Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Okay, so Carol never actually talked specifically about "what if your dad dies." But I think one of her writing tips applies rather well here. You will probably not have experienced what your character is experiencing. For instance, the main character in my book does something with a baseball bat that I never have done (and hopefully never will do). The key to good writing though, is to borrow emotion. Take something you have felt and use it where your character needs it.
With my dad, I've had a lot of varying emotions. When he was first diagnosed with lung cancer I already expected it, but the offical diagnosis dug up a lot of anger in me. I hated my dad for neglecting his health and for not trying to quit smoking sooner. I hated him for not trying to be part of my life more and for thinking that he could put all the responsibility of our relationship on me. I was in the anger phase for a long time. When I went to Richfield the first time this month and saw how bad my dad's health was, it was hard. I hated seeing him in so much pain and I couldn't even bear to stay for long. He was angry too. I think angry at what he'd done to himself. Embarrassed that he couldn't walk by himself or use the toilent alone or even wipe his own ass (I did it for him while I was there). Telling you how I felt wouldn't begin to allow you to know how I felt. I stayed up with him until 2 am trying to get him off the toilet and into his bed. He didn't wnat to move. The only audible phrases he would muster up were "Get the hell away from me" and "leave me the fuck alone". So, I tried to keep him hydrated as much as I could by feeding him Otter Pops becuase it was the only thing we could get him to keep in his mouth and swallow. He wouldn't open his eyes much. I think he was ashamed at the state he was in and he couldn't bear to look at us. Every move he made hurt. And every touch from his kids hurt even more--especially when we tried lifting him off the floor. He spit pills at my sister. Punched me in the leg. Tried to kick my sister in the face. He didn't go without a fight. And every time he cussed at me, I cussed back--something my sister didn't appreciate very much. I guess I was still in the anger phase (and to be honest, I probably always will be).
I left after that weekend. My sister didn't want me to leave. She hadn't slept in at least a week. But I couldn't stay. I had work and errands and I didn't want to watch my father die. 4 days was enough for me. I talked to my sister on the phone later in the day when he died. She was angry at me for not staying. Angry that I didn't want to meet with the funeral home right away so we could plan his funeral services. Angry that I wouldn't just put my entire life on hold to watch my dad die. I don't think she was ready to let him go. There were a lot of emotions flying around. Guilt. Regret. Uncertainty. Confusion. Anger. And a lot of hurting. It's funny how even when you know somone is dying it always comes as a surprise. You never know exactly when the moment will be.
I have a character in my book who lost a husband to cancer. She's the character that my MC can't relate to and doesn't understand. Maybe it's because she's sill grieving for her husband...maybe she does it in a different way than I would or than my main character would...maybe it's more like the way my sister is grieving--I don't get it, but I know that she has put a lot of pressure on me and I don't like it. Maybe that's why she was so angry at her own sister--for not being there when he died. For not helping. For not being the friend she had always been before.
Wow. I'm amazed at how I end up figuring things out about my characters when I try to share the things I've learned.
Okay, so here's some scenarios.
Your MC has been taken back in time and is in the land of dinosaurs. Where do you find the emotion for that?! Have you ever flown to a brand new city and had no clue where anyone was? Or a different country where you didn't speak the language? Or have you ever been hiking and seen a bear or a moose? Or have you just been on a stroll aroud the block and been chased by a dog? Or have you been left home all by yourself at night time and you thought that the shadows in the corner were creepy lurkers about to kill you? Maybe you can borrow some of those emotions to help you feel what your character is feeling.
Your MC played around on the jungle gym at recess and split his pants open and everyone could see his mickey mouse underwear (mickey mouse is so first grade and your character is in the fourth grade). But you never spit your pants open and never had mickey mouse underwear? Well, have you ever laughed while drinking somehing and it all spewed out? Have you ever forgotten to zip up your fly and someone had to point it out to you? Have you ever misspelled the simplest word (like gote or kat or sandwitch) and somebody asked if you were really an English major? Surely you've had some embarrassing moments in your life--now's the time to pull them out of the closet you've ashamedly stuffed them into and put them to some use.
