having to think about it, the way you just understand a different word form in your native language. Granted, that’s hardly anything to brag about, but I got a kick out of the seamless understanding. [and never mind about the beer part ;-)]

It's true that you learn more if you're having fun.  Liking what you're "studying" goes a long way toward true understanding of it.  If only I had liked math, who knows, maybe I could've been great at it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Character interviews available

Check out my revamped character information, on the "my Work In Progress" page.

I now have excerpts from interviews with Neal and all four band members.  Because Neal changes drastically over the course of the novel, I've included an update with him right after the initial interview.

The characters are always available to answer questions; just add them in a comment and I'll be sure your questions get answered.  In Neal's case, be sure to specify if you're addressing him in 1989 or 1992, because you'll probably get very different answers from each year.  :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Shout out to Ryan!  I'm glad to have you along.  And, I'm interested to see on your blog that under "your best friend is" you list The Lord of the Rings.  I've read some LOTR bashes in recent months and it's awesome to know you're a fan :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Out, out, damn sentence!

Writing. Some of us do it because we have to (I’m not the only writer to be marched to the computer by a character holding a gun to my head); some do it because it’s a fun, creative diversion; some do it because it pays the bills. We all get stuck on sentences and paragraphs. I’ve learned a few things from fighting with ideas and words.

a) Pay attention to your inner editor. I believe most, if not all, writers have one. It often starts out as a quiet voice but mine got louder the more I critiqued (or “critted”) other people’s chapters while continuing to work on my own story.

If something sounds awkward to your inner editor -- it just won’t behave by pouring itself nicely into a coherent sentence or two, or it hits some bumps as the words roll along -- there’s probably something wrong with it. Go back to it and think about it. Twist things around, look for something that flows with the rest of the paragraph. For myself, sometimes I decide that the reason I can’t seem to fix it is because it doesn’t have to be there anyway. A day or two later, I go back and read the same chapter, and I realize the rhythm is better without the troublesome phrase and I haven’t lost any important information.

Very often, the same phrases I have doubts about but leave in are the ones that my crit buddies on Critique Circle say need tweaking. They’re nice about it, but what they mean is, “Nooo, that’s like fingernails on a blackboard.” That reinforces my editing instincts. I had no idea when I started posting chapters to be critted that the process would become so central to my writing.

b) If you have a thought (sentence, phrase) that sounds great but doesn’t seem to click with the rest of the paragraph, maybe it doesn’t belong either. The parts of my WIP that other people say worked great are the ones I didn’t have to struggle to put together. I know how you feel.  The words fit together like puzzle pieces and say something in a clever way, but: they don’t belong. In this instance, writing is not like gardening where you can uproot something and find another corner where it works better. I look at it this way. Every time I have to make a writing decision that I know is good for the story but is painful, it toughens my skin. I’m gonna need that the more I ask people to comment on my writing.

It’s an interesting dynamic going on in my head. I have a Movie Director who controls what I see as I write. I’ve had to admit that the Director doesn’t always know what he’s doing. It was the painful admission of a writer beginning to show her work to others. My Inner Editor, I think, argues with the Script Writer. Combine that with characters changing the plot midstream and you have an answer to why writers often seem confused and some are going bald.