Tag Archives | #amwriting

Otherwhere: Almost Summer

It has come to my attention that next weekend is Memorial Day. Could somebody please tell me how that happened? And, though summer doesn’t officially start until after the solstice, we all know that Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of long, lazy days, right? Well, if someone could show me a universe in which adults actually got to enjoy long, lazy days I’d move there in a nanosecond.  In the meantime, how about some fun links to peruse in those stolen moments of your busy, crazy days? Here goes:

Writing

How to share your work and get discovered.

Creating your character’s world.

How to gain more confidence.

Tips for writing that novel.

Some words on setting.

How to start writing a novel if stuck.

Should you let your creativity rest?

Travel Porn

In honor of upcoming workshops I’m teaching, here’s some Oregon Coast porn (there’s still a few spots left in my Sitka workshop) and France porn (one spot left, but we have someone seriously interested so act now if you are, too).

Author Blogs I Like

Rachael Herron

Emilie Richards

Kathleen Tessaro’s nice piece on how she got published.

Joshilyn Jackson. (Lots of fun, but hasn’t been updated for a couple of months.)

That’s all I’ve got for author blogs (though I feel like I’m forgetting a couple of obvious ones that I read). Do you have any that you read? What I like in an author blog is getting a glimpse into their life, besides stuff about their books.  I don’t mind some self-promotion because, duh, that’s the point, but I do like a bit more than just marketing.  Share your favorites in the comments.

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The Virtues of Finishing a Writing Project

stop_symbol_plate_238801_lSo, I’m four scenes away from finishing the most terrible Shitty First Draft ever, in the history of man, written.  I started this novel on a sunny afternoon in Collioure last September when I got a sudden inspiration.  I’ve been working steadily on it since then, taking pretty much the whole months of December and February off to deal with more pressing tasks.

The big news about this draft is that it is so bad I nearly abandoned it. I even wrote a blog post about it.  I felt I’d made so many changes in the book that it wasn’t worth it to continue, that I should just start over.

But then I started thinking. As one does.

And I remembered various bits of advice and quotes I’d read.  Like these:

“Finish your novel, because you learn more that way than any other.” James Scott Bell

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish.  You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” Neil Gaiman

And then there are Robert Heinlein’s Rules for Writing, the first two of which are apropos to our topic here:

  1. You must write
  2. You must finish what you write.

I felt bad about the prospect of abandoning my poor crappy baby. A baby born in France, no less.  So once I finished the rewrite on my macaron novel, I heaved a heavy, tortured sigh and went back to the horrible WIP, telling myself to just hit the high spots and get something, anything, on the page.

And that’s what I’ve been doing every morning.  I got the idea for this post a couple of days ago.  Back when I was actually enjoying working on the novel for a brief, lovely period.  That was short-lived. This morning I gritted my teeth as I typed every word. (The fact that I had to do a blood draw and COULD NOT HAVE COFFEE until after it may have had some influence.)

But, I will say this.  As the above quotes say, I am learning a lot from busting through to the end.  Ruby, my main character, is finally starting to have a bit of a voice, and I understand her a lot better. Other characters are coming into sharper focus as are overall themes.

Despite the awful writing session this morning, I’m feeling pretty cheerful about it all. Because this afternoon, as penance for not writing a full 2K words, or anything even close to it, I sat down with legal pad and pen to see if I could figure out how much farther I had to go.  And that’s when I realized I had only four more scenes.

Four scenes, people.

I can do this.

And I will be a better person for it. More to the point, my writing will be better as well.

There will be wine at the end. Lots of it. Just saying.

 

Okay, so dish: have you ever abandoned a project?

Photo by brokenarts.

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Working Your Genre to Improve Your Writing

annabench-shakespeare-paris-1147326-hBack in my early writing days, genre was a dirty word.  “Oh, she writes genre romances,” someone would sniff.  Or, “Well, you know, it’s just a genre mystery.”

My, how things have changed.

