Thursday, December 31, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
OK? Now what?
Take a time out, do something different. Go to bed. (I usually stay up.)
A thought occurred to me this morning: I was trying too hard to be organized. I was micromanaging my world. I had to loosen up a bit. Allow myself to play in the world to maybe write other shorter stories in the world. Follow my heart a bit more….
I write better, when I write from the heart. I make less mistakes. There is passion and energy behind my words.
Whatever your process is honor it.
However, if you should fall into the void, try something different to jump-start your creativity.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
A great of setting goals with out the pressure.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I'm wondering how everyone is coping with finding time to write over the busy holidays. I know that I myself am struggling already, and the winter holidays are just beginning! Are you able to make a date with yourself, in between the festivities? Or do you give yourself a vacation and relax your expectations?
Friday, November 20, 2009
That was the sound of millions of teenage girls, teen boys and moms.
New Moon, the movie, is FINALLY out!
I will not project my opinions onto you all until everyone has an opportunity to catch the flick....
(Translation: I will hold off a week or two....)
I had a great time seeing the people I met last time and meeting new people while hanging out in line.....
I'd like to give shout outs to the following:
My Twi-teen-girlfriends, it was great to see you all (again!) good luck with your junior year!
To my Twi-moms, who left the kids at home with the other parent, you have to admit, you had a good time! Sort of makes you feel young again. The lack of sleep is worth the life long smile of finishing the following phrase, "remember when i...."
To the Twi-boys who attended, it is a great way to pick up girls.... Specifically, to Jeff, I really think she likes you ask her out!
(Let me know how it goes!)
P.S.....To Alice Cullen/Alice Cullen's stylist, can I have your wardrobe? Please?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
"Its not like you need it by a certain time, i'll get to it when i get to it."
True, i'm not under outside pressure, but i sure as hell ain't getting any younger and my brain is screaming "finish that thing and send it off somewhere. How valuable can beta critique be anyways?
So i'm asking, how valuable is it?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
"We are not asked to subscribe to any utopia or to believe in a perfect world just around the corner... we are asked to equip ourselves with courage, hope, readiness for hard work, and to cherish large and generous ideals."
-- Emily Greene Balch
Thursday, November 5, 2009
How does one create a vision?
Make a plan. Whatever comes to your mind. Begin there. You can always revise your ambitions.
Make a promise to yourself, to move towards your goal. Believe in your power to achieve your goal, even through the difficult parts.
Believe in your ability to create what ever it is you desire. You must maintain your vision to see beyond the immediate.
You must be prepared to work.
Step by step.
Day by day.
Monday, November 2, 2009
I found that pretty suprising and I understand that it wasn't intended to be a literal statistic, but I just sent out a bunch of beta copies for the novel i am finishing. Guess who actually has read them and turned in critiques? Only adult, smart, women. My younger lady friend? Nope. My guys friends? Nope. Just the mid twenties plus crowd, so there's a little totally non-scientific survey in that same direction.
Another beta reader of mine said that part of it is that his wife buys them, reads them first, and he only reads the ones that get a good recommendation from her. I wonder about other peoples thoughts on the subject? Most of the people I myself know who actually read, are the ladies.... In fact almost exclusively ladies. I wonder why that is? I mean, I know lots of guys read, I mean I read all the time, but i definitely know way more women who do. Putting it into stark contrast, I gave my parents my book. They were so proud I had finished it, they took me out to dinner, did the whole proud parent thing, blah blah. Both equally gushy, supportive parents.
Bottom line: my mom read it, my dad hasn't.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
(X-posted with Children of the Night)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Writing is a job.
You must treat your writing like a full time job. (Even if it isn't.)
Every day, you must sit down at your space and write.
If you cannot commit to writing your novel because you lack the focus, then step away from your novel. Try something smaller, like journaling every day. Practice, talking about your day in metaphors, symbols etc. Also, work on expanding your vocabulary, and develop your voice.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
What’s a saboteur?
A saboteur is that voice inside your head giving you every reason NOT to do something. Sometimes, it takes the form of the inner critic/editor…. No matter what you call, this ‘little voice’ can hinder us from finishing stories; prolonged side tracking (of goals) eventually leads one to self-destruct. (i.e. NOT finishing stories, revising and NOT sending them out, equals NOT getting published!)
What’s writer to do?
First of all, learn how to spot your saboteur. Ask yourself what is getting in your way; do you need a day off? What is it your afraid of? What are your excuses for not writing?
Secondly, find the solutions to the issues. There is more than one way of doing something, make a list. From the list, pick one solution. Give it a try. Try it for a three weeks (21 days), if that doesn’t work, try something else.
Ask yourself the tough questions: what is it you want? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen? How far are you willing to go for your dreams? Do you have the discipline, the focus, and the commitment to follow through?
This is a tough conversation to have with your self but an honest one. Especially, if you are not finishing your work (and its year 2, 5, 15 working on your novel.)
In the end, ultimately, you have to go toe to toe with the saboteur. Learn how to be comfortable with your saboteur; you become more confident in yourself.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Based on Rob Bryanton's Imagining The Tenth Dimension, this video will lead you step by step through visualizing the ten dimensions (and to the existence of the multiverse) in a deceptively simple way.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Please note: the following blog post is NOT intended to replace the advice of healthcare professionals.
Writing & wellness, two words that don’t seem to fit together. In the various writer cons I’ve attended, I only remember seeing this topic only once however; it was under the name, “Writing & Exercise.”
