Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Why Literary Fiction Isn't Boring I found this interesting partly because this is the genre I've always been most interested in. I know that some people find it boring, but I think those people should give it another shot. (@ Guide to Literary Agents)

Literary Style: 15 Writers' Bedrooms Take a look at how the greats have lived. Some of these are reproductions or guesses but for the most part they seem pretty true to character. (@ Apartment Therapy)

You Must Engage Your Creative Side Trying new creative endeavors, even if they don't turn out well, will usually help to refresh your writing. (@ Jeff Goins, Writer)

Update: David Foster Wallace The Pale King Paperback Truth be told, I didn't buy the hardcover, but I'm still annoyed by this news. It's a new trend in publishing to add things to a book when it comes out in paperback so those who bought the hardcover feel cheated or coerced into buying a second copy. Of course the publishers have to make money, but this isn't the way to do it. If anything it's going to encourage people to buy fewer books. (@ Melville House)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

W.B. Yeats on Happiness

"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing."

- William Butler Yeats

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games

If you haven't read the book by now, what are you waiting for??

The movie adaptation opened in theaters on Friday and to put it simply, it was excellent. The adaptation was incredibly well done, probably because Suzanne Collins, the author of the novel, helped write the screen play and worked as an Executive Producer on the film.

The thing I love about the story is the emotional conflict Katniss has - she obviously wants to win but there's a price to pay for that victory. The book and the movie both make the audience think about that conflict so that it's not just a story about death. 

Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

B*tches In Bookshops   Based on the Jay-Z and Kanye West song. Even if you don't like the original, this video is worth watching. It's funny, smart and pretty well made. 

The Real World and the YA Novel First of all, the book trailer for this book is incredibly well made. Second of all, I love the reasoning she has behind placing her novel in the real world rather than a fantasy world. (@ Writer Unboxed)

I Am Not A Character: On Thomas Mallon's Watergate A review of the new novel about an old scandal. (@ The Millions)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On To the Next

Keat takes notes

Photo courtesy of GeekCalendar (Creative Commons)

Last week, I finished writing the most recent draft of the novel I've been playing around with for three years now. I know I'll need to hire a copy editor to work out the finer points of grammar and punctuation, but in terms of story and characters, I really feel like this is the draft. I'm ready to start sending this thing out into the world. Even if it comes back to me with 100 rejection letters, that's okay. Why? Because I'm already working on my next project.

One piece of advice that gets repeated again and again is to keep working and writing while you wait to hear back about pieces you submit. I've never heard anyone say that you ought to wait to start work on your second manuscript until the first one has a publisher. 

It's good advice, too. It takes the worry out of the wait (at least some of it!). If you are already working on the new book and falling in love with your new characters, you don't have time to sit and agonize over what's happening with the last ones. 

So yes, I'm in the market for a good copy editor and I'm preparing myself to start writing query letters, but I'm also planning and outlining my next novel. When I'm ready to hit send on the queries, I won't have much time to agonize because my new characters will be calling to me.

How much time do you need between projects? Do you jump right in to the next one or do you take a break for a while? Tell us in the comment section below!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Food for Thought

Make Your MC a Mixtape This is a great way to get to know your characters. Whenever I begin a new long-term project, I make a playlist to help me focus while I write. (@ Musings From the Slush Pile)

Stuck in a Creative Funk? Try These 12 Tips Everybody hits a block at some point or another. Any of these tips will help you get past it. (@ Jeff Goins, Writer)

A Magician of Time I think anyone who writes full time, whether you're a blogger, novelist or journalist can make use of some of these pointers. (@ Get Rich Slowly)

Why the DOJ's Potential Lawsuit Over the Agency Model is A Really Big Deal If you're curious about this case, this is a pretty smart article outlining the history behind it and what it will mean. (@ Nathan Bransford, Author)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When to Cut Characters

A while back, I took a writing class where the instructor was always telling us to get rid of extra characters in our stories. 

If you wrote a scene where a man was out to dinner with his girlfriend and two nieces, he'd tell you that there only needed to be one niece.

If you wrote a scene where a child was being bullied on a school bus, he'd tell you to change the bus to a locker room and get rid of everyone but the child and the bully.

If you wrote a scene that took place in Times Square on New Years Eve, he'd tell you to change the scene to a home in the Midwest where the characters were watching the ball drop on TV.

Do you see the problem here? 

