Getting Outside

We writers are a focused bunch. Focused and determined. I’ve had many a conversation with fellow writer friends about how consumed we can become in this whole writing thing. With blogging and working on stories and writer forums and brainstorming about new story ideas, one can easily spend as much or more time in this “world” than we do in the real one.

With the completion of Searcher, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to work on next. I think it’s safe to say that I was constantly thinking about it, batting around new ideas, tinkering with old ones. However, I kept running into a brick wall. It seemed the harder I tried to dig for a plan, the more muddled I became.

Then came this last week. I left the writing world for several days to focus instead on turkey and pie and big family game nights. I didn’t think much, if at all, about writing.

And you know what? Last night, out of the clear blue sky, with the whole writing world frankly miles away from my mind, an Idea struck me.

It’s been a good lesson for me. See, ideas should come from life. They should be inspired by our experiences and relationships. But the problem is, sometimes we writers are so focused in our world of writerly techniques and queries and researching the market and book deals and social networking with other writers that without realizing it, we’ve closed ourselves off to that life wherein the true ideas come.

So to any writer out there struggling with where to go and what to do, I would say: go live your life, and sooner than you might think that inspiration will find you.

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Photoshop Friday

I’m cheating this week and reusing an old Photoshop Friday. That said, I’m doing it for a good reason. Today I bring up my castle analogy to announce that, as of this week, I have officially approached The Wall. Don’t understand what I mean? Well, just read on and you will :

THE CASTLE

Imagine a large castle with vast grounds, surrounded by a large stone wall. Here, let me give you a visual:
That shining castle of beauty and joy and laughter and magnificence is called is called PUBLICATION CASTLE. Ah yes, we all know it well. To enter those hallowed walls is to know success. But how does one get there?

As you can see from the picture, in order to even approach Publication Castle, one must first pass through THE WALL. (Imagine Gustov Holt’s Mars playing right now. Open a tab and listen to it on YouTube if you aren’t familiar with the tune. It really works so perfectly in this section.)

What is that wall, you ask? Oh, but don’t we all know? When I mentioned that wall, didn’t a part of you deep inside weep in horror? Yes. THE WALL. Otherwise known as Querying.

When I think of querying, I see people, thousands and thousands of people, throwing themselves against the outer wall, clamoring, stampeding over each other, desperate for that narrow chance to get inside.
Look at them. Can’t you hear the sounds of their desperation? (P.S. If you think I sound condescending, just remember that this is where I am right now.)All they can do is gaze up at the top of the wall and hope that someone will throw down a rope. And who is that someone?*No offense intended to all you glorious agents out there. I really do love you. More than you know. (Call me.)

But, say one of those guards does throw you a rope and pull you out of the teeming masses outside the wall, the battle still isn’t over. Publication Castle is still a shining, glorious structure in the distance. And you are still on the outside looking in. But, you are closer than ever. A glance around the COURTYARD OF THE AGENTED reveals nervous smiles, impatient fidgeting, and semi-smug mingling. Everyone is happy to be inside, but no one wants to stay there forever. All eyes are on the Castle.

And then one day, it happens. A servant from in the inner court strolls out and magnanimously points to you. You’ve been chosen. You will enter PUBLICATION CASTLE. Oh the joy! The rapture! You have no idea what sumptuous delights await you within those glittering walls, but you are more than ready to find out. After everything you’ve been through to get here, anything sounds good. And hey, who knows, you may just end up at the cool kid’s table.

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On Courage

Writing is a tough business. It takes determination, skill, endurance, and, as I’ve learned these past few months, courage.

There are several types of courage that we need as writers. The courage to write what’s in our hearts. The courage to submit our work. The courage to face criticism. Today, I want to focus on a kind of courage that I think is under-appreciated by us writers. It’s the courage to get things right.

I think too often we approach edits and revisions with grim stoicism. This is something that has to be done. You are a lazy/amateurish if you don’t get it done. You make this thing perfect, and don’t you dare flinch about it.

As I’ve learned in these past months, however, that actually takes a lot of courage to say that. To say, I’m going to give this story one hundred percent. And it’s not just about facing the amount of work. I’m talking about the courage to say, I’m going to give this my all no matter what.

Let’s face it, when you look at the odds, rejection is inevitable. Even if you make that novel as perfect as you possibly can, it still may never see publication. And when you think of it that way, it’s so easy to say, why would I put all this work into something that might fail?

That’s the courage I’m talking about. The courage to be willing to put your blood, sweat, and tears into something knowing that you may not succeed in the way you hope. To push yourself to the very limit with no guarantee of reward.

It’s that kind of courage that I have had to build in myself again and again over the past fourteen months. And I’ve seen it so many times in my writer friends. It’s something we should celebrate! In my mind, writers are some of the bravest people around. And I’m truly proud to know you all.

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Photoshop Friday

Heard of the book, The Little Engine that Could? How about the spin off, The Little Book that Could? I’ve got a new one for you. This one is all about my novel/perma-WiP, Searcher. I call it:

The Little Book that Couldn’t Shut Up

Nearly 15 months ago, when I first started working on this story, I was quite charmed with its determination to be the best it could be. All day, all night, I could hear its cheery chug:

Edits began in early spring, and I was pleased to hear the continual motto:

I started to get burned out in the end of summer. I even contemplated shelving the book forever. But always ringing in my ear was the call:

I recently decided that I was honestly done. That I’d reached my limit of what I was willing to do for this particular novel. I was desperate to move on. I’ve begged, pleaded, cried, but again and again it’s been pounded into my brain, keeping me up at night, chained to the laptop all day. The cruel words:

*Author’s Note: You may have noticed that this particular Photoshop Friday was annoyingly repetitive and lacking variety. Welcome to my life. :)

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But . . . he’s so HOT!

I’ve been reading a certain YA novel (which shall remain unnamed,) and there’s much I enjoy about it, but one thing is driving me crazy. Early on in the story, the main character falls madly in love with the requisite Bad Boy, and the only reason I can see is that he is so dangerously hot. It’s really bugging me. I keep asking, “Wait, why do you like him?”

This is a somewhat disturbing trend you see in YA these days: main girl goes ga-ga for the kind of jerky, but oh so gorgeