Showing posts with label author. Show all posts
Showing posts with label author. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Angry Young Woman Grows Up

When I was in my early twenties, living alone in my very first apartment, I spent my days chasing a creative writing degree and working my ass off in a preschool. My nights nights were devoted to poetry slams, reading insane amounts of  Pablo Neruda, working the local poetry open-mic circuit, and writing. Poems, mostly, but also also a fair amount of short fiction.

One of my friends at the time, a much older poet who happened to look a lot like Pablo Neruda, said my work was good but that it was "angry young woman" poetry, so it was hard for him to identify with it. Looking back, I think he was just trying to say something nice about something he couldn't understand.

When I look through the overflowing and torn folder that holds the writing from that period of my life, I realize I was an angry young woman and that my target audience was not tender-hearted fifty-year-old males. I had a bone to pick with the world, and words were my weapon.

I've changed a lot since then. I grew up. I realized that poetry isn't my passion. I got married and had a kid. Sometimes I can hardly remember the girl I used to be. But I still have a couple of things in common with her. I'm still mad as hell, and words are still my favorite weapon.

There are times when I feel overwhelmed with the world. I can't believe that there is so much hostility, hatred and injustice out there. Sometimes I feel like I'm being crushed under the weight of bigotry, misogyny, and ignorance. It makes me angry that women don't have a voice in their own healthcare. It infuriates me that the color of someone's skin determines how they are treated by law enforcement and society as a whole. Rape culture is alive and well as women are told to restrict their actions to avoid becoming victims.  Gay marriage is still controversial.

Although today is Women's Equality Day, there is still a lot of work to be done before women (and people of color, and the LGBTQ community) are truly on equal footing.  I look forward to the time when there will no long be a need for such holidays as Women's Equality Day. One day, we can all see and treat each other as equals, and I won't stop being angry until that time comes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Long Break

A lot has happened in my life since my last post. The biggest thing is that my family and I relocated from Albuquerque to the Dallas, TX area. It was a rather sudden, but mostly welcome move. I'm glad that I finished Average Simon before the relocation, though. Since we came out here about two and a half months ago, all of my energy has been in getting settled. Or, rather, helping my son get settled. This move has been more difficult on him than anyone else, and he's needed an awful lot of love and reassurance. So, my days have been spent unpacking, exploring fun places in DFW, going to Six Flags, trying to make connections in the local homeschool community, generally doing everything I can possibly think of to help my eleven-year-old make friends. Every now and then, I will look longingly at my computer and wonder where I'll find the time to sit down and get back to writing.

I can't help but think, though, that this extended break has been good for my creativity.  Stephen King, in his awesomely awesome book On Writing, suggests taking a break and letting your manuscript marinate for a good long while before doing revisions. I didn't take much of a break between drafts of my novel, but my query letter and synopsis have been marinading for months.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been coming back to those two documents and reading them again and again. I can see room for improvement, but I can also see that they're both pretty strong. That's a far cry from how I felt before the move. When I packed them up in boxes in Albuquerque, I was completely convinced that they amounted to kindling. Honestly, I was  ready to light both on fire and spread the ashes somewhere in the desert.

I'm glad I didn't. If I had, I would have had to start both from scratch, which would have been so disheartening, I likely would have just built myself a permanent pillow fort under my desk. Instead, I read the query letter, assessed its strengths and weaknesses, and tweaked it. And tweaked and tweaked and tweaked until I came up with something that I believe is better than passable or decent. A break allowed me to re-work my query with fresh eyes and to *gasp* finish it.

My synopsis up for assessment and tweaking next. My gut is telling me I may need to scrap it and start that one all over again, but that I'm okay with that. Writing can be a lot like a science experiment. Sometimes you get the desired results, sometimes you don't. Just because the results are different than what you expect, that doesn't mean the experiment failed. It just means that you've ruled one thing out that stood in the way of success.

I could have never come to that conclusion without a long break.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Finding Inspiration As A Writer

Sometimes, when I'm supposed to be writing, I'm actually combing the interwebs for inspirational quotes about writing. There is a fortune cookie fortune taped to my monitor, and a quote by Somerset Maugham written on a sticky note and taped up to my wall. When I'm stuck, these slips of paper are enough to remind my fingers that they need to keep moving.

Now I have a new one to add to my wall. Actually, this quote is so perfect for me that I want to paint it, in big blue letters across one entire wall of my office:


Oh, Jon, I knew adolescent Dannie loved you for a reason. Clearly, you were speaking to the nearly forty year old writer that I would one day become.

I happen to be lucky enough to have the love and support of my family and friends, but when it comes right down to it, if I don't believe in myself, what good is it to have the belief and support of others? Nobody can sit down and write the stories, blog posts, or query letters for me. They can cheer me on and ply me with liquor and chocolate, but in the end, the dream is mine and only I can make it happen. Sometimes the negative voices in my head want to take over and tell me that there's no point in trying because I'll never succeed. Sometimes, I give those voices more authority over my actions than I should, and that is exactly why Jon's quote resonates so deeply with me.