So, here my ideas for maintaining wellness as you write. (I realize that most of these are common sense however, we all need reminders….) ☺
In the macho sleep deprived culture we live in, sleep is under valued. A good solid night’s sleep does a mind and body good! So turn of the computer, put the mobile phones, PDAs to silent and sleep.
This doesn’t have to complicated nor do you have to devote endless hours, a simple walk is fine, yoga class, bike ride etc. Whatever physical activity interests you. I’ve noticed in my process physical activity clears the head and centers me for hours in front of my laptop.
Food is fuel. A balance eating helps you: think clearly and sleep better.
Feed Your Soul
What is it that inspires you? Don’t know. Make a list of what you like to do, pick one thing. Try it.
Maintain your sense of humor. Laugh. It is good for the soul.
This does not mean hours in sitting in a crazy pose. Keep it simple – sitting in your favor chair, by the lake, in the middle of your living room floor. Take five minutes of deep breathing will help clear your head.
Writing is rather solitary. Take a time to connect with other writers, friends, family and strangers mono e mono. (Yes, step away from your computer and into the tactical world.)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
When Publishing Had Scents and Sounds
By JONI EVANS
Published: September 6, 2009
In scarcely 30 years, technology has transformed the office archaeology of the book business.
Je crois en licornes - I believe in unicorns
Je crois aux fées - I believe in fairies
J'adore les vampires - I adore vampires
Je suis sur l'équipe de Jacob - I'm on team Jacob
Je suis sur l'équipe-Édouard - I'm on team Edward
Où est mon vaisseau spatial - Where is my spaceship?
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Well, I suppose I should have realized that. After all, I was a teenager in the 80’s with five younger brothers, which translates into roughly six billion viewings of “Gremlins” --probably the ultimate monster rules movie. So once he said it, of course, I knew it was true. When I read a story about werewolves or vampires or zombies, I’m looking to see how the author is going to put his or her own spin on the rules. How will the monsters be made? Killed? What are their powers and limitations? At this year’s WisCon, the feminist fantasy and science fiction conference, I went to a panel on the “care of your vampire,” which was basically a group of vampire book authors comparing notes on the rules they used to govern the worlds of their stories. It was fascinating to hear how different their takes were, given the fact that they were working with the same folklore as a starting point. It occurred to me that, as a reader, I do not care so much what the rules are, as long as they are strongly stated and consistent. Your vampires may sparkle in the sunlight or they may turn to ash and—although both those choices have very different symbolic connotations and change the story dramatically—I am willing to buy either one if the author truly buys it. I am a theatre geek and one thing you learn in acting classes is that, when you play a character, you must make strong choices, regardless of what those choices may be, and commit to them completely in order for an audience to believe in that character. I think the same thing can be said of writing.
Now, I haven’t always felt this way. When I first started writing, I was afraid to give my stories strong rules. I was insecure in my ability to create a plot and I thought that rules would only trip me up, cause me to paint myself into a plot corner or to violate my own guidelines accidentally, invalidating my story. Besides, wasn’t this fantasy? Shouldn’t anything be possible? Since then, however, I have learned more about world building and I’ve come to understand that stories in which literally anything is possible—stories with no rules for their monsters or magic systems or what have you—are actually not that engaging. Reading one is like watching a tennis match without knowing the rules of the game. It’s not very exciting to watch, and you certainly aren’t tempted to jump in and
play. On the other hand, if you do know the rules of a game--or a story--you can easily move from observer to player. I remember reading Scott Westerfeld’s “Midnighters” series, YA novels that take place in a world with complex rules. One of the rules is that the monsters of the story are afraid of multiples of thirteen. In one scene, the characters have stuck thirteen knives in a door to ward the monsters off. When I read that one of the knives had been knocked loose from the door, I felt a real rush of panic. I had internalized the rules of the story so completely that I felt like I was a part of that story.
It’s an experience I never would have had if Westerfeld’s rules had been wishy-washy or the consequences unclear.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t have exceptions to the rules. In fact, the premise of many stories depends on there being someone or something for whom the rules don't apply. But you have to set up strong, consistent rules first and then violate them intentionally, for a reason. And if you do, you may find that your story functions on another level. Because monster stories are “all about the rules” in another sense, too: they are all about our society’s taboos and the consequences for violating them. But if we want to use our monster stories as a consistent metaphor for something in the world around us, we have to make the world within them air-tight first.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Love to know what you think of his insights....
Ummm... What? I'm not sure I caught that.
Have people been paying ANY attention to the science fiction and fantasy they have been reading? (The answer is, of course YES, but apparently some people are missing it.) Just to clarify: "it's almost all a metaphor for societal issues." Just about everything has ties into topics of significance. It's not just cheep, diversionary, shallow, dribble. I'll admit it's good for a thrill, but all the good stuff ties in. Hell, even vampires are commentary on sex, fear of sex, and fear of spreading infection through sexual or taboo acts.
Theme is an incredibly important element to writing. Maybe the MOST important. Why do we love Harry Potter? Because everyone had to go to school, grow up, and deal with bullies, and get picked on by people and caught up in situations we felt powerless to alter . I argue that did more for it's success than prose, humor, character, or even magic stuff.
Next time you write a story try picking out the social themes it will parallel first, or close to the start, I've found it actually opens up a huge amount of good stuff with a little creativity.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Fall TV shows start.
So hard to write in prime time.
Characters, talk loud!
Fixing chapter twelve.
Oh! Who put that red light there?
Writing while driving.
Wish that I could cheat
Send in the damn cavalry
God in the machine!
Key marks on my cheeks,
Random letters on my screen
Fell asleep again!
