Why Writing?

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Nearly everyone who has ever picked up a pencil, dreams of earning a living writing. Not writing any old thing either. We want to share a story, or our knowledge on a topic, using our own personal voice. (If it was just the action of writing, we’d all be technical writers, where a full time job is not only a reality, but in high demand.)

Why though? Is it the creative release? If it’s just creativity why not something else? Why not expressing our own unique style through painting? Sketches? Making blankets? What is so darn special about writing that everyone wants to not only do it, but do it all the time. Why do people want to write for a living?

For me, writing for a living is a possibility. I’m good enough at writing short stories that between contests and publications, I at one point scraped by on words alone. (Not under this name. Sorry. I got married!) When I moved here, I actually prefered to get a real job and start playing with novels.

I like the process of writing more than anything else. When the process is over, there is nothing more for me in the story. I forget it and move on. When I’m writing a short story, I can finish a short story in as little as two weeks. For me, the process is over too quickly. There’s nothing to pick at anymore, and it takes something from me.

Maybe I’ll make a living at novels, but for now I’m happy the way things are.

You’ve probably been asked why you write. Now I’m asking you. Why writing?

This isn’t the Matrix, and you are not that fast.

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I am a member of several writing related forums online. I love hanging out with other writers, hearing what they have to say, and helping with their work. There really isn’t too much that can make me snort my coffee through my nose, but a request sent to one of my forums did.

A writer, who shall remain anonymous, asked us as a group to help her finish editing her novel, since she’d gotten a request for material from one of the queries she’d sent out before the novel was finished. Yes. Really.

I understand the temptation. I’ve sent out stories I thought were complete, and then realized after a stream of rejections that it was the story that needed work. But to knowingly send out a story that’s half-finished? That’s playing with fire.

Maybe I’m just a really slow editor, but it takes me 4-5 days to go through a chapter at the best of times. A few chapters have taken me as long as 2 weeks. Assuming I’ve got about 20 chapters, that’s 100 days minimum from start to finish. Assume it all goes wrong and you’re looking at almost a year from start to finish, just to complete a new draft. Then I have to put it away long enough to tackle it again with fresh eyes, and make sure there are no flaws. With that in mind, I’ll be lucky to have the first query letters out for Life of a Suburban Unicorn by 2012.

Saying that, I can see why sending queries out early might be tempting, but suppose I sent a query letter out today, and got a reply back next week. Suppose it’s not a rejection. It’s a request for a partial! I send my edited work, and hey–they want a full!

Now I’ve got 10+ chapters I need to edit over night. >_> Can you imagine?

What’s your take on sending queries out early?

The odds of publication…

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Today i spent my early morning procrastination watching this youtube video, in which Lev decides to write a book. I laughed, because I understand the problem he stumbled across, but it also made me think.

Are the odds of publication really that bad? (Yeah I know, the movie has nothing to do with publication and everything to do with writer’s block, but that’s what it got me thinking on. So there!)

We all read articles about rejection, but let’s take a minute and really think this over. Out of 7 billion people on the planet, about 7 billion have a story they want to tell. That’s a lot of competition, right? Maybe. Except for the fact that 25% of them are illiterate.

Whew! Just by the fact that you’re reading this, you’ve already managed to erase over a billion people from the publication race. Not bad eh?

Bur A.M. Kuska! I hear you cry, what about the remaining 5.25 billion people who can read? Well ask yourself this. How many of those 5 billion will ever pick up a pencil? How many will complete a rough draft? How many will submit to a critique circle? How many will admit their rough draft is somewhat less than perfect and rewrite? How many people actually send their manuscript out at all? Send it again when it’s rejected?

*crickets chirp*

I thought so. Even if we say an agent receives 100,000 query letters every year, it’s probably safe to assume some of those are badly formatted. Some were poorly worded. (Sorta like “The Family” from earlier, but less cool.) I’m sure one or two were addressed to Mrs. Bob, and some are rejected because their YA novel is 300,000 words long. When you cut out all these things…the odds start looking good.

The reality is, there aren’t enough manuscripts out there with good writing, good plot, and good editing. ^^ Yay!

Seriously though, while we can’t track these things, we do know that there are very few agents closed to submissions, which means there are still gaps to be filled.

What’s Your Character’s Theme Song?

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Life of a Suburban Unicorn has a fluctuating play list, but right now if I had all the money in the world for a book trailer, A Different Kind of Pain by Cold would be my choice for theme music.

Each one of my characters has a theme song. My favorite being Genie in a Bottle for Dunya and Dirty Little Secret for Mom.

Rarely do I get struck by a character’s theme song before I invent the character. Today I had to make a new folder in my Favorites entitled, “Future Characters.”

This song here was the first to go in. Who could walk away from a character like that? O.O And what did she do to deserve someone praying like that?

