Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gotta love a good quote

No hard thinking for me today, if you don't mind. Here's are a couple of quotes from writers, for writers, for writing. You may or may not agree with all of them, some are more for amusement. Take what you like from them. The Gaiman quotes are from his online journal, some foudn through The Quotable Neil. The rest, excluding the Churchill quote, I don't know where I found that, are quoted in John Dufresne's book, The Lie that tells a Truth.

I like quotes. I collect them. Heck, I hoard them. But I'm generous, so here you go:

You have to write if you're going to be a writer. Because Elves won't do the work for you. --Neil Gaiman (plenty more where this came from)

All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams. --Elias Canetti

If you want to be a writer, write. You may have to get a day job to keep body and soul together (I cheated, and got a writing job, or lots of them, to feed me and pay the rent). If you aren't going to be a writer, then go and be something else. It's not a god-given calling. There's nothing holy or magic about it. It's a craft that mostly involves a lot of work, most of it spent sitting making stuff up and writing it down, and trying to make what you have made up and written down somehow better. --Neil Gaiman

When a writer is born into a family, that family is doomed. --Czeslaw Milosz

The problem with fiction is that it has to be plausible. That's not true with non-fiction. --Tom Wolfe

What is remembered is what becomes reality. --Patricia Hampl

Writer's block is a luxury most people with deadlines don't have. --Diane Ackerman

Inspiration is to work every day. --Charles Baudelaire

Writing like a mad thing. Wishing that time were more, well, rubbery… Everything would be okay if we just had rubberier time. If you could lean against a week so it would have ten or fifteen or thirty days in it. That's all we need. --Neil Gaiman

If you hear a voice within you saying you are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working. --Vincent Van Gogh

Habit is the denial of creativity and the negation of freedom; a self-imposed straightjacket of which the wearer is unaware. --Arthur Koestler

All writers, I think, are to one extent or another, damaged people. Writing is our way of repairing ouselves. --J. Anthony LukasWhen I'm not working I sometimes think I know something but when I'm working, it is quite clear I know nothing. --John Cage

Any artist must expect to work amid the total, rational indifference of everybody else to their work. --Ursula K. Le Guin

It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn't allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering "Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!" and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there's nothing left to write. Because the rejection slips will arrive. And, if the books are published, then you can pretty much guarantee that bad reviews will be as well. And you'll need to learn how to shrug and keep going. Or you stop, and get a real job. --Neil Gaiman

‘You're a writer? I've got an idea for a book you can write.’ This is right up there with ‘If you all just hand over your wallets nobody's going to get hurt. Except for any writers amongst you. We really hate writers,’ on the list of things writers generally hope not to hear. --Neil Gaiman

(Writing American Gods) was a bit like wrestling a bear. Some days I was on top. Most days, the bear was on top. --Neil Gaiman

Lacking bear pepper-spray, I walked home across the garden last night singing very loud bear songs, which went something along the lines of, "Lalala, I am singing very loudly to alert the bear to my presence, Lalala because most of the websites I've found talk about making noise and giving bears lots of time to get away, Lalala also I do not want to startle a bear at all because according to everything I've read on the subject bears do not like being startled." You don't have to worry about rhymes with bears. They don't mind about rhymes. Or tunes. Or scansion. Frankly, hypothetical bears are a very easy sort of audience. --Neil Gaiman

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public. --Winston Churchill

Big Deadline is still a thing of madness. The other two little deadlines at its feet chivvy and squeak and grunt and bare their sharp little teeth. Several smaller deadlines howl impatiently from the bushes outside.Argh. --Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I've gone identity mad

*Mika "Grace Kelly"

I chanced upon this song on VH1 as I was channel surfing his morning. It was pretty entertaining.

But this blog post isn't about that. Or maybe it is, seeing as that's the line I choose to use as a title.

Writing habits.

Every writer has them: get a cup of coffee, sit down, boot up the computer, and so on through their regular routine of getting in the groove to write. But I'm thinking more in terms of habits one finds themself encountering as they write. Or maybe habit is the wrong term.

One woman in my writing group says her stories all tend to center around one specific theme. She writes contemporary romance and the theme is the redemptive power of love, according to her. She said once that every writer has a couple of those themes the crop up in every story they write.