Yes, there are people who stay home and watch the ball drop, but those are completely different people than the ones who go to Times Square on New Years Eve. If you change the scene that much, not only do you cut out a few extra people from the background, but you also have to completely rethink your main characters.

Obviously if the scene takes place in the middle of Times Square, not every person in that scene is going to have a speaking part, or get an in depth description in the narrative. But, they have a place in the narrative. If your main character wants to propose to his girlfriend in front of thousands of strangers, that's one of the best places to set your story. You're not going to be able to describe every person's reaction, but you can't pretend that they aren't there.

If you take the bully off the school bus and into the locker room you lose the embarrassment factor. Of course the child being bullied is still going to feel awful, and be embarrassed, but if the bullying isn't happening in public, it's a much different scene. On the school bus, there's opportunity for other kids to stand up for him, or join the bully. In the locker room, the victim is entirely alone, unless you force another character to walk through the door.

So how do you know when you need to cut a character? 

Think about how much the scene would change if there were fewer characters in it. Think about how your characters would act with less people around. If the scene would still work, if your characters would act the same way no matter who was around, then sure, get rid of the second niece, take the bully off the school bus. 

Only cut characters from your narrative when you're positive they're superfluous and the scene will work better because of it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Do You Use Your Local Library?

Do you use your local library?

One of the first things I did after I moved back in January was go down to the library and get a card so that I could check out books whenever I wanted. It was (to me) a crucial step toward becoming established in my new town. 

I've always loved going to the library because they had all the books that I could possibly want -- for free! I know, as an aspiring author shouldn't I be encouraging readers to buy buy buy? Not always. Of course you should buy your favorite books, but you have to use the libraries too.

I know someone who says she doesn't use the library because  she reads too slowly and never finishes the book before it's due. That's crazy though, because there are so many other things to do at the library. Checking out books is only the tip of the iceberg.

  • If you can't afford internet access to your home, you can go to the library (with a free card) and check your email. 
  • If you want to visit your local museum, but can't afford the cost of admission, you can get a museum pass from most libraries. 
  • The library in my hometown recently started offering free audiobook & music downloads as well as online language courses. 
  • Many libraries are now also offering ebook lending on Kindle and Nook. 

Not to mention author visits, book clubs, community gathering spaces, movie screenings...The list of benefits go on and on. 

So tell me: If you don't use your library, what are waiting for?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Uncovering Hidden Treasures: Where to Find Ideas For Your Writing Here are some great ideas for those of you looking to avoid writer's block. (@ Pen & Pro$per)

Do We Still Need Publishers? A look at the changing relationship between writers and publishers. (@ The Guardian)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Inspiration Is Everywhere

Yesterday after work, I sat down to read a bit of the non-fiction book I'd checked out from the library and subsequently ignored in favor of the Stephen King novel a friend had lent me at the same time. The book, (Permission Marketing by Seth Godin, if you're curious) is coming up on it's due date, and I wanted to say I had at least tried to read some of it before I had to renew or return.

It's a fairly interesting book, but being more than 10 years old now, it's slightly outdated. As I read, I often found my attention wandering because of this. Most of the time it was thoughts like: "AltaVista is no longer one of the most visited search engines on the Internet...I don't think. I don't know what happened to AltaVista. Maybe I should Google it..."

Sometimes though, these tangents turned into semi-productive brainstorming sessions. I love to play the "what would happen if...?" game. I think about the way that things are and imagine what would happen if one thing were different. Sometimes this results in ideas that are interesting in the moment but ultimately fade out. Other times, these ideas turn into projects. Short stories, novels, or even craft projects.

The idea I got yesterday has the potential to become a novel project, but it's too early so far to tell. I've written it down and only time will tell if it's worth following through with.

The point is that inspiration is everywhere. You just need to be reading to respond when it hits you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Ban This Book: An Uncensored Look At The Lorax and Other Dangerous Books A thoughtful piece on the reasons why books are censored, and the role that personal/political biases play in those decisions. (@ The Millions)

Why Reading Nonfiction Won't Cut It For Your Creativity Reading only one type of book is not enough. Creativity is fueled by variety. (@ Jeff Goins, Writer)

Berenstains' Bears' Author Dies Sad news for children's literature. I loved these books when I was growing up. (@ January Magazine)

Do Writers Get Better The Longer They Write? Writing consistently is one key to being a professional writer, but unless you intentionally work to improve your craft, it won't be enough. (@ Jody Hedlund, Author)