Got one? Post it to the comments!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
The top three lessons I learned from reading about Pixar:
1. The first draft is just the first draft. Writing is rewriting.
2. Create a safe environment for yourself where you aren't afraid to fail, afraid of criticism or afraid of criticizing.
3. Work like crazy to make your story good, strive for greatness, but know perfection isn't attainable. Sometimes you just have to release it into the world.
And here are a few of the posts/reports I found:
Animation World Magazine recapped the lessons learned at Screenwriting Expo 5 which hosted a panel filled with Pixar writers and artists.
Jim Hill Media's Recap of the talk includes the rules Pixar set up for itself as they developed Toy Story.
The Animation Guild's Recap (amazingly, each blogger tells a slightly different and informative story).
The authors of Mavericks at Work talk about the business model of Pixar which also their creative practice.
Pixar's website posted a series of articles by a critic dissecting each film. Each is a thoughtful exploration of good storytelling.
Toy Story 2
Finally, because I'm a mother of two girls, I'm linking to Linda Holmes great open letter to the good people at Pixar
Dear Pixar, From All The Girls With Bandaids On Their Knees
And Jon Lassiter's response -- more or less.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
with mere keystrokes. When writing, one must allow the story to develop and cultivate, if the story prematurely stops, it loses energy.
Next time, you are at the keyboard, take a deep breath: cut, trim and refine sentences. Place the edits in a special folder (you may use the sentence(s) again somewhere else.) Allow the story to blossom to its fullest potential. You’ll be amazed at the results!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I know they say you put yourself in a story whether you try to or not, and obviously what you choose to write about definitely says a lot about what you are interested in, but i've seen wonderful examples that go deeper. I know a writer who is a loving, caring, thoughtful mother. She also seems to have a tough time with that whole: make bad things happen to your characters to ratchet up the tension part. She wants to nuture her characters. I know another writer who has moved all over the country for school and work, and her latest story is as choppy and fragemented as her life.
Going even a step further out, what does your genre say about you? We fantasy and science fiction folk are definitely the dreamers, and i'd like to propose this as quote of the day, since it's the quote of my life:
"... perhaps maddest of all is to see the world as it is, and not as it ought to be."
That's from man of la mancha. Apparently what THIS particular piece of writing says about me is that I am a little scatterbrained, and a huge theatre nerd.
Not sure if I have anything terribly enlightening to say on the topic, just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on it. I know my own writing is a fairly effective ink blot for my own personality.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Guthrie Theatre – This is one of my favorite surprises of the city. They actually encourage people to come hang out in the space. I usually find a nice chair by a window, a cup of tea and write. Free Wi-Fi.
Aster Café – Home to a breath taking out door patio with one of the greatest views of downtown Minneapolis. The Wi-Fi may be a little weak while sitting on the patio however it should not matter, your writing. ;-)
Wilde Roast Café - Fantastic interior, great menu, they have everything from alcohol to coffee. Wilde Roast is especially wonderful on rainy days and in the fall and winter. A word of caution, it is really busy on Sunday mornings.
Second Moon – A popular Death Pixie haunt, it is simply a homegrown coffee shop. The barista’s are cool and if they have time, will ask you what your writing.
Dunn Bros Coffee on 3rd & 3rd in downtown Minneapolis - It is really quiet, almost like a library.
Common Roots – Organic foods, great tea selection and plenty of plug-ins for your laptop.
Riverview Wine Bar & Café – A regular Pixie meeting place.
Architecture library on the U of M campus –One of the best-kept secrets. You can actually sit in cool chairs that you may see in architecture magazines.
My place – I have to admit, I’ve done a fantastic job in creating a writing spot in my flat. Quiet, comfortable and Shakespeare sits in a flowerpot staring at me. What more could you ask for?
If anyone has recommendations on places to check out, please do not hesitate to respond. :-)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
These words struck me as true. I think that, as writers, we are sometimes tempted to over- simplify characters because we are afraid that a character with too many contradictions in her nature won't be "believable." But sometimes the reason that we are drawn to characters, as writers and as readers, is because of the paradoxes in their personalities. When I first read the above quote, I thought of two things: First, I remembered a more experienced writer who advised me to create antagonists based on people I admired rather than people I hated, because the characters would be that much more interesting and complex. I have tried creating an antagonist based on someone I truly admire, President Obama, and the result was chilling. All the things I found so comforting in an ally--his unflappable calm, his fatherly sense of command, even his devotion to his family-- were truly intimidating in an enemy.
The other thing I thought about when I read this quote was a game I sometimes play in the car. I will read the bumper stickers on the cars around me and try to get a sense of who the owner of that car is trying to present herself to be. Then I'll try to think of something that contradicts that image and imagine a character based on that. For a simple example, that woman with all the pro-life stickers has had an abortion. When? Why? Or maybe it's just that the guy with the Bart Simpson stickers and the mud-flap girls graduated at the top of his med school class or the teenager with the punk radio station stickers is a violin prodigy or the VW van covered with peace stickers belongs to a former army general. I like to imagine what life circumstances would create these characters. I know that we can not make our characters as complex as real people-- this is fiction and a certain degree of simplification is necessary-- but I still find it interesting
when characters contradict themselves a bit.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Why write science fiction and fantasy? Why not contemporary stuff? or plays? or drama? Why does it have to have magic in it?
I started with the usual, "It's what I love. It's what I'm good at etc." But i found myself, to my own suprise launching into a full scale defense of science fiction as a whole. I covered how it serves as a metaphor for social issues without being preachy, still being entertaining, and frankly, keeping people reading. Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek and the new Disctrict 9 are three fantastic examples of modern science fiction pushing itself to be socially relevant. Prison camps? The first on air inter-racial kiss? A gut wrenching look at how the human population treats immigrants? The metaphors are almost always clear, and yet no matter your point of view on the subject, people stick around and see the argument, because its presented in a way that is...well... cool.