Though not everyone apparently approves or even wants to admit it, the lines between genres (or more to the point, between genre and mainstream) are blurring.  Agent Donald Maass wrote a book  about this a few years ago.  Time magazine has covered the genre bending and so has, gasp, the New Yorker (they came out against it, no surprise).  And even a star such as Ursula LeGuin has weighed in, saying that literature is “the extant body of written art.  All novels belong to it.”  Check out the New York Times bestseller list on any given week and you’ll see that it is often dominated by genre.

So, to me, there’s no doubt about it—genre is the new black.  Okay, sorry, I had to go there.  Even literary fiction is considered a genre now, as is my favorite category, and what I write, women’s fiction.  (Where is the “men’s fiction” you ask.  Excellent question.  It is somewhat of a point of contention that women’s fiction must be labeled as such while men’s fiction is just considered literature.)

Here’s a pretty good map  that will give you a good idea of just how far the country of genre extends (though I think their non-fiction categories are rather limited.)  And for a really extensive list, including some I’ve never heard of, go to our old buddy Wikipedia.

My real interest in this post is to explore how working within the confines of your genre can improve your writing.  For years, as evidenced by the kinds of statements I used to hear, genre writers were considered hacks.  Now, with the proliferation of writers and writing styles, genre is a useful tool that differentiates various styles for readers.  And you can and should use it to your advantage.  Here are what I see as the benefits to working your genre:

 

  1. Passion. Most people start writing a particular genre because they love to read it.  If you don’t love reading your genre, and try to force yourself to write in it just because it is popular, that will show.  (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to write YA to no avail.) But on the flip side, if you love romance or women’s fiction, the words will come easily to you. (Or maybe I should say easier.)  Let your passion flow and it will deepen the worlds your create, no matter what genre.

 

  1. Expertise. Embracing your favored genre will give you experience and knowledge.  Rather than trying to write whatever is popular, or what you think you “should” write, allow yourself to sink deeply into one genre.  Read widely in the field, not just other novels, but craft books as well.  And write like crazy. Soon you’ll have all the tropes of the field down pat.  James Scott Bell has an excellent tutorial on this at the beginning of his book, Revision and Self-Edition for Publication.

 

  1. Structure. Genre novels have ready-made structures, which is part of the appeal of reading and writing them. For a mystery you need a body (most of the time) and an investigator that people want to spend time with.  For a romance, you want star-crossed lovers.  For science fiction, you’ll need the future or a unique world.  The point is that you’ve got conventions established and waiting for you.

 

  1. Transcend.  Once you have mastered the lay of the land you can go farther and make the genre your own.  BUT ONLY AFTER YOU’VE MASTERED THE BASICS.  I’ve always thought that a mystery needed a body up front, as close to the beginning of the book as possible. But nowadays I read mysteries that don’t even have murders.  Don’t try this at home, folks, until you have mastered every aspect of the genre.

 

  1. Meld. Similar to #3, once you’ve learned the basics you can blend and shape your genre your own by mixing it with others. Kate Atkinson’s mysteries, for instance are to cozies as a chocolate cake is to a piece of peppermint candy.  That’s because she blends in elements of literary fiction in her writing style and focus on character.

 

  1. Readers. As in, you’ll likely get lots of them. Genre readers are the most avid on the planet, which makes them a particularly satisfying field to write in. And a writer can learn a lot from which books do well with their target audience and which fall flat.

 

  1. Fun. This takes up back to #1.  If you enjoy a particular genre, there’s nothing that’s going to give you more pleasure than writing it.  And, remember, we do this for fun, people! If you’re not enjoying your writing, you might want to go get a job in a dentist’s office.

 

Do you write genre? Why did you choose the genre you write in?  Please weigh in!

Photo by austinevan.

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Otherwhere: It’s Leap Day!

Academy awards, leap day, writing, research for writing, creativity

Academy awards, leap day, writing, research for writing, creativity

Happy leap day! Are you leaping about, as I’ve seen so many people doing on Instagram? (We humans are nothing if not predictable.) Or perhaps you are still recovering from the looooong Academy Awards show last night?