I'm not sure if that's necessarily true, but I do find motifs or general ideas popping up in my stories. Although I never set out to include them, the past couple of stories I've written include a few dream sequences (I know, never start your story with them, but I keep them a few chapters in and brief, and they do have a purpose), and the protagonist's past always plays a big art in the present trouble.

I don't know if that's really a problem. The two stories these aspects appear most prominently in are quite different stories. I tend to think that as long as these (habitual insertions of general motifs) are important, it's not necessary to throw them out, just because they're in another story. It may be a problem if one finds every story they write including the same idea, because it seems like that would get boring.

And I speak in terms of stories that one intends to get published, thus taking into consideration the buying audience. Not like I think any writer should cater to the trend of what's being bought, but they should consider how a fan would would react to reading the same book over and over again, with only the title and character names changed.

Of course, I may be generalizing my views as a reader onto the general reading audience. I wouldn't want to read the same book repeatedly, although I like to see details here and there (within the story or stylistically) that remind me of an author's previous works I've read. Consistency is one thing, but repetition is boring, in my opinion.

So anyway, I'll keep an eye out for when stories are developing in my head, see if the dreams or past influences are too strong or don't really help the story and are just there because I like them. I can always cut them out in edits, but if it's clear even before I start writing that these motifs aren't necessary, why write them in the first place?

Do any of you find images or situations that keep cropping up in your first drafts? How often do you keep them in the later drafts?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jack Spratt could eat no fat...and that's Spratt with two T's, not one

One of the things I love about the Borders in Waikele is that they position that trade paperback books right in the front of the entrance. Now, on the one hand, it’s totally a ploy to get people buying books. On the other hand, I chanced upon “The Lie that tells a Truth” there as well as Jasper Fforde’s “The Big Over-Easy.” If you like nursery rhymes and mysteries, then Fforde is for you.

I never would have picked up either book without seeing them as I wandered through the trade paperbacks for the few minutes I have before my writing group.

So when I saw Fforde’s second book in the nursery crime series, it was in hardback and I waited eagerly to see it in the trade paperback section. When I chanced upon “The Fourth Bear” in the library I snatched it up and read it in two or three days.

Fforde is a British writer and if you like mysteries or books that plays with archetypes in a fun way, Fforde is your man. He also has a series called Thursday Next, which I’ve never read, but I’m going to keep an eye out.

I’ve never read mysteries or thrillers, but Fforde has a writing style that’s easy and fast-paced without feeling rushed. Until you get to the end when the climactic scene arrives and all too soon it’s over and you’re left wishing for more. And by you, of course, I mean me, but it’s a good book and he’s a good writer and I urge you to come to the dark side.

I also finished Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which is funny and makes me want to write a story that plays off of some of the more interesting entries (the stereotypes about the Companions on a quest, or the prevalence of Stew, but no grazing cattle or sheep despite much leather and wool, etc.). It was just flat-out a fun book to read, and has inspired ideas and scenes for my pirate-y story SH in as much as it makes me want to write and puts me in that world’s mindframe.

Books are fun. Yay books!

On a completely unrelated, but more important, note, a favored professor of mine at the University of Hawaii Psychology Department passed away earlier this month. I only found out today when I checked my email. Edward Chronicle, it felt strange to think of you as Ed, even though you insisted, but you were a wonderful professor and made me love cognitive psych even more. You will be missed.

A week and a night late, but here's my night with Ms. Weis

So, barreling over the subject of my seemingly long absence (seems long to me, maybe not to anyone else, and which I blame on long work hours strategically placed to give me no time in the morning and leave me tired when I come home ;P ), we’ll dive promptly into the visit/talk/dinner with Margaret Weis on February 14, 2007.

I got sick that night. A nasty cold that left me wanting something soft to eat, because I was hungry after a day of work wherein I got out late as well. I settled on a small hamburger from Wendy’s. My dad and I ate in the parking lot of the library where she would be speaking. We went inside and my writing group leader introduced me to her. The WG’s husband got out of his seat nd gave it to me, a very nice and gentlemanly thng to do as it was a comfy cushioned chair in the front row.