In my latest story I talk a little bit about the "wierd kids, bullies, over use of psychiatric prescription drugs in young people, and parental sacrifice." I guarantee you a young person would be a million times more likely to finish a fantasy novel with those themes than to read the self help book, or a memior version.
America loves science fiction. Its just that not everyone is willing to admit it. Lost is one of the most popular shows on tv: totally science fiction. The biggest movies of last year? ALL science fiction. So why on earth when i say i write science fiction and fantasy, do I get wierd looks, and find myself explaining why that's what I write?
Any thoughts on Science Fiction Resistance? More importantly is this question: why do we write science fiction? As an artist we should always question our own work, even if the answer we land on is simply: "because its SO cool."
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
I have a terrible time naming my characters. I have a tendency to use place-holders, and when I first started, I used an"AAA" and "BBB" system. Now I tend to use the names of similar characters from books and movies or the names of people I used to know or would like to know. I'm trying to match impressions of characters, not facts or reality. When I know them better, I give them proper names, but I wish I could just find the right name immediately.
Are you the kind of writer who just knows your characters names, or do you labor over it like me? Do you have a favorite character name? Am I asking for trouble by admitting I use my impressions of real people in creating fictional characters?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Very simply I was describing the second half of the book when Norma said, "Wait...other half? The section we just read was 15,000 words... how long do you think this is going to be?" I responded that I was pretty sure i'd be able to wrap it up in 80, 000 words. That's when they laughed at me. (totally good natured, friendly laughing of course) "Robbie, the average for your genre and target age group is 35, 000 ish."
Oops. Turns out that my natural tendancy to have a big climax at the middle of the story, inadvertantly lead me to write the climax at the end. My 80,000 word spread had lead me to to the mid way wrap up at around 40,000 (which i hear is a good length for the kind of thing i'm writing.) And that this whole second half I am working on, is actually the second book in the series. Who knew?
Anyone else have any funny stories about stumbling onto things? Having planned things one way and having your characters decide on a different direction? Or a book that started adult and ended up for kids? How do people feel about word counts and how important is it to know and adhere to the industry standards?
And in a totally unrelated matter, how rad is it that I finished a book?
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Immediately replied, “No, in fact, I am more afraid that my story ideas will out live me.”
Having said that: I need to say that one of my hindrances is the inability to focus. This means many stories are begun but few are finished. Lately, I’ve been soul searching to spot my saboteur when it comes to writing. This journey led me to the I Ching, or the Book of Change. I came across a passage about Limitations, (hexagram 60). Here are some insights (re-capped in my own words...)
If you look at the seasons, there is an order. This order brings balance and boundaries. One must set boundaries to operate within; with out limitations (guidelines) one becomes overwhelmed by possibilities - moving from one thing to the next without the ability to make a commitment to anything.
(Sound familiar to anyone?)
Take the time to acknowledge what derails you, spot your saboteur, try various solutions and you'll discover the path to fulfillment.
If you obsessively worry about: not being good enough…coming to the end of the story, rejection (or any other excuse).
If you think over think matters, you will muddle your intuition and continue to float from idea to idea.
To counter act this:
Make a plan with clear focus on what you want to accomplish.
Know that your confidence in your project will be tested.
Don’t doubt yourself.
Do not dwell in the past or future. Focus on now.
Stay positive about your project.
Surround yourself with people that can champion you onward to finish.
Know that if you are not in accord with your goals, you may feel indecision and conflict. When you are confident, you have unified thoughts and actions.
It is my hope you all remain confident writers and stick to your goals.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Of course listening to music is a good idea while writing, anytime you are sitting in front of your computer for those lengths of time, putting on a good pair of headphones and listening to music seems like a no-brainer to me. The particular practice i would like to plug here is SPECIFIC SOUNDTRACKING. I find it helpful, and really pretty fun, to use certain emotional themes that match whats going on in the story. No one denies that an effectively chosen song can literally double the effectivness of a scene in a film, why should we shortchange the movies playing out in our heads and going on to the page. Picking a really sad song list to listen to, while having sad stuff happen just psyches me into the right headspace. Maudlin perhaps, but your reader may appreciate you really getting into it. Getting into the emotions of a scene always seems to help my writing, and nothing gets you there like music.
Its gotten to the point where i have completely usurped some songs and now all i can think about when i hear them is the character whose theme they are to me. Music encapsulates emotions and moments, which is just what writers do. It seems a natural combination.
How about the rest of you? How do you implement music into your writing process? And for that matter how emotionally invested do you get? Does your heart rate raise when a fight breaks out in your story? Do you get butterflies when your characters catch eyes across the danceroom floor? Boy mine does.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
A parallel discussion is going on in the world of YA where author Justine Larbalestier went public with her dismay over the cover that her US publisher, Bloomsbury, chose for her YA novel "Liar." The protagonist of the book is black, but the original cover showed a white girl. Now, thanks to outcry on the internet, Bloomsbury is reworking the jacket of the hardcover edition due out in October with new art featuring a black girl. The controversy has sparked a lot of discussion about whitewashing of covers and about racism in the marketing of YA books. (Brought to mind the whitewashing of Octavia Butler's covers in the world of scifi and fantasy publishing.) For more, check out discussion at Boing Boing http://www.boingboing.net/2009/07/23/race-and-book-covers.html and Publishers Weekly
to Paul Graham's discussion of the different ways interruptions affect managers and makers. Graham writes,
Most powerful people are on the manager's schedule. It's the schedule of command. But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.I'm a stay-at-home parent with great kids. They're independent and creative and don't need my constant attention to remain occupied and content, but I still have to carve my writing time between random, intermittent interruptions. There are writers who manage to work, and work well, in these conditions, but I find that I need larger blocks of time, two to three hours at least to get past "getting started" and on to "working hard."