I’m actually doing neither.  Instead I’m sitting by the TV set, which is tuned to Doc McStuffins, with the most adorable three-year-old girl child on the planet avidly watching it as I write this. Okay, I may be watching it some, too.  Its one of my favorite kid shows.

So, while certain miniature people are distracted, here are the links I’ve gathered this week:

Paperback ponderings.

A publicist’s advice to authors of the traditional variety.

Using OneNote for your author’s toolbox. (It is one of my favorites.)

And another post on using OneNote.

Change your vocabulary, change your life.

What’s the premise of your story? Knowing it may help it win an Oscar.  (With thanks to Caroline for sharing the link with me.)

Novels to read to raise your game (weird British edition).

The Delirious Delights of Research.

What are you doing with your extra day? I hope it is something fun and wonderful.

(FYI to those in Portland, meet Debbie and I tonight at 5 PM at Noble Rot if you are in the mood to spend your extra day with some writerly chat. It’s our monthly Literary Libations.)

Photo by Dave_B_.

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Otherwhere: A Bright Shiny New Month!

present-heart-gift-4077-lHey, its February! How about that? January went by in a blink, it seems to me I was just in Nashville.  I have it on good authority that this month is going to be a good one, full of new ideas and energy.  But first, let’s wrap up January with a look at some of the posts I read over the last week.

Contests, Submitting, Etc.

Okay, I was all proud of myself because I had an interview with the editor of the New York Times column, Modern Love. But now I can’t find the link. So I went in search of it and found this and this.  I think that last one was the one I originally had in mind–some good tips for submitting there.  And here are the submission guidelines from the Gray Lady herself.

If you’re interested in free-lancing, here’s an article for you.

Women’s fiction writers, here’s a contest for you!

Odds and Ends About Writing

Taming the green-eyed monster.  (Who me? Jealous?)

Finding beta readers.

Plotting. If you’re like me, its a big bugaboo. Janice Hardy offers good advice.

Comedy writing secrets. (Here’s a tip: its hard! My first novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, was funny, but that wasn’t entirely purposeful, its just the way it came out.)

What to do in the empty spaces between books.

Other Items of Interest

Knitting is good for you! (And thanks to Jenni for sending me this link.)

Breakthrough moments.  (And I got this link here.)

Achieve more by doing less (or, multi-tasking is bad for you).

Finally, I offer this link to the NYT book review of Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff.  I mentioned in my Friday post that I had started it and wasn’t quite sure of it. But now I’m totally absorbed and loving it.  The author plays with narrative structure and viewpoint in a way that is unique and would usually annoy me but for some reason doesn’t. Its a dense book, but one I think is really worth reading.

What have you been reading/thinking about/perusing this week?

Photo by plattmunk.

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Otherwhere: Unusual Monday Edition

typewriter_machine_write_266203_lIt has been a good week for interesting links around the web, and I have saved several in my travels.  As regular readers know, I usually do this post on Saturday.  But this week on Saturday, I was co-leading a workshop called The Ins and Outs of Publishing, which was held at an awesome bookstore, Another Read Through.  And then yesterday was one of those days when I just didn’t get near the computer much.  Which brings us to Monday.  And a wet and dark Monday it is, at least in Portland. So here are some links to brighten your day:

I really liked this prompt from Janice Hardy.

Typewriters are hip again! (My grandchildren love banging away on the antique typewriter that sits in my living room.  They are going to be waaay ahead of their time.)

The role of hope in writing fiction (this is about the actual writing of fiction, not the hope you have while trying to sell it).

Why can’t our fiction be as strange as real life has gotten?

Hate Twitter? Here’s how to master it in 15 minutes a day.

One way to up your productivity as a writer.

And Jane Friedman’s take on her own level of productivity.

The future of publishing remains bright.

“I’ve been hearing about the demise of publishing since the first day I stepped through the doors of a publisher back in 1978.”

And, finally, look at the good you can do when you become the most bestselling author in all the land!

 

Photo by wax115, found on everystockphoto.com.

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Gratitude, Schmatitude: Writers, Let’s Complain Instead

turkey_gobble_dinner_268746_lToday is Thanksgiving day in the United States.  For those of you living in other parts of the world, our Thanksgiving is a day to feast and be grateful (never mind that it is slowly getting co-opted by big box stores trying to sell Christmas stuff early).  It began waaaay back in the day, when the first settlers of our fair land, the Pilgrims, made it through their first winter and subsequent harvest season and threw a feast to celebrate.  They even included the locals, Native Americans without whose help they wouldn’t have survived.  (Fat lot of good it did them in the long run.)

As mentioned, gratitude and gratefulness are cornerstones of this day.  And to that I say–bah humbug!  No wait, that’s the wrong holiday.   To that I say–uh uh, no way.  Because, c’mon, we writers have a lot to complain about.  Such as:

  1. Writing is hard.  It just is.  It takes a lot of energy to throw words at the page, make them sound pretty, and have them make sense.  And never mind that you also have to come up with a great story.
  2. The publishing industry sucks.  They pay all their money to a few star authors and ignore the rest of us.  It is slow and dinosaur-like and in general the worst business model ever in the history of the world.
  3. Even when you get published, your book won’t sell.  Because, like, all those stupid self-publishers are out there gumming up the works with their crap.  Our brilliant tomes don’t stand a chance.
  4. There are all kinds of scams preying on writers.  Yeah, its just too much effort to figure out who gives good advice and who doesn’t.  Easier to become an actuary.
  5. Sitting is bad for you.  And lord knows, one must sit for hours at a time to write.
  6. You have to learn grammar! Enough said.
  7. And you probably have to read poetry to be a real writer.  One word: ugh.

Oh, I could go on and on–I’ve not even touched on writer’s block for instance–but I’ll leave it to you to add some complaints to your list.  And today, at the Thanksgiving table, be sure to sigh loudly and mention all these complaints when the topic of gratitude comes up.   I’m certain your assembled guest will be delighted.  And if not, pour yourself another glass of wine and mutter about how misunderstood writers are.

But wait.  What about that moment when you sit up in bed in the middle of the night because you’ve just gotten the idea that pulls the whole book together?  Or the time when you write the most beautiful, heartbreaking sentence known to man? That feeling you get when you’ve completed a writing session and you are in love with everything in the whole world? What about all that?

Yeah, its all that stuff that keeps me writing.  Plus the fact that in however many years I’ve been doing this, writing is the one thing that has never gotten boring to me.  Ever.  And those of you who’ve been reading my blog and newsletter for awhile know that I’m a big fan of a lot of woo-woo stuff like gratitude and that this is written with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.

Because I am so grateful to be a writer I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I love every aspect of it, even all the things I listed above, and I detest the kinds of writers who think its cool to complain so much.  So today, on Thanksgiving, let’s all give our deepest, most humble thanks for this wonderful work that we get to do.  For the stories we get to tell, the fun we get to have every single time we sit down at our desks.

And the truth of the matter is that I’m actually complaint-adverse.  Or at least I try to be. There’s nothing that turns me off faster than listening to someone bitch and moan.  Especially if it is about writing!  So let’s all celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving (it is NOT just the day to be endured before Black Friday) and be grateful.

Photo by kindhelper.

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Writers: Step Away From Your Computer*

Yeah, I know.  It’s November and you’re holed up in your writing cave.  Because, NaNoWriMo.  You’ve got words to write! 50,000 of them, to be exact! And even if you’re not participating in that NaNo thing, you’re doing your best to get tons of words on the page every day because that’s what we writers do.Typewriter_Writing_Writer_238822_l

And so, I hear you saying that you cannot step away from your computer.