Your MC's dad dies at the climax of your novel. But you've never had anyone close to you die. Are you sure? What about the time when you were six and your puppy got hit by a car and you dug a grave for him out in the back yard and held a funeral and everything? Have you ever had to flush a goldfish? Have you ever seen a horrible accident on the highway? Or did your lover ever go out of town without you for a few days and you missed them fiercely? Did someone ever cut you off in traffic and you were in a hurry already and they didn't even use their blinker and you had to slam on your brakes? Borrow that emotion.
The thing about emotion is that it can be very specific to a character or situation, but it's also very transferrable and universal. You don't have to experience exactly what someone else has in order to relate or empathize. We've all felt pain, embarrassment, uncontrollable laughing type joy...you just have to use what you feel and figure out where when why and how your character feels that too.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
No one should read a line in your book and mistake it for any other book.
Find a metaphor that is unique to your character.
Let your character's emotions feel sharply defined to your character.
Every character is in a different world--one in her own body. Your job as an author is to find a way into that world.
Carol always makes her students interview their characters.
How are you going to get to know them if you don't get to know them?
There are a lot of ways to go about interviewing your character. It's important to keep in mind that you don't have to go about it the way Barbara Walters does.
Start with the basics.
What's your favorite color and WHY?
Who do you hate? What happened to make you hate them?
What's it like in the town/city/place you live?
How did you meet your best friend?
The point is to ask questions that aren't one line answers (unless that's how your character is then maybe that's all you'll get). You want to draw their story out of them.
Keep in mind that you may not use all the information from your interview--but the point is to get to know your character, get in her head, understand what her past is and how that has made her who she is or how it has shaped her personality or the way she speaks or how she treats other people. Then write your story once you know who she is.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
- connection w/reader
- story--let the character tell it, and tell a GOOD story
- keep the MC (main character) from getting what they want
- MC gets what they wants
- NOT Twilight
Thursday, November 17, 2011
I realized that this is the first time I've ever really worked with a publisher type person on a manuscript. I mean, there was that one time, but mostly that was me saying I wanted some changes and I didn't like a couple of the edits and then it was done. This time I keep looking at my manuscript and thinking it has such a long way to go and it should never be published (and maybe it wont because maybe the journal will have a mind change) because there's so much in there that just doesn't do what I want it to do.
It's cool to have deadlines though. I mean, ones that other people are holding me to. Its easy for me to be flexible for myself and to wave off those times when I don't make the cut with one of my goals. I'm harder on myself when I miss a deadline that someone else expects me to meet. Why is that? Shouldn't I be more important?
I think I have at least a partial reason. I'm with myself all the time. I know how busy things are and how often I change my mind about what I value or what's important. I'm okay with shifting around my goals and accommodating myself.
I guess, when it comes to publishing, it's a good thing other people have deadlines for me to meet (or be late on) because otherwise I might never get anything done with all this mind changing and value re-aranging.
Anyway, I'll let you know if I make the cut and get this thing published (but don't get too excited).
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Do you ever sit down to type away your wonderful stories and scenes and characters only to find that you don't really have all that much to type?
Maybe sometimes you'd rather be crunching the leaves outside.
Or building a snowman or flapping a snow angel?
Maybe you'd rather make playdough sculptures of unicorns.Whenever I do anything I have to take my time. If I'm going on a trip I have to allow myself enough time to stop and get lost or to swing at a playground or to spend thirty minutes blow-drying my hands in the coolest public-restroom-hand-dryer ever. Basically, what I'm saying is that I putter. I take my time getting places (and because of this I almost always arrive 15 min to an hour late to everything).
I take my time creating, and thinking, and cooking. I've realized that because of the way that I putter I tend to think that I never have enough time to do anything. Making pesto is going to take so much time--I can't manage it in only an hour! When really, it takes like 15 minutes to make pesto (longer for me because I like to watch the blender do its thing so I let it go slow for a long time).
Anyway, I think my point is that it's okay to moodle. I think actually, it's really important to putter and to take time for things--to MAKE time for puttering is absolutely essential. Because, "you see, imagination needs moodling -- long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering." - Brenda Ueland
Crunching in the leaves and swinging on the swings and flapping snow angels and staring at the pinenuts blending around with the basil and the oil and the lemon etc is all part of letting the imagination breathe and live and grow.
How do you moodle?
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I decided to start something cool.
Do you know Carol Lynch Williams?
And all those other awesome books...just go look them up.
It's that point where a character walks through a door and can't turn back.
It's a disruption of a routine.
A struggle with the disruption.
And then a fatal (or positive) choice--the ultimate point of no return.
The Secret Tip:
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
And by that I mean I ignored all the group updates and the notifications that my submissions were due...
Because I'm busy and doing school and work and blah blah blah.
Mostly, I was trying to convince myself that I wasn't quitting. I would have time...eventually for sending feedback and posting my own submissions.
But, really, I knew I couldn't keep up. And I didn't tell my group. Because I didn't want to feel like a flake. And because I sorta forgot. But then one of my group members read my post about how I'm not working on my novel right now because it's not the time. And she called me out on it.
Moral of the story is, probably you should tell your writing group when you quit. And here's the thing: It's okay to move on. Or to let your group move on without you. It's okay to say, "I can't do this anymore". But, it's better to let your group know so they don't keep expecting you to be there and hoping for your feedback and not getting it. and not getting it. and not getting it.
To my writing group (because I know some of you read this): I"m sorry I didn't tell you. I'm still learning that I can't take on the whole world. But, I'd also like to say that you've been an AWESOME group. You've all given me a lot of very helpful feedback, and I really enjoyed reading each of your stories (I won't lie, I'm really holding out for Winston the most). I appreciate the times when we got to just chat about our stories a bit and work through some issues. Overall, the group has been a great learning opportunity for me. Thanks Bruce, Susan, and Michelle! Good luck with your writings. :)
But, I've really been trying to keep up on this other blog (http://lgbtvoices.blogspot.com) lately. It's a collab blog, which means I'm not the only one who writes on it, which gives me a little more motivation to post every week on my day (Sunday, if you'd like to look at my posts). I just finished my project of finding almost entirely all new members for the collab because I wasn't getting the dedication and consistency that I wanted out of my bloggers. Now we've got a whole new team of wonderful writers.
I've been thinking about blogs and wondering why I value them. What is the purpose of blogs? It seems like an un-updated blog isn't very useful (right?). With the lgbt voices (or Breaking the Silence) blog I feel like I have some sort of direction--I want to address issues people don't really talk about. I want to cultivate understanding for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and to let a few awesome people have a voice.
I don't know exactly what my purpose with this blog is. I like having a place where I can spew a few thoughts about writing habits (or non-habits), but to be honest I think I created this blog becuase I wanted to make sure I had a space where people could find me (you know, for when I become a famous writer)... Maybe it's also a good place to connect with other writers, too. I like things like that.
Do any of you have any ideas for my blog? Or at least any ideas for things I could write about? Maybe that would be helpful. Maybe I just need to be more creative and to learn to be more funny...or something.
Anyway, thanks for reading...even though it's a bit boring right now.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I'm over it.
Well, at least I'm trying to be.
Now just isn't the time for the novel.
I have work and school and discussion panels to focus on just now.
Once I graduate, it is novel time.
I did realize something important though.
Even if I'm not working on my novel, I need to write.
And the best time for writing is in the morning.
When the sun is barely creeping up over the mountains and the world is still quiet from the night slumbering.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Anyway, someone said something somewhere...I just wish I could remember what it was.
Creativity. Basically, we're made of it. We ARE creativity. It is the power that made us and the power that allows us to feel pleasure, to connect to others, to understand our own universe.
I realized something after hearing that. Or reading it. Or however it came to me...
I realized that for a long time I've associated creativity with certain "artsy" things like writing or painting or ice-sculpting. But, that's not just where creativity exists. It is in my finger tips and my toes. Creativity can come out in so many other ways: clothing, walking, running, cooking, scrubbing the dishes, eating, bed making, showering, teeth-brushing.
Sometimes I am hard on myself for not letting my creative genius come out to play more often. But, I'm realizing that I DO let her play. She's out playing all. the. time. She's there when I sew projects, when I make smoothies, when I drive to work or walk to school.
Basically, I'm trying to say that I haven't been writing on my novel. Of course I've been writing--I can't NOT write. But, even if I wasn't writing at all, it's okay. Because I'm still being creative. I'm still using my super awesome powers to make beautiful things and to enjoy my life. Sometimes we just have to accept that certain outlets for creativity aren't always going to be the way we need to express our creative genius. And I think we'd do ourselves good to recognize and celebrate our other creative outlets a bit more.
Friday, August 19, 2011
· Poetry is emotional
· Poetry engages the heart and mind of readers
· Poetry expresses a theme
· Poems share an idea not necessarily a mirror of our own experience
· Poems come in a variety of structures (eg. haiku, limerick, cinquain, sonnet, free verse, etc.)
· The structure of a poem may contribute to the overall meaning
· Poetry relies on sound
· Poems reflect concise language and specific diction
· Poems contain sound devices (eg. assonance, alliteration, consonance, onomatopoeia, etc.) to support the content of a poem
· Poems contain figurative language (eg. simile, metaphor, hyperbole, etc.)
· Poems contain imagery (language that appeals to the senses and creates pictures)
· Poems may include rhythm (the regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed beats)
· Poems may contain rhyme
· Poems are written in stanzas or concepts whereas prose is written in paragraphs
· Poems contain breaks at the ends of lines whereas prose is written in sentences
I know that my class had much more extensive (and better) list of what poetry is, but this will have to do.
When I get up in the morning, put the kettle on
Make us some coffee, say hey to the sun
Is it enough to write a song, and sing it to the birds
They'd hear just the tune, not understand my love for words
But you would hear me and know...
That I want to live this
I want to live
I want to live a simple life
I dreamed you first, but not so real
And every day since I found you, such moments we steal
Like little fields, we rub our hands
And hold our hearts between them
But will you hear me and know...
That I want to live this
I want to live
I want to live a simple life
Move on, move on, time is accelerating
Drive on, all night, traffic lights and one ways
Move on, move on parking violations waiting
Turn off the car, breathe the air, let's stay here
I'll kiss you awake, and we'll have time
To know our neighbors all by name, and every star at night
We'll weave our days together like waves, and particles of light
I want to live this
I want to live
I want to live a simple life
I want to live this
I want to live
I want to live a simple life
There is so much imagery in this poem. traffic lights. parking violations waiting. And it is so expressive. My favorite part is in the first stanza "Is it enough to write a song and sing it to the birds? They'd hear just the tune, not understand my love for words". It's packed full of emotion and definitely has a set rhythm and even some rhyming.
What are some of your favorites songs or lyrics and what makes them poetry?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
And then it escalates to the point where you start to feel more like this guy:
And you can't think of a single word because you're not sure words even exist anymore and you're confused about everything because didn't there use to be words? Or was it just something you dreamed up and none of it was ever real? And then you just go crazy to the point where they lock you up in a mental inst
itution and diagnose you with Writer's Block disease.
I don't actually believe in "writer's block". Call me crazy, but I don't believe in it. Before I go any further on this idea, I better mention something a friend of mine said to me, because I'm thrilled and flattered that he asked my advice. This is what he said:
I have been working on a developing book(s) idea for t
he better part of eight years. It's shifted and evolved as I have grown as a writer. I'm so close to what I want it to be that I can taste it.
But I'm stuck. I can't get past this last hurdle to see the overall story line. I know what themes the story has (they were the true birthplace of the story). But on top of that, the body that the themes take place in, it's all blurry. I can't figure it out.
Any ideas? Tips? Let me know if you have any thoughts on how to get past writer's block. Cause I can't think of a dang thing!
So, now that I've gone off saying I don't believe in writer's block, let me tell you why I don't believe in it. When writers say they have writer's block, essentially they are saying that they don't know what's going to happen next. They don't know what the story is going to bring or what choice the character is going to make. My advice to all you writers who start to feel writer's block, is to think about those times
when you get Life Block. You know, those times when you just have no idea what the world has come to and you don't know what you're going to do next or what will ever happen in your life. What do you do then? Live.
You feel it out. You get out of bed in the morning and you just let things play out. You have to live life before you know what your own story is. And the same thing goes with writing.
It's the BIC theory/rule/law ??
BUTT IN CHAIR.
You have to sit down and write whatever comes into your head. Write the stupid things. Write the funny things. Write the redundant things. Write the brilliant ideas that your brain can finally produce now that your butt's in the chair and your fingers are typing away on thekeyboard. That's my quick solution to writ
er's block. You can't whine or complain o
r pull your hair out because you can't see a clear picture of the entire book. The only way to overcome writer's block is to write.
I remember my high school cross-country coach telling me to push through the pain. When you're running a tough race and your sides hurt, you have to run through the pain. The same goes for writing. There are definitely tough parts, and writing
hurts. But you have to write through the hard parts. Y
ou have to push through the pain.
Now, that may not be the answer my friend was looking for. But that's the simple solution. As far as other tips go, it might be easier if I knew specific details such as genre. I might say something different to non-fiction than I wou
ld to YA fiction mostly because in non-fiction you usually have to write the facts. In fiction it is all about getting to know your characters (something I've written about in previous posts). Sometimes you have to figure out why some things are the way they are. There are a lot of different ways to do this. One thing that might help is a critique group.
For example, my character Sophie is angry at h
er mother even though her mom seemed to do this heroic thing for her. I couldn't figure out exactly why Sophie is mad at her mom. While I was in a critique group, people were saying things about my story and how Sophie is angry and it makes sense and all this and all I could think about was this one instance when Sophie's mom walked in on a particular scene in Sophie's life and the two of them made eye contact and all Sophie's mom did was back away and close the door. She knew
Sophie's one secret that nobody else knew and she did nothing about it. (Okay, I'm going to be really honest and say that I actually didn't think of that specific thing until just now. I wasn't really thinking about it during the critique group, but I was thinking about how Sophie's mom knew what this horrible thing
was in Sophie's life and she didn't do anything.) The best thing about this post is that I just got myself a very specific scene in my mind that all of my character's emotions hang on throughout the entire story. WOW!
Am I good or what? Didn't I say to just WRITE? All you have to do to clear up writer's block is to start jotting things down. Get into your character's head a little bit. Or do some research on something specific. I know i
t helped me a lot with developing Sophie when I researched softball. I didn't know a damn thing about softball, but I had to learn because Sophie is a softball player. I've also found that just writing down your frustrations can help get things going. Try writing everything you hate about writing and stories and plot and themes and then just go from there.
I will also say this one thing concernin
g theme. Dear friend, I don't know what your themes are or even what genre you are writing, but you cannot let theme take over your story completely, no matter what kind of story you're writing. You've got to let the s
tory come out and let action and emotions drive your story. The problem you're having might not be writer's block, but it might be that you're trying to force something to fit a theme that it just doesn't fit. So, my advice is to start writing and see where that takes you and if you wander away from your original theme, don't worry; just go with it. Sometimes we can't force a storyline to follow a set scheme.
If you want your writing to be good and satisfying, then write. Don't worry about plot or theme or morals or anything else. Just write what comes out. And if you don't like something, you can always get rid of it.
In the end you'll be writing some brilliant ideas like mad and you'll feel more like this guy:
(he's supposed to be a happy writer)
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
I promise more details to come.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
- Cell phones off (or at least on vibrate, so it's not distracting)
- Meet on time
- Talk about anything that's bothersome so we can make things work
- Compliments/good things/what works, etc.
- Constructive Criticism/Helps/what doesn't work/what's confusing, etc.
- Encourage writer to keep working/remind them of the good things
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
There is no single answer. Just like the "when" of critique groups, the "who" depends on each author. Some people like to have others who write in similar styles or genres. I think that this is especially helpful for me because if someone I'm working with is familiar with the children's or young adult market and literature then I feel like their feedback will be most helpful. On the other hand, there are certain things that someone not familiar with my particular genre can point out.
When it comes down to it I think the most important criteria for group members is how they approach critiquing.
Group Members should:give positive feedback
- be easy to work with
- point out what needs work and refrain from giving their specific opinions on how to fix it
- be committed to writing
- contribute both compliments and constructive criticism
- are able to take criticism easily
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Sara Allen @http://fromsarahwithjoy.blogspot.com/ says that she recognizes the importance of a critique group, but she doesn't want anyone looking at her manuscript until it is finished. I've heard a few people say that this is how they like to do things, and I'm sure there are plenty more out there who need to finish their first draft before letting anyone else take a look.
On the other hand, I find it very helpful to have a group throughout my writing process. I like to workshop as I go because sometimes I get hung up on plot or character or rhythm or pacing and it helps me to hear other people's ideas even if I don't use them. Most of the time I probably won't use my group members' ideas, but their input helps me see where I need to improve and I fix it in my own way.
Are there other options? Maybe some people like to wait until they've already gone through a couple finished drafts before taking it to a critique group.
I'd say, if you feel ready for a group to help you along, then go for it. But, I will advise that you at least have something written before you look for a group. Ideas alone just won't cut it when it comes to critique groups.
When do you think is the right time for a critique group and why? How do you know when you're ready?
Monday, May 16, 2011
I'm sure most people know what a critique group is and if they don't I bet they can figure it out. But, just so I can be safe (and so I can be ocd about completing each of the what why when where how questions) let's define exactly what critique groups are.
Writers get together with other writers and give each other feedback on their manuscripts.
That's really all there is to it.
There are good groups and inexperienced groups and every other kind of group you can imagine.
Of course critique groups can also apply to a variety of works. Perhaps it's a group of painters or composers or screen-writers. The gist of it is that people critique each other in some way, most often on a piece of work (maybe you can find a group to critique your outfit every day or your cooking or your mannerisms). For the purpose of my blog, though, let's stick with the first definition and just apply critique groups in the writerly sense.
Do you have a different idea of what a critique group is? Do share.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I've come up with a few things for the Why, how, where, who, and when on critique groups. Today is the Why?
Why have a critique group?
Almost every author will tell you that having a critique group helped them become better writers.
Carol Lynch Williams and Ann Dee Ellis @ http://throwingupwords.wordpress.com/ are involved in a critique group with some other fantastic writers, and it helps them catch little things in their manuscripts that they can't do on their own.
It's hard to see the flaws in your own manuscript, especially after you've worked on it for so long and gone through dozens of drafts. It helps to have a new set of eyes on your words to help with anything from huge plot structure problems to placements of commas and periods.
Not only is a critique group a chance for you to get your stuff workshopped, but it also gives you a chance to see what other people are writing and to learn how to receive feedback as you give it.
A great aspect of critique groups is the motivation factor. Sometimes it's hard to get to work. It's hard to finish a chapter or a whole novel. A critique group could be your reason to meet your deadlines. They'll help push you to be great just like a piano teacher or a track coach or the director of a play. Your group members will keep tabs on you and ask you where you're at in your writing. And you'll do the same for them.
Most people enjoy a sense of community at least on some level. A critique group will give you a small community where you can share what you love with others who love the same things. They'll support you, love you, and cheer for you all along the way in your process towards publication.
If you have a critique group, tell us why you think it's a good idea to have one. If you don't maybe you should think about getting one, or tell us why you don't want one.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
- Use the 5 senses. Try to have at least one per page. But don't forget the overlooked ( or undersmelled) ones like touch, taste, and smell.
- Let the reader SEE what is happening. Include tiny details such as facial expression, gestures, setting.
- Never say your character is sad. Show us their body language and their expressions so we can see what they're feeling.
- Be specific. Avoid vague words such as tall, big, small, etc. because they are only big or small when compared to something else. If a man is tall, then say he had to duck through the doorway and when he stood up straight he made the 8ft ceiling seem low.
- Instead of saying what happened, put it in scene. Let us see it happen. Rather than saying, she made cookies, let the reader watch her shuffling around the kitchen with all the cupboards open and flour dusting her eyebrows.