How about you? Are you able to work through the distractions or do you need a large block of uninterrupted time?
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Write a short story, a day for 365 days. The stories can be a long as they need to be but the minimum is:
1 page, typed, double-spaced
Two pages long hand in a regular sized notebook
30 bar napkins
6 pages in a
Insert your own creative form here. (If you need a number, post a comment with: your creative format and I will give you a number….)
I wish I could take credit for this idea however, I cannot - the idea was originally executed by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Ms. Parks wrote 1 play a day for a year, each play is wrote was preformed for 365 days. Here’s link to the website for a little more information:
Here are the logistics 365 Challenge will begin on September 1st 2009 ending on August 31st 2010. There will be blog that will showcase stories written. (The blog is NOT up yet). The blog will be linked to Death Pixies site. Any thoughts on the writing process will post to the Death Pixies blog every Thursday.
As I hammer out more details, I will post them…..
However, I am curious to hear feedback from everyone. Good idea? A little crazy? Would you commit to joining me on the adventure?
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
This time last year I was getting ready to embark on my Writers of the Future adventure in LA, as a contest winner attending the workshops for volume 24. If you are right now getting ready for the volume 25 workshop (lucky you! The big anniversary year!) congratulations! Writers of the Future is like taking a condensed college course while being a debutante on a reality TV show rushing the coolest, geekiest sorority/fraternity on Earth. It can be an incredible experience if you make the most of it. Here’s my advice on how to do just that:
1. Get to know folks in advance. Our group had a live journal before we ever met and it made our first meeting more like a reunion. Track folks down on line and see if they want to be in touch to swap info about the contest, etc.
2. Be social! Many writers are shy. That’s why we’re writers. But WotF workshops week is a time to shelve the shyness. You will find that it is easy to get to know people at WotF because you have so much in common as writers and as fans of sci-fi and fantasy and because the intensive atmosphere of the workshop makes for quick bonding. These people are your peers and your support group: pick their brains, swap market info, reading lists, whatever. And don’t neglect the artists! We were told that our year was unique because the writers and illustrators mingled so much and I’m very glad that we did. The illustrators tend to be a more international bunch (because there’s no language barrier getting in the way of visual art) and the fact that I got to know them means that I now know talented people all over the world.
3. Check competition at the door. You have a healthy competitive streak-- you wouldn’t have won WotF if you didn’t-- and it may stand you in good stead in the rest of your career. But once you’re at the workshop, no one makes a distinction between first, second or third place (and we are all jealous of the published finalists because there’s a chance they will get to come back and do the workshop again!) Really, there was so little emphasis put on where people placed, I didn’t even realize that my room mate was one of the first place winners until the awards ceremony.
4. Trust that you belong here. Most people in our group admitted that they had a moment of feeling like a fraud, worrying that their entry was a fluke that they were not really good enough to be there. Everyone feels this way, but try to trust the judges. They have read thousands of entries and they saw something of potential in yours. Tell yourself, “I am good enough, smart enough, and dog gone it, I belong at WotF.”
5. Participate in the workshops. The workshops are challenging, thorough and fun. A huge amount of info is condensed into a short amount of time. You won’t be allowed to record, so come prepared to take notes. You will hear things from guest speakers that will blow your mind. Try to ask yourself, “What is the one question only this person can answer?” and then ask them that. Be brave. Volunteer. And if you get an assignment in workshop, follow the rules. You may be tempted to “cheat” to make yourself look good, but Tim Powers is psychic and he will know. Plus, you won’t learn as much if you cheat.
6. Sleep is for wussies. Okay, we want you healthy and shiny, so sleep a little, but basically you can sleep at home. All the best conversations happen post-midnight. Suck up your tired.
7. Talk to the pros. It can be intimidating to talk to writers you admire. You may be tempted to clam up to avoid looking stupid. But these pros have graciously agreed to be a resource for you and they wouldn’t be at WotF if they didn’t want to give back, so take them up on the offer. If you love their work, tell them so, then try to shelve your inner fan-boy or girl and act like a “colleague- in -training” because that is how you will be perceived at WotF. (One of my favorite WotF moments happened after the awards ceremony. Kevin J. Anderson came over to ask me to sign a copy of the anthology. I laughed and said that I felt a little funny having a best-selling author ask for my autograph. He looked genuinely surprised. “Why?” He said, “We’re colleagues now!” You will find that all the pros involved in WotF will be generous enough to show you that kind of respect.) Ask about their process, about the business, about their favorite movies. If you are shy about chatting up professionals, still challenge yourself to sit at their table at dinner, etc. You can learn a lot just by listening to professional writers chat about writing. And when in doubt, ask about their cats!
8.Don’t gripe. I know, you think that if someone flew you to LA and put you up in a nice hotel, you wouldn’t complain, but you might be surprised. WotF is a tight schedule and you will get tired (see “sleep is for wussies”, above.) Also, there are some people who bond through griping, and there is bound to be at least one moment where you feel like you are on one of those reality TV shows. But remember, a lot of people worked very hard to put this week together and one of them is probably within earshot at any given moment. There are thousands of writers who would happily take your place. The WotF people will do their best to spoil you, but it’s your job not to act spoiled.