The internet is a huge time waster.

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Progress on chapter eight, like every other chapter so far, has been slow. I’ve worked on it every day, and have managed to sort it out line by line just like I always do. I thought everything was going well until my husband, trying to get a virus off my computer, restored my computer back to the very beginning of chapter eight.

Yes my friends, a week worth of writing went bye-bye. I cried. Then I did something I’ve never done before. I unplugged the internet so I didn’t have to worry about viruses sneaking onto my computer while I was writing.

I rewrote the entire chapter in thirty minutes, better than it was before, and even started making headway in chapter nine without my butt ever once leaving my computer chair. I tried to use the internet four times during that thirty minute session. Knowing myself, each one of those checks would have lasted at least ten minutes had the internet been on.

It’s so tempting to avoid buckling down and just doing it. I’m not even sure why we call ourselves writers, and say we love writing, when in reality we spend so much time avoiding it.

I think I’m gonna shut the internet off again for a few minutes and see if I can get the new chapter nine outlined…

(Credit: Healingdream for photo)

Author Update

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The first third of my novel is officially FINISHED!!! I have edited and corrected and perfected all the way up to Elizabeth’s discovery of unicorns. I even managed to get just a little bit farther! The meeting of Joseph Thunderhead can finally be written! WOOOO!!!!

Now she’s still bopping back and forth on whether she believes in unicorns 100%, but that won’t come until she actually sees a single-horned beast standing before her. That’ll be about mid-book. ^^

The middle of the book consists of her stay in a unicorn boot camp, and should be fun and exciting to write. I’m hoping for smooth sailing from here on out!

Unimportant Characters Need Love Too.

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~*~Warning. ~*~ I am about to rant. ~*~ Warning.~*~ It may involve spoilers ~*~Warning.~*~

I hate it when I can tell a character is unimportant just because of how the author treats that person. I first became aware of this when critiquing a friends novel. He sent the novel chapter by chapter, and I critiqued each one individually.

By chapter four, I told him, “I know X is supposed to be the Dark Villain of Doom, but he feels like a secondary character.” 

Turns out I was right. The author knew all along Dark Villain of Doom was really a shadow figure for the real bad guy, a suspiciously well developed secondary character I’d noted in chapter one. >_> (It’s a fabulous book now that it’s polished. I’ve no doubt it will be published one day.)

Graceling, a wonderful best-selling novel, also has this problem. By the time you get to the second chapter you know the king is an unimportant secondary character, just by the fact that there is absolutely no character building scenes what so ever. The only development of the king is by Katsa’s own thoughts and dialog such as “Oh what will the KING say?” “Oh, the KING is so SCARY.”

>.<

A more complex version of this same problem is Alice in Wonderland 3D. The white queen is a completely undeveloped, flat, unsophisticated character in the world.  (Who annoys me by holding her hands level with her head in every single scene. Blah!) Watching the movie, I was totally unmotivated to help her, even though she was good. You were simply supposed to take it for granted that since she was the force of good, you naturally wanted her to win.

More confusingly, the red queen was very well developed, and the author took pains to make us understand why she did the things she did. We are then given a token “villain” development scene and a bunch of floating heads, and that’s the end of it. She’s kind toward people who are considered oddity’s. She treats her prisoners well. The only villainy is the frog scene and the obvious frequency of beheadings. (Although the only people she tries to behead are for logical, sound reasons during the movie.)

And while I’m ranting on that subject, not one single character aside from Alice grew or changed at all. Everyone else was deadlocked into the same mind set as before. -.- It was so uncomplex I wanted to cry, because the story itself could have been so good. And before you blame acting…all the actors involved are top caliber. Yes, even the white queen. In fact, I know and love her from several other movies, which is why I blame the writing.

So people, dig out your WIPs and take a good long hard look at your “unimportant” characters. Do they have their own moments to shine? Do they grow and change? What’s at stake for them? Are they supposed to be important in order to distract them from the real baddy? Please. Distract us. With a well developed character.

Okay. You can come out of that bomb shelter now. I’m done ranting.

The art of titling

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Until poor writing scared me straight, I never purchased books based on who wrote them. Sure, if I liked a book I’d read more by that author, but who wrote it wasn’t what I looked at first. I always flipped open the book and read a few pages.

Even after I became a hardened, cold reader that ran to my favorite authors without a glance at anyone else I still read the first few pages of a novel. I did this without fail up until the day I saw a title I couldn’t resist.

I confess to you, I picked the book up and bought it without so much as looking at the cover. I carried it straight home, read the whole thing cover to cover, and loved it. Even more, I loved it so much I read the entire thing out loud to my mother, who in turn loved it more and stole the book from me.

What made me pick up the book?

You probably guessed it. I saw the title, and it was such a good title I snatched it up immediately and ran to the cashier waving my money. The title was so strong, and so right, I knew it would carry over to the rest of the work. I was even right that time.

“Heroics for beginners,” by John Moore was the lucky book that day. I swear I never stopped laughing once the whole story. When I saw the title though, I didn’t know what it was. It could have been an actual book telling me how to be a hero. It could have been a history on heroic people. It could have been stupid or cliche, instead of a clever turn on stupid and cliche things. It didn’t matter. I knew I was going to love it, and I was right.

Thinking about this book makes me wonder if any of the titles I’ve come up with are that good. Dragon Psychology is well loved, and about to be included in an anthology. What else? Life of a Suburban Unicorn? Is that appealing?

I don’t know. What do you think about your titles?

Perspectives: California

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I knew I was missing my homestate when I found myself remenescing over wildfires. Fire season spans across most of the year down there, and most of us don’t blink when we hear about a fire burning 30,000 acres. Even if there are three fires each burning 30,000 spread out in a line headed toward you. (Unless of course, you are unlucky enough to live in the hills instead of somewhere safe such as a valley. Then I imagine you are running to pack your bags and hope that huge swath of naked earth surrounding your house is a big enough fire barrier.)

California has its own unique personality, which I did not notice until my (then future) husband came down to visit me. He was awed by our attitude toward cops, and also to our speed limits. (I found out much to my horror that Washington speed limits are 5-10 miles slower everywhere.)

“When we [meaning Washingtonians] see a cop with someone pulled over, we slow down. You guys just keep going. It’s like you think since he’s got one he’s too busy to get you too.”

Well it isn’t exactly like that. It’s more like, “if you’re not the fastest person and you’re not the slowest person, and you don’t have an eye catching sports car, you’re unlikely to be the one who gets the ticket.”

That being said, I am the model of good behavior here in Washington. Even though the speed limits suck, and that kid on the tricycle is passing me. He’s going to be the one with the ticket. Right? Of course right.

Something that also really stood out for me when I first moved was the street names. We use actual names, with a theme to them where I grew up in California. Here, all the streets are numbered. Instead of Christine street, Karen Street and Vanessa street in one section, we have 176th, 175th, and 174th.

>.<

My dad actually noticed the other difference between these two states, that I think defines their personalities. When he came up for my wedding this past June, he seemed very flustered as we drove around the streets. Eventually, he brought this up to my Mother-In-Law.

“I have a question for you,” he said to her, not quite making eye contact. We all stared at him, because he isn’t generally that shade of red when he talks.

“Where ever I drive here, I see all these little pink stands by the side of the road, and the women in them are almost naked. What are they–um—selling?”

We stared at him for a moment, minds frantically racing to figure out where these naked people were. I was the first to burst out laughing, cause I’d figured it out.

“Coffee stands,” I told him between gasps for air. “Those are coffee stands!”

He thought they were selling–well–never mind. Washington is defined by its coffee, as you probably know, and also by the amount of clothing on the ladies who serve it. 😛

Those are the only differences that really strike me, weather aside. Despite what Bella will tell you, by the way, the weather doesn’t actually suck. I admit to staring at the sky the first time it snowed, and my first dumbfounded thought was something along the lines of, “Dandruff!” But it does snow in California. Somewhere. Just not where I lived. It doesn’t actually rain here in Washington every day. It’s just cloudy every single day. You don’t even notice after the first couple months, promise! ^^

That’s it for now! If you’d like to share your own perspective with other writers, please drop me a line at sskid2000 AT hotmail DOT com. Thanks all!

How strong is your creative muscle?

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I have a confession to make. I don’t blog every day. I block out portions of my time to write, and when I write I often switch between writing these articles and working on my manuscript. Today and yesterday I blocked out my entire day. I did nothing but sit and write.

Yesterday I did fantastic, with 15 fantastic blog articles, and four chapters edited on my novel. I wrote, I researched, I problem solved. I went to bed feeling like a super star.

I got up today and couldn’t budge a mental muscle. 12 hours of writing time came and went. My manuscript came along, but at a painfully slow pace. I gimped out 219 words and the solution to one (minor) problem. I wrote no blog posts except for this one, and I had all the time in the world to write.

Thinking about it, the way I feel is kind of like how I feel the day after a really good workout. My mental muscles are just as tired and sore as my physical muscles are when I push them past their normal pace.

Which makes me wonder this also: Is there such a thing as writer’s block? Or is it really flabby creativity? Are we unable to come up with things to write because we’re trying to “lift” too much? How do you correct that? What would our version of a personal trainer be?

That’s my thought for today, and it has given my very sore mental muscles a strain just for trying it. I’m done for a while. My brain needs a break.

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