But I’m telling you that you must.  That it is healthier for you and your writing to get out and about once in awhile.  And in case you’ve forgotten what that looks like (I had a writing friend who invented excuses to go to the grocery store so she could talk to the clerks) here are some suggestions:

Go to a writing event.  Okay, so these don’t exactly fall out of trees.  But even when they are available, we sometimes don’t take advantage of them.  I’ve been to two recently: Poets & Writers Live, and Wordstock, our version of the Southern Festival of Books, albeit in a pasty Northwest its-pouring-down-rain-out-there-not-sunny-like-in-Nashville kind of way.  Each was very different, but each had something that inspired me, educated me, or reminded me why I write.

Join a critique group.  This will get you away from you computer on a regular basis–weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.  And it will have the added benefit of gaining you readers for your work.  We all need readers for our work, precisely because we sit in our little caves and write and get way too close to our work.  You can find one by contacting your local writing group (most every city and region has one) and/or looking at the Meet Up site.

librarybooksGo to the bookstore.  If you’re anything like me, you spend more time on the internet looking at books than in actual brick-and-mortar stores.  But remember the pleasure of whiling away an afternoon in a book store, looking at books?  Its one of the best ways to spend the day ever.  And if the sight of all those author names on books doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.

Have a writing retreat.  Why, I just happen to know about one happening in Nashville in January.  It’s called Room to Write, and I’ll be there to guide and encourage you and talk about how to keep a writing practice going over the long haul.  Terry Price and Janet Wallace will also be on hand, but mostly you’ll have lots of time to write.  Even if you can’t come to Nashville, you can create your own writing retreat.  Find a cheap motel or an Air BnB nearby and hole up.  Band together with some writing friends and rent a vacation cottage (inexpensive in the off season).  Banish your family and hole up at home for the weekend.

Take a writing workshop.  There are plenty of them around. Try your local community college.  They usually offer a plethora of continuing education classes.  Check with your local writing group.  Ask the Google to find you some local private instructors.  Or, I don’t know, you could come to France with me next September.  (You can read about this year’s adventure here.  I’m in the process of posting info for 2016, and it will be up shortly.  But email me if you’re interested and I’l send you the brochure.)writersworkshop

Take an online class.  Okay, so you’ll likely have to sit at your computer for this.  And its not quite as good as getting out and about in the world.  But it might be a good chance to meet some other writers and learn stuff, too.  There’s a ton of them out there, and I predict there will be a rash of new ones starting in January.  Again, consult the Google.

Do something fun and forget about it.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is take the day off.  Yeah, it is best to have a regular writing practice, but taking time off can clear your mind and allow room for new ideas to emerge.  Julia Cameron recommends people take Artist’s Dates, wherein you go off on your own and do something that you enjoy, whether that’s swinging in the park or visiting an art gallery.  One’s writing brain does need replenishment once in awhile.

So, how about it?  What do you do when you have been sitting at your computer way too long?

*Remember, way back in the day when some car alarms didn’t shriek a loud, horrible noise, or honk their horn, but instead intone in a very deep voice, “Step away from the car” over and over again? I do.  And that phrase is forever embedded in my memory.

Photo credits (all are from everystockphoto):

Typewriter–kiamedia

Library shelves–click

Writer’s workshop–marshalltownpubliclibrary

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Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #42

Like clockwork, like magic, like butter on bread, here it is, my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog.  I'm in Seattle this weekend, but you should be writing. Kidding! Or not. Anyway, Enjoy!  Or don't enjoy, but use them to write like crazy.

#288 What was your main character’s relationship with her mother like?  Happy and loving? Polite but distant? Very, very contentious? Write about it for 15 minutes–or more.

#289  Everyone else was sad when the rain started falling after a long string of gorgeous days.  But not her.  She was delighted.  Because rain meant …..

#290 Who does your main character love? Who loves her?  Do they match up?

#291  Write about a time you, or your main character, was so engrossed in an activity that time flew without him realizing it.

#292  But you know, you could also do it this way.

#293  I know you don't agree with me, but tough, because ….

#294  It's Saturday.  What's your character's drink of choice this evening?  Wine (red or white), beer, tea, coffee, water, a cocktail, Diet Coke?  How much of it will he drink?

Go forth and write!  And add the results to the comments if you so desire….

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