Friday, November 19, 2010

Emotionally-charged writing

Yesterday I received an email from a friend of mine. She's kind of going through a tough time and so I asked her to type out exactly how she felt and send it to me. I will not, for privacy reasons, discuss the contents of the email but when I read it I literally felt her pain. There were few periods, less commas, and absolutely no structure to the email, but the writer in me found the intensity of the words absolutely beautiful. I think this would be a great exercise for any writer. When you feel lost or sad or overjoyed with happiness, write it down or type it out. Do not worry about structure, punctuation, or any of those silly things we writers live by. Instead, just write exactly what you feel and send it to yourself. I bet you will be amazed when you read it later.

On a separate note a few funny details, and I am interested to know if you do this, too. I have a few words that my mind misspells continuously. A crit partner will point it out and I can feel my face flush over in embarrassment. I then wonder if I am a complete and total moron. :) Here is my list, what's yours?

Peaked -- should be peeked
Shutter -- should be shudder

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!


* P.S. I received a full request this week! So yeah, I'm kind of on cloud nine right now. <- Cliché alert! :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

How our experiences shape us...

I read a thread today on the blueboards (Verla Kay) that was so horrifying I couldn't process it. See there is/was a book for sale on Amazon for pedophiles. I should start this post by saying that I do not watch the news. At all. I used to, but the constant focus on the negative aspects of our world quickly turned me off. Instead, I generally rummage through Yahoo or MSNBC (but only on occasion) and then go about my day. Getting back to the point, so yes, some sicko came up with a sicko book and Amazon decided to allow it to sell on their site.

I will not delve into my opinion on this as I am a VERY opinionated person and this pisses me off to no end. But I will tell you this, prior to becoming a parent I was very much against the death penalty. I felt that God, and God alone, reserved the right to determine the life and death of human beings.

Then I had my daughter, Rylie.

I can now think of lots of reasons someone should die, and all of them revolve around my daughter. I find such changes in people when they become parents interesting. Strict nutritionists at the McDonalds drive-thru. Anti-TV folks singing the chorus for Dora. Changes like this are so common in the parenting world that we all just shrug and move on.

But the same seems to be true for becoming a writer. When I wrote my first book I became privy to some sort of understanding in what actually makes for an entertaining book. I still had the rosy glasses on, and so I was able to read books that were not quite perfectly written (or interesting). But now that I am knee deep into my second book, my entire outlook has become jaded. I see writing very differently now. I look for rhythm and beats, poetic language and sentence variations. These are all things that were blind to me prior to becoming a writer.

It's kind of like the bell in THE POLAR EXPRESS. Only those who know, who believe, can hear it jingle. The same goes for writing. I will never read a book the same way again. I suppose that's a good thing, but man, I used to be such a fast reader.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Buzz (aka Word of Mouth)

NaNo update: words off (I'm bright red right now typing this) roughly 4,000
Goal: To catch up :)

What makes something high concept? And is that the same as something that facilitates word of mouth success?

I'm reading a few books right now (which, yes, likely hinders my Nano progress). One of them is THE SHACK, which is very much a religious based novel. I don't typically read Christian lit (excluding C.S. Lewis and arguably Tolkien and L-Engle), but noticed this book when perusing the aisles of Target the other day. It has a gripping cover, wouldn't you say?

So I picked it up. First, let me say that this is not a new book. It was self-published in 2007. THE SHACK went on to become a USA Today Bestseller, a NYT #1 Bestseller, and has remained on the NYT Paperback bestseller list through 2010. So yeah, this book is for sure a breakout novel. It is a perfect example of the success of the "buzz." A book that makes people talk is so much more powerful than thousands of dollars on advertising. I am far more likely to by a book a friend of mine suggests than one advertised on the CW. But when I began reading THE SHACK my internal editor started shouting inside my head: "Hey wait, that's six similes in a row! Hey, this is so much backstory how am I ever going to get through it!" And etc.

I've discussed before how important it is to tell a story vs. following the rules but THE SHACK (and there are others, aka TWILIGHT) that go beyond breaking rules. In reading a few of these sort of books, I've discovered something. Each major breakout novel that is poorly written does something that may other well written books never come close to doing. They either A: speak to something missing in our lives or B: deeply touch our emotions. TWLIGHT definitely does this. What girl or women doesn't wish that a boy or man loved her so deeply that he continually puts himself in agony to be with her. It is indeed a very emotionally-charged book. Is there plot? Yeah, I'm not so sure. Story arc? I guess you could say so. :) But do you get chill bumps in the beginning of the book when Edward is mentioned? I bet you do.

The same goes for THE SHACK. It is a very interesting novel that has brought many to faith and pissed off just as many. (Don't you love when that happens?) I always feel that when a book inspires and angers it has done its job. This book is rich in detail and any parent can relate to the struggles of poor Mack. I enjoyed it and will likely read it again, but not due to the beautiful prose. I will read it again because it evoked emotion within me, and what else can we ask for in a great book.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Nano and a completed novel?

I read a fair amount about Nano and various writers' experiences prior to committing to write this month. A common thing mentioned is that the novel is in such poor shape that the writer has to do one of the following:

A: rewrite the entire thing
B: revise forever to get it into shape
C: shelf the project.

If you have participated in Nano, what was your experience?

I am not comfortable with any one of the above outcomes because I LOVE the project I am working on. Consequently, I am editing as I go (more than I should) and thinking through plot (more than I should). I am quite behind in the word count but am thrilled with what I have so far. Sooo…I am setting my own *goal* for Nano and beyond.

I plan to write and revise the complete novel by January 1st. Then send it to my crit partners that very day and will, of course, revise again based upon their comments. And guess what? This change in goal has helped me to become more productive. My plan is to double up on daily word counts this week to write at least 2,000 words per day (hopefully more like 3,000).

So tell me, do goals help your writing or hurt it? Most of us write on the side. We have families, jobs, homes, etc. that require attention. Writing definitely takes a backseat. For me, a goal helps to bring it forward (a bit) so that I am able to finish the project. Otherwise, writing gets lost in the cloud of craziness that is life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When editing, over critting, and nerves take over your story.

I've made it a personal mission of mine to read at least a few books a month. As a writer, it keeps the creative juices flowing. But this month I realized that each book that I read broke one or many of the rules. This is a common thing for sure as part of learning the rules is knowing when to break them. I read one book where the author used the verb "was" twenty times on one page. Yikes! I thought, at first, but then I realized that I didn't even notice it in the first pass. Want to know why? Because the story flowed so incredibly well that I didn't care. It was quite the epiphany for me and in turn I have created a few rules for myself.

1. Story trumps rules, always. If it works, it works. Throwing in a bunch of strong verbs can read as very unnatural.

2. Voice trumps rules, sometimes. You have to stay true to your character. If that word or phrase is voice specific, I say keep it.

I find that over editing, over critting, and nerves in general can really detract from the story-telling aspect of a story. Do you agree?What are your rules or rather, rules-that-break rules?