9. Enjoy the awards ceremony. You may feel nervous about getting an award in front of a few hundred people. That’s only natural. But think of the awards ceremony as an opportunity to express your gratitude to the folks who brought you here by acting like a professional. In dressing, err on the side of formal (Women, go for the floor-length. I mean it. And bring a clutch—it’s a long evening and you can’t be lugging around a purse, but you’re going to want something for essentials like your speech!) Keep your thank you’s under thirty seconds. Speak from the heart. Write it down in advance—you may think you can speak off the cuff, but it’s hard to do in front of a crowd at an emotional moment. Use humor if you want but don’t be flip. The ceremony is photographed and filmed so it will live on forever on line and you might as well make it good. This is your introduction to several hundred potential friends, colleagues and readers who are passionate about sci-fi and fantasy. I put some thought into what I wanted to say on stage and, as a result, several people told me that they took the time to read my story in the anthology first, while they were waiting in line to have books signed after the ceremony. Remember that many people work all year to make the awards ceremony happen and their main reward is to have it come off well, so do your best to make that happen.
10.Keep in touch. Sadly, you can’t live in a hotel in California with a bunch of other writers forever. But the memory lives on. Our group formed a yahoo group to exchange news and it has been exciting to hear about other writers sales and awards, and extremely helpful to swap info on new markets, compare response times, and link up at conferences. We have become a real support group for each other. And if I ever make it to Australia, I have several couches to crash on.
I want to leave you with two of my favorite WotF moments. One happened the last night of the conference. The spouse of one of the winners congratulated me on my success. I thanked her, but said that we contest winners were still on the bottom rung of the ladder. “To me,” she said, “It doesn’t seem like rungs on a ladder. It seems more like a question of who is in the audience and who is back stage, and you just got awarded a backstage pass.” I realized that she was right. Later that evening, my friend and fellow contest winner David was talking with one of our mentors, author and former contest winner Steven Savile. It was our last night of the workshop and we were coming back to earth fast. “How much does this really count for?” David asked, “I mean, sure, my story won but it was only one story.” Steven looked him in the eye. “It’s not just one story,” he said, “It’s your first story.”
Here’s wishing you many more stories, and a truly door-opening time at WotF!
Well i'll tell you: stuff.
A myriad of stuff that fills up your day quickly and before you know it takes over.
When I woke up this morning, I walked in and flipped on the Xbox (my first mistake, but i'd do it again the same way, you just see if i wouldn't) and learned that my all time favorite game (fallout 3 a game taking place in a retro fifities future where china and amaerica decided to drop nukes all over eachother) had just released a new download in which, i kid you not, your character is abuducted by aliens and needs to fight his way off of a giant mothership.)
So of COURSE instead of blogging i looked up all the info on this patch, while it downloaded so i could play it of course, and that was the morning.
Then I went to work. The remount of a play, Snoopy the musical if you are intersted, being staged on the Artcenter on 7 mainstage. I thought i might have a few minutes to blog something cutesy via my iphone before rehersal started (i have this whole thing on soundtracking while you write, check in next week) but of course there were set pieces missing, so i had to navigate to the other end of the building past a literal gauntlet of behemoth mini vans and angry parents dumping their children off at summer athletics.
So much for that.
Then I got home and what time was it? 8:34 ... gosh didn't my best friend's bachelor party start at 7? yup...yup it sure did.
Procrastination isn't just for term papers. All of us, aspiring creative professionals or not, procrastinate, push off, leave off or otherwise stall. Why? Why in the world do we do this? ESPECIALLY when its something that we REALLY want to do, and that leaves us feeling so complete. (I literally get crabby if i havn't written in a while and smile like a cheshire cat if i have) The answer is of course something i will get around to thinking about enough to answer eventually....
The answer is clearly not the point. The point is: here i am. Completing the goal that i set out for myself: blog on tuesday. Now it is 4:21. (I listened to a few really good songs by Bat for Lashes and took a bathroom break in the middle) and i am doing what i set out to do.
I think the moral of the bloggy story is that you, and I, and everyone will always put everything off to the latest possible moment, but as long as you have SET when that last possible moment IS, damn if it doesn't get done. For those of us who set out to do something like write a book, the schedule is all ours to make, which is why (in my opinion) so few of us ever finish. The entirety of the scheduling falls into a etheral undecided upon realm and we can keep pushing it back and stalling and hymming and hawwing all we want. But the human animal, under pressure, can really excel and get things done. (4:25 if you are counting) The trick is convincing yourself that the deadlines you set for yourself matter. (this is where a writers group, fan base, or spousy type can really help you be accountable to these arbitrary deadlines.)
So i think we can all learn this tonight...or rather this morning: We are definitely going to procrastinate... but if we are willing to make a few 4:27 finishes, boy oh boy, it might actually get done after all.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Crusie defines turning points as the "events in the action of the plot where something happens that turns the story around in a new direction, raising the stakes and creating a new, more difficult struggle for the protagonist and, in turn, for the antagonist."
Even if you don't use her structure to help build your plots or analyze the ones your working with, it's an interesting discussion of what keeps readers engaged in a story.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
So what about you? Who do you share your story ideas with? When? How much does their reaction matter?
Thursday, July 16, 2009
--Mike Read, on swimming the English Channel
Okay, haven't set foot on the dry land on the other side of my novel yet, but sometimes think I can just make out the beach in the distance...
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
(text by author unknown) taken from: boho mag, issue 4, summer 2009 p. 35
There was once a man who found a cocoon for a butterfly.
One day, a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body though the little hole.
Then, the butterfly seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther. So the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon open.
It looked as if the butterfly was finally relieved of its struggle.
But something was wrong. The butterfly emerged with a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. However, that never happened.
For the of that butterfly’s life, it was never able to fly.
What the man thought he had done in kindness was actually a disruption of what helps the butterfly spread its wings and fly. For what happens in that very difficult stage of life; the struggle, the pressure and the pain, is actually what causes the butterfly to emerge from a simple little caterpillar into a gorgeous colorful winger freedom flyer.
Sometimes we like to bypass our own struggles, yet they are exactly what we need. Problems in life are not God-sent but they are God-used. The strength and knowledge that arises in adversity is what gives us wings.
For the only way for anyone to emerge into a butterfly is not cut short our time in the cocoon. Instead, recognize it’s exactly what we need to grow those glorious wings and start to fly.
I really believe that stories are formed in the same way, they run their own course, on their own schedule. You cannot force a story if it is not ready to be born. All you can do is keep writing and trying, it will come.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
And if you're living you are learning
So write and write and keep on writing
Just make sure your life's exciting."
This is from the song "Happy Home (Keep on Writing)" from Kimya Dawson's brilliant children's album, "Alphabutt." Want to listen to the whole thing? Go to http://www.last.fm/music/Kimya+Dawson/_/Happy+Home+(Keep+On+Writing)and click on the "play" button in the black box on the right hand side. (Heather Johnson, there's a line just for you towards the end :)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
"Nothing is written, it's rewritten" (Dov S-S Simens)
The first draft of anything is just that, a first draft. Get the first draft completely written! Then worry about fine tuning the story in the second draft.....
Happy Writing!!! :-)
Sunday, June 7, 2009
--Rupert Friend, actor, in "Interview" magazine
Has a book ever saved your life or made your day? Ever hope that something you write would do that for someone else? Is that a legitimate "worth of making art"?
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
She seemingly will push me into adventures with little or no warning. For example, some of the adventures include:
• How to pet hummingbird while in flight. (This is truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen/experienced, mom can walk up to a hummingbird and pet it while is gathering nectar from flowers. She has taught me how to do it but I have yet to master it. Conversely, I am able to get dragon flies to crawl onto my hand.)
• How to make an Indigenous flute. (I made friends with a Fluteman of the Lakota Nation. My mom convinced him to come teach flute making classes with the expectation I had to come make a flute.)
• Aromatherapy. (My mother has always had a nose for smell. So, one day she decided to get certified in it. I am her test subject however in return, I’ve learned about the power of smell and aromatherapy.
The above examples bring me to the latest adventure: typing someone else’s manuscript. Ahhh! My thoughts exactly! I can barely finish my own projects let alone help some else with theirs.
Tonight, I popped in to visit Ma & Pa J, with the intention of explaining that I simply don’t have the time to devote to someone else’s work. Upon my arrival, mother J wasted no time whipping out the manuscript. I stared at the tattered blue jean colored three ring binder sitting on the dining room table. I carefully opened cover to reveal, 250 double space, wide ruled, hand written in pencil. (At this point my ice box of an over busy heart began to melt. Suddenly, I felt like I was in sixth grade, having just officially penned my first twenty-page story about a pirate ship that had run aground. )
My mother explained that the author is 93 years old, he been a beekeeper all his life. These are his stories about the keeping and tending to bees. The pages contain both memoir & science behind bee keeping. I really like it because it so different from something I would normally write. Who am I to reject someone’s story? I’ll leave that to the people in the publishing world. Intuitively, I know, there is a place of this story on a bookshelf somewhere. After all, honeybees are endangered.
I will continue to work on my projects, at the same time, helping some else achieve bring their dream to life. I can’t think of a better way to live.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A letter to anyone who needs encouragement.(the e-mail formally known as when one finds herself in the middle of an adventure, one must continue on..)
My encouragement to you is: continue to follow your bliss. You are on the path your suppose to be on. If you ever come face to face with the shadow of doubt, shoot me e-mail. I will be more than happy to set you straight.
Understand, I am not just saying this, I am moved by the compassion to help others. Free from any personal motives. I believe that every single person is born with something to create. Blocked creative expression is a derailment to one’s well being. Supporting someone else creativity is equally important. Every artist needs someone to look at or listen to or appreciate his/her creation.
Be well & travel lightly,
PS..if anyone does need encouragement, post a comment or contact me personally, I will be more than happy to help! :-)
“Can we just cut through the small talk and jump to warp speed?”
“I am super friend with benefits.”
“Interested in making magic?”
“Is your phaser set to stun?”
“I’m attracted to your gravitational pull.”
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
It's an interesting discussion on the possibilities of warp drive, teleportation, and invisibility cloaks, as well as how scientists and writers inspire each other.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Okay, I'm not a drinker myself but I still embrace the spirit of Papa H.'s quote. There's a point in this process where it's good to be "drunk," at least in the figurative sense. You have to be able to let go, to brainstorm, to write more than you need, to fall recklessly in love with your characters and follow their tangents and to lose yourself completely in the story without judging what you are creating. And then there is the literary morning after, when it's time to swallow the hair of the dog that bit you and get down to work. That's when you hold the thing at arms length and try to become as objective as possible. You try to read your own work as if it were someone else's. You bring in the tough love.
I think that, as writers, many of us are better at one side of the process than the other. Right now, I find myself rushing to the judgement part of the process on my wip when in fact there are places where I still need to be drunkenly creating. That means my "inner editor" is inhibiting me by critiquing me prematurely. So today I went back to the drawing board on some world building issues that I had never really settled. I got out a big roll of white paper and some markers and I brainstormed and made lists without any lines. I know that I'll sober up and go back to more rational writing soon, but today it was helpful to create without second-guessing.
What about you? Which part of the process comes easiest? Where are you at in your work? Stone cold sober? Three sheets to the wind?
I hope you are writing well.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Sometimes the universe sends little reminders of what were are suppose to be doing.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I hope you all are swimming rats.
As the week progessed, my private mythos (of the stories I tell myself) seeped into reality beginning with one small step on a Friday afternoon. Let me explain:
In a panic, I called a friend to give me a ride over to the Loft Literary Center to drop off a mentorship application. On my way back, I walked past a place I refer to ‘the fish bowl.’ (The dry cleaners in the bottom of the building I work in.) Nearly, everyday for the past two years (roughly), I’ve walked past, trying not to gawk at the handsome man works there. Every time I’d pass him, I would make up stories about him. Never talking the time to step out of my head and say something to him. However, on this particular Friday, this all had to change. I went in, asked if he was an “*artist or musician. “ *(I had to ask this question, it was the lead off question of all the stories I’d ever made up about him….) He replied, “both.” From that moment, I was sold, I knew I had to converse with this person. We spoke for a mere five minutes. However, the short -lived exchange ignited a long lost passion of life, art, love, storytelling and conversation. Six days later this gentleman moved to follow his dream. From this experience I’ve come to the following conclusions:
• How important it is to get out of your own head and to experience life.
• A conversation with a complete strange may inspire your next story.
• Share your art with others.
I’m happy to report that the magic is back. Thrilled that I’ve become passionate once again about my artistic endeavors and life in general. I am enjoying the evolution of myself as a writer/artist and a person in my community.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
"Plot. It builds character."
I laughed. I guess you could have a whole chicken-and-the-egg conversation about that one, huh? So, does your plot build your characters? Do your characters make your plot what it is? Both, I guess, in my case...
Hope you are plotting away today!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
TV Tropes "... is a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction... Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite". In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them."
Just a shout out to postmodernbarney where I found the link to TV Tropes.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I will refuse to be ordinary.
I will devastate mediocrity.
I will take responsibility for my actions.
I will lead the way."
So, start devastating that mediocrity, already, Death Pixies!
Hope you are writing your hearts out!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I am challenging myself to the following:
Every week, for the next year, I will write a chapter, short story, scene in stage play or screenplay or poem a week!
My year will begin April 1st, 2009 and end April 1st, 2010.
What happens if I do not follow through? Well, not accomplishing my goal is not an option. I really want to test myself and figure out who I can truly be as a writer/artist.
Friday, March 27, 2009
--Harrison, my 4 year old son
Harrison is right that he has always had stories. He has always loved to be read to AT LENGTH. We usually read aloud the name of the author and illustrator of whatever we read and often read their bios as well because I want Harry to appreciate the fact that there are real people who created his books. I want him to understand that "writer" is a real job that he could do some day if he chose. Sometimes, however, I think I've taken it a little too far. The other day I told him that we would have to return a toy we had bought because it was missing a piece. "Huh," he said, "Maybe the author didn't have time to write that piece yet." Later that day he was looking at our fish tank. "Mama, " he asked, "Who is the author of fish?"
Harry also hears Marcy and I talk a lot about "grown-up" books. I am not a sports fan, but I am a fan of Twilight. Today I told Harry that a friend of his would be playing baseball this weekend. He looked at me quizzically. "Like a vampire?" I actually had to explain to my son that humans play baseball, too!
But it could be worse. He could live in a house where TV was even more important than books. (Don't get me wrong. We watch plenty of TV, but books are still king.) Today at the kid's gym I saw a little girl his age jumping on the gym mats. Every time she got ready to launch herself she would count down, "Ten, nine, eight central time..." I laughed so hard. I guess Harry isn't the only one who says the darndest things.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
If you're looking for something to do, check out this great talk on the nature of genius and creativity by the author of "Eat, Pray, Love" given at this year's TED Conference.
Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The Programming Committee proudly invites you to sign up to be part of
WisCon 33's programming. We've gotten some fantastic programming
ideas. Now's your chance to sign-up! Help us spread the good news.
Put a link on your blog. E-mail your friends. We need panelists. We
need moderators. You can also sign up for readings and to host a
party. Just go to: http://wiscon.info/
Let me just say, I'm counting the days till WisCon.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The Shark's advice works for every stage of writing. First, voice is everything. Then, know who your character is, why she is interesting, and how that drives the story.
Friday, February 20, 2009
But maybe more important than that, I never had any real doubt that the protag in this book would do the right thing. Her task was laid out before her and she was going to accomplish it, or possibly die trying. Although our heroine was faced with a tough situation, she never really had to make tough choices. I am starting to feel that tough choices-- ones which require our hero to sacrifice or risk something precious-- are much more compelling than simple tough situations, and while I work on my wip I am trying to ask myself "Okay, when is she tempted?" because in a truly tough choice there's always the temptation to take the easy way out and those moments of temptation always grab me in a novel because they say so much about the character and what makes her tick. Just my random two cents for today :)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009
"I really believed in Harry. I think you've got to. Even if you've written a lousy book. Because writing is just a lonely slog and you have to believe in what you're doing, otherwise you live a dreadful existence."
How's that for uplifting? :) But the slog is a little less lonely when you have a good writing group. Now, get back to work on that "lousy book" :)