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, neither is a novel written in a day. But more than that, a novel can't be written, even in a hundred years, if you don't believe in yourself.

What inspires you?



Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Importance of Being Habitual

When you're a kid, it seems like adults drone on and on about developing good habits. They talk about how it's easier to create good habits than it is to break bad ones, about how kids with good study habits do better on tests and are less stressed out. When you're young, it's really rather hard to understand what's so great about a life of boring old structure when there's a whole world out there to be discovered.

I like to think that, as a writer who happens to be an adult, I've outgrown the desire to roll my eyes every time I hear the phrase "good habits." I like to think that I epitomize solid habits because I know that they are way more important that adults ever let on.

When I was in the process of writing Average Simon, I actually towed the line. I had a great schedule that I stuck with, and that schedule turned into a habit. Every day brought the same events until lunch time: Get up, have a cup of coffee and check emails and social media. Then I'd lock myself in the office, put on headphones, turn on Pandora and spend the next two hours ignoring everything that happened in the rest of the house. It was good. It got to the point that I just felt all wrong if something happened to interfere with my routine.

When my first draft was done, I rested for a little while before getting to work on my revisions. It felt good to get back into the swing of things, and I like to think I was productive.

Now my manuscript is in the hands of some very brave and much appreciated beta readers, and I feel like I'm in a sort of limbo. There are things I can do to get Average Simon one step closer to publication, but without feedback from my beta readers, it's hard to sketch out a synopsis or flesh out a query letter. I've used that as an excuse to let go of my routine. I find myself surprised by how much I miss my writing habits.

It's true what the adults say: Good habits are easier to break than to make, but once you make them, they sure do make life a lot easier. I think it's time for me to get back in the habit of writing every single day.

First thing tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lessons I've Learned From Writing a Novel


  1. Writing can be a lonely experience. It's hard to say "no" when friends invite you out for coffee or a movie. Locking yourself in a room and pounding at the keys is isolating in a way that's difficult to describe.
  2. When the world is going on outside your closed door and you're feeling sorry for yourself, keep your fingers moving. Soon enough, the characters in your book will gain substance and you'll be carried to their world. As long as you have characters, you're never alone.
  3. Once you're in the world you've created, prepare to lose yourself. You'll find that this fictional world is rich and full and absolutely endless. The characters who live here are just as real in their world as you are in yours. 
  4. When you visit your fictional world, remember that you are a guest. Sure, you conceived  it, but you're not God here. At best, you're maybe an advisor. You can suggest to your characters that they behave in a certain way, but you can't force them. You can outline what a town looks like, but you can't paint the details. Trust that this world will develop itself in the way it needs to be developed.
  5. Don't expect anyone to understand why the actions of your characters make you angry, sad, or excited. Nobody will ever get that, to you, these people are real. Sure, your spouse might nod sympathetically, but he or she just can't understand. As far as anyone can tell, they're just characters in a book you're writing, not actual people with annoying and endearing personality traits.
  6. Just write. Even when you don't know what to say. Even when you don't think anything will come out. Even when you think you'll be staring at a blank page forever, make your fingers move. I've been known to write the word "something" over and over again until my fingers start to form words of their own. Sometimes I reread the last few sentences I wrote the day before and then tweak them a bit. That small act is often enough to get the juices flowing. The important thing here is that you sit down and make your fingers move. The words can't come if you don't let them know you're ready for them. 
  7. Internet radio, such as Pandora, is your friend. Create a brand new account for use when writing, and then learn what your characters like to listen to. Add stations that reflect the vibe and emotions of their world and lives. Every time you write, put on your headphones. You'll find that the music not only drowns out the barking dogs, but it makes transitioning to your characters' world a whole lot easier.
  8. Stay off of social media when you're writing. Nothing will suck hours out of your day like scouring facebook for writing groups. Along this same vein, stay away from YouTube. Cute puppy and kitten videos are deadly to the craft. They suck you in and before you know it, you've spent an hour watching "just one more." 
  9. Speaking of time, there is no such thing as the perfect time to write. We all have busy lives. We're all balancing a hundred things at once, and we all wish we were able to write full-time. For most of us, that's a pipe dream that does more harm than good. Time isn't going to present itself to you wrapped in a bow, you have to make it. Choose a block of time, whether it's half an hour, or three hours, and write at that time. Every day. 
  10. When the time for rewriting and editing comes, be kind to yourself. Don't let the roughness of your first draft convince you that you're a bad writer. Rewriting and polishing is part of the process. Nobody gets it right the first time. Not even you.
What lessons has writing a novel taught you?