Sunday, January 27, 2013

When Writing Doesn't Work

So, I’m stuck. It’s not even February, and I’m still trying to gain traction with my goals, writing and otherwise. It’s like trying to drive in freezing rain: you turn the wheel, but your car won’t follow. Your brakes take too long to respond. Or worse, you get stuck in the snow/ice/slush and no matter how much you accelerate, you only manage to dig deeper.

When I’m stuck, writing is my go-to method of de-stressing. But it doesn’t work all the time. So I have some back-up methods. Even though the rut I’m in right now can’t be solved by a visit to the gym or an hour with a glue gun, it helps. Every little bit helps.

I can be a crafty person. Recently, I did this:

Now above my TV.
There is something about making something with your hands. I say this as I type words on my laptop. Technically, I’m making something with my hands, but making something solid is different, somehow. Using paint or colored pencils is different than writing words on a page, for me. So, sometimes when the words won’t come, I craft. Or create. Or interior design.

I have to admit, winter is a bad time for me and exercise. We tend to take a break when the weather drops below 50 degrees. But there are ways that I still “exercise” without actually having to *cringe* run outdoors (or something similarly ridiculous). These include: walking through the mall (as long as I don’t swipe a card, I’m good), throwing myself into work (books are heavy) and cleaning (vacuuming is sweaty). It doesn’t fill me with endorphins like a strenuous work-out, but it does the trick.

Come on, you know you want to disappear into a fantasy world, full of wizards, mermaids or fairies and whatever evil they are trying to evict. A good book will clear my mind of current woes and let me escape, albeit temporary. Even as I write this, I can’t wait to dive back into my current read, letting the white walls of my apartment fall away and the decorated, dangerous ones of Days of Blood and Starlight rise around me.

Television and movies are a distraction. I have my fair share of indulgences and guilty pleasures when it comes to TV and DVDs, but I also look to them as a source of inspiration, on occasion. It is a form of art, and sometimes the imagery of a movie is beyond moving. Words spoken can make you cry. Moments of intrigue and conflict can force you to the edge of your seat. Plus, it’s another way to disengage and relax.
Hope everyone is having a cozy, cocoa-filled winter!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Writers Worth Admiring

Reading YA writers’ blogs makes me feel like, in the tiniest, most infinitesimal way, I know them. I already adore so many for their work and their blogs give me even more reason to sing their praises. Over the past months, I’ve discovered some awesome posts written by some awesome authors that make them even more—you guessed it—awesome.

   In this long but entirely worth it post, Maureen addresses the increasingly prevalent thought that teenage boys are starving for something to read that wasn’t written by women. It’s true that more YA books are penned by women than men, but Maureen dives into history and her own experience to share this sentiment:

“For several millennia, women read the works of men. Millenia... Every once in a while we see a burst of staggering genius in the person of, say, an Emily Dickinson. Or maybe a Jane Austen, who covered up her work as she wrote. Then we see a huge break in the early 20th century, a flux of brilliant women.”

Maureen and I are just two more women who grew up reading the works of men. We both turned out okay. Therefore, is there any harm in boys reading books written by women? Personally, I think they can handle it. They can read John Green and Scott Westerfeld, but also Cassandra Clare and even Judy Blume. They may enjoy it. They may even learn something!
Maureen sums it up nicely: “…as a lover of books and someone who supports readers and writers of both sexes, I object to the idea that there is a crisis in terms of boy books. And maybe we should do boys the favor we girls received—a reading diet featuring books by and about the opposite sex. Clearly, it must work.”

   This giveaway has since closed, but when I saw the post, I was in awe. Beth Revis spent many months collecting signed books from events that she attended. In early 2012, she made a resolution to only do events with other authors, and at those events, she would buy books by her fellow authors and have them signed. Then she offered the whole library, almost fifty books, to a fan. The books were series and stand-alones; they were ones by well-known YA writers and by debut authors. Beth took time, spent money (don’t forget about the shipping cost!) and really made an effort. The sight of that luscious giveaway surely sent hundreds of fans into squeals and screams.

   This is a short post, but it is one of honesty and self-awareness. Veronica explains that she closed her blog comments and Tumblr ask box for her own well-being. Not because she doesn’t like hearing from fans (as she still asks fans to e-mail her if they'd like) but because she needs to concentrate on writing and overcome anxiety issues. I fully support this effort, as I admire an author that can look in the mirror and say: “This, I can’t handle,” for whatever reason. She’s doing what is best for her and she’s honest to her followers and fans about it. I wish her the best, especially since I’m so excited and on-edge for the third book in the Divergent series (coming this fall)!