Spoiler: I am ecstatic that Keifer Sutherland will be voicing my favoritest DragonLance character in the whole wide world, Raistlin, in the animated movie they’re currently working on. I’m also keen on the other actors she mentioned, although now I don’t remember who they were specifically (just that at the time, I thought it was awesome).

(Raistlin was my old school fangirl subject. Can you tell I’m wearing a mental cheesy grin as I type?)

So she spoke about how the DragonLance series began, and the new developments, and her production company, and then she answered questions and signed books. I brought two anthologies with stories she’d written (about Raistlin) and she signed the title page of each. One of my group members also took a picture.

At the dinner afterward, the two women in my group who basically lead it, made me sit next to Ms. Weis, not that I minded of course, and I was my usual introverted self, but I did ask a few questions. My sister sat on my other side and she’s much more extraverted, so I tend to think she’s more memorable. She certainly had people at the table cracking up.

But overall, it was a good night. I was feeling less and less well as the night wore on, and was sick until…Tuesday, although the cough is lingering and my ears still won’t fully unblock (yes it’s that kind of cold, where you wake up one morning to find everyone’s voices ever so slightly muffled and your own oddly distant).

She said one very memorable thing, though (it was all enjoyable, but this stuck in my mind):

“[I] Write every day, because it’s so easy not to.”

I smiled to myself. I know all too well that feeling. She gets up and writes every morning from 7:30 to 11 or so.

When I wasn’t working, I could get on the computer at 8:30 or 9, and be there until 4, 5 or 6 o’clock, but recently there wasn’t much in the way of writing progress. It was floating online, blogging about something random, etc. that sort of dedication is admirable.

Now that I work, it’s only on days like today, when I work from 3 to 7 p.m. that I might get on the computer. I still jot down quick scenes, and think/plan out stories in my head. Even last night I was playing on a rework of an opening for a story I wrote (read: novel I began) in 6th or 7th grade. Probably all 20-50 pages of text are crap if I read them now, but it was an accomplishment to write as much as I did back then, and I still like those core characters, so maybe one day I write a better story resolving around them. But I’m not writing like I should.

Every writer is different, and I think some can pull off not writing every single day, but I think that habit can only help.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bookworms and Margaret Weis

I was thinking about this the other night and even looked it up in the dictionary. Odd that the schools I went to should take a generic term for a myriad of worms and larvae that eat paper and/or bookshelves, but they do.

As a fan of books and reading and the whole experience surrounding the image of ‘curling up with a good book,’ you’d think I’d hate the little buggers. But I don’t.

Whenever I look at the word, I think of the cartoon figure I saw a lot in elementary school. A green segmented worm (is segmented the right term? Makes it sounds like it was chopped up) with round, black-rimmed glasses, and occasionally a hat, sometimes a graduation cap.

It’s a happy little image that said reading is fun, and I agreed wholeheartedly. I was ambivalent about worms in general, but somehow I came to like the idea of a bookworm. Which is odd, considering that even then I knew bookworms ate the pages of the stories I liked to read, but still…

A few years a go I bought a book in the DragonLance series, an anthology called the second Generation. There were two little holes on the side and as I flipped through it, the tiny holes became bigger and changed into tunnels running back and forth along that edge of the text. Clearly it was a victim of at least one bookworm, I thought. Although, other than the holes and whatnot, there was no sign of a living worm.

I bought the book.

I figured that not enough of the text was eaten up to make it impossible to read, and I was drawn to this idea of having that book.

Perhaps it’s just one of those quirks. But despite my little moment of anxiety the other night, where I worried there was still a worm and it was spreading to my other books (I was getting ready for bed and stopped to check), but that concern aside, I just liked the idea of having a book the illustrated the effect of these insects I’d heard about, but never saw. (And I keep losing my train of thought because of distractions, so I don’t even know if that’s what I originally planned to say. Alas.)

Also, Margaret Weis, who edited that anthology, is coming around to the various libraries this week. Yesterday she was at Mililani, tomorrow she’ll be at Kapolei at 6:30.

For those on Oahu, she’ll also be giving talks at:
Wahiawa, tonight, Tuesday, Feb 13 at 6 p.m.
Salt Lake/Moanalua, Thursday, Feb 15 at 3 p.m.
McCully-Moiliili, Thursday, Feb 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Also, an update:
Sundays' progress--15 pages read and briefly edited.
Total pages read and edited--20.
Monday, Feb 12, 2007--46 pages read and edited.

Considering I was stuck on page 4 for days, it felt good to get something done.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Drown all the boys and girls inside your head...

* not the actual line in a My Chemical Romance song, but that's what I thought it would be and I like my version better.

What seems to me a common piece of advice often given to aspiring writers is that of using all the senses when writing. Far be for me to talk back to the Powers That Be in the publishing world. On one occasion at my writers group, months, if not a year or two ago, one of the women there asked me how I remember events that occurred in my life.

That is how I remember to include the other senses in description.

The look of something is important, a symbolic splash of red or a flash or light or a poignant solitary blue flower in a gold vase.

But scents and sounds, I think, are perhaps tied for the second sensory method of remembering.

I’m not sure why I started thinking about this the other day, only that I did as I tried to fall asleep. One or two notes from a song on the radio (a song from a few years ago, but totally unrelated) elicited a memory of something. I can’t remember the memory now, it was a few days ago, but it was just this sudden and obscure memory.

That of course, led to my thinking about my own personal, “classic” example: listening to Ace of Base (not their “The Sign” album, but the one after) brought to mind “The Last Vampire” series I read by Christopher Pike when I was in 6th grade. I listened to that album a lot as I lay on my bed and read those books. I can’t think of one without the other, especially because I felt the mood of those songs seemed to fit the protagonist of the book series so well.

[small, unrelated side note: I’m typing this on Word and the dreaded green squiggly line has appeared under ‘lay’, which reminds me of a fairly recent post by Writtenwyrdd on the difference between lay and lie. Go, find it and check it out, while I try to figure out if this is actually wrong or Word is being fickle.]

[and some guy on Judge Judy said “tooken,” as in, “where he had just tooken my dog.” Interesting. Of course, in AIM a few days ago, I said “fighted” and didn’t even realize it at first.]

back to my original topic—

When my writing group member asked me how I remember things, I thought of scents, which, I believe, is a powerful way to add a sense of realism to a story.

I have no idea how to describe the smell of my mother on her pillows, but whenever I am changing the bed and catch a whiff of that scent, I think of being a little kid and curling up in her bed or on her rocking chair and that sense of warm protection and comfort.

Or catching a whiff of ‘something’ as I’m walking down the street and even if I can’t figure out what the odor is, it brings to mind some other memory.

So keep I mind those scents, fragrances and odors that elicit memories in your life and think about using that technique in order to bring realism and another layer of detail to your story, but don’t forget particular sounds. If your story is set in the contemporary world, a line or note from a song can have strong implications to a character, or the intonation in a stranger’s voice might remind them of someone they knew closely years ago, though this stranger looks nothing like the person brought to mind.

Play around with it, and try not to rely too much to a single sense in your descriptions.

Happy writing.

And I leave you with an awesome line from Heroes: "Life evolves, Father...Now I have to go save the world." *Hiro (whom we love)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Doing the music thing

I do the music thing. Listening to music as I write. Not so much music that matches the mood, but I start writing with a craving for a certain band or genre of music, and write to that. Usually I can go for chapters with just one cd. When I change to something else, it's often similar in sound. If it's very different, I don't listen for very long, just once or twice (which seems to shift the focus enough to jar my brain out of whatever rut it's in), then switch back to the original cd.

I can write the entire first draft of a novel with just a handful of cds.

Some people write in complete silence, others with music, others (I have a friend that does this) while playing movies in the background.

[I tried that with Pirates of the Caribbean, because SH has pirates, I thought it might help, but it didn't. Of course, the circumstances weren't ideal--my little sister was in the room and trying to talk to me as well. Very distracting.]

The point, to repeat what I say in a comment a few posts ago, and to echo WrittenWyrdd's words, is to write. And to get the book done.

Don't be afraid of doing it wrong. Especially not the first draft, don't get tied up in the 'right' or 'proper' way to do it. But if you're stuck, try something you haven't tried before. It might help.