   When writers share their craft, it is an amazing thing. Recently, I was browsing Laini’s blog and came upon this gem of a post, which outlines how to write a novel in twenty steps. It’s fun and quirky yet still full of real ideas and inspiration for an eager writer such as myself. Daydreaming and brainstorming are required, and figuring out a writing routine will help. Plus, Laini is fully aware that steps 6-8 and 10-12 (WRITE) are the most difficult: 

"Yes, I know it's steps 6-8 and 10-12 that are the hard part, but the thing is, there's really nothing else for it but to just do it, even if it's hard and even if you're sure it's horrible as you're doing it. This is a place where reading how-to books can't really help you, so don't take a break from steps 6-8 and 10-12 to read Bird by Bird AGAIN and drink wine. It's like with weight loss: whatever advertising might tell you to get you to buy a product, there's really only one thing that works -- healthy eating and exercise. With writing a book it's -- sitting down and writing."

Right now, I’m somewhere around Step 11 with my WIP, but I can’t wait for Step 19, where I get to pour champagne over my head.

   Nova has one of the best blogs that I’ve discovered for an aspiring writer and YA lover. Distraction 99 is a great writer’s resource as well as a glimpse into Nova’s writing life. Her Turning Points series is an exploration of author’s writing lives and the turning points that made them who they are. Authors like Claire Legrand, Beth Revis (see above), Andrea Cremer, Gayle Forman and dozens more answer this question:  What was your turning point as a writer? The posts are inspiring and aspiring. They are bold, truthful and a great resource for all writers who are struggling toward their turning point. Nova Ren Suma’s other blog series include: Writer-on-Writer Interviews, YA Debuts, ‘What Scares You?’ and ‘What Inspires You?’ which are all worth a read as well.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Experience of Imperfect Travel

When I write, I draw inspiration from experience and dream. Some of my paramount experiences have taken place while traveling. There is majesty in walking a city where cathedrals were built before this country was founded. There is mystique in knowing that the people you’re walking past most likely wouldn’t understand you if you speak. There is a certain freedom that comes with getting lost somewhere foreign.

Getting lost in Ghent

Not to discount domestic travel, but I’ve rarely felt out of place within America. I can blend in while hiking in Utah or lying on a Floridian beach or striding down the streets of NYC. I am at home in the US and even though accents may differ, the language does not. There is a feeling of safety for me, there is a known set of values and a relative understanding of the law. Abroad, however, these things can be fleeting. Values can differ. Language is rarely a common factor. Abroad, I know I don’t belong, which is when things get interesting.  

               “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” ― Paul Theroux

Walking along Omaha Beach
I speak of my travels with longing, but the truth is that they were not always enchanting at the time. I’ve run my hands through the sand at Omaha Beach. But to get there I rode in a bus with three dozen other twenty-somethings and slept in a hostel four people to a room. I’ve been to the top of a Swiss Alp, but on an overcast day, where the clouds engulfed us and the view was just fog, thousands of feet up. There were days I missed important trams and trains. There was overpriced food, and days of drenching rain. There were tears, uncertainty and the empty feeling that one can only know when thousands of miles from home.

Disappearing into the clouds in the Alps

That’s where experience comes from, the flawed days where you almost get stuck in an unknown Dutch city after dark. The days where you wake tired because the drunk Australians came back to the hostel at 2AM then snored until the sun came up. Or the day on the Brussels tram when British ex-pats make fun of your homestay mother because they thought you couldn’t understand them.  

Beautiful day in Antwerp
That’s where words come from, the experiences that are imperfect. The ones that were a trial at the time, but are now an amusing anecdote or appealing short story. Because the essence of a story doesn’t come from a pristine day hiking outside Dublin, but in the days of pouring rain and near failure. The imperfect days abroad helped shape me and my writing.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Resolving to Write

It’s nearly a week into 2013 and I’ve barely written anything. I haven’t worked on revising my NaNoWriMo story nor have I expanded the short story idea that overtook me on Christmas Eve. I’ve become distracted by life again, and my writing has fallen by the wayside. If I had made a New Year’s resolution, I would have already failed.
But I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I think they’re rash, flimsy things that are usually lost by the first sight of Valentine chocolates. I prefer to make goals instead. I know the terms aren’t very different in meaning. However, I contemplate my goals for a while before I set them. I’ve been thinking about my 2013 goals since Christmas, and I am still contemplating as I write this post, nearly a week into 2013.

Should I resolve to… WRITE DAILY?
     (I’ll fail within a week.)

Should I resolve to… WRITE MORE?
     (Better but it needs to be more concrete. And how many words defines more?)

Should I resolve to… WRITE 5000 WORDS A WEEK?
     (Isn’t what I’m writing more important than how much?)



I’m starting small and simple. I would like to get something published, even if it’s just a short story. I have two finished short stories and I’m working on another. Once I finish that one, I will have three solid short stories to submit. Hopefully I can get one published by summer.
Also, my NaNo story has been in the back of my mind since November 30. I worked on it on and off in early December. But the holidays are so bright and shiny; I got distracted. So, I resolve to dive into edits and have a first full draft ready for beta readers, also by summer.
That gives me just over six months. I think I’ll be happy if I accomplish just one of these goals. I’ll be downright ecstatic if I can manage to succeed at both.
Now, I’ll post these in my apartment so they stare at me every day.

Some Helpful Posts on Writing Goals/Resolutions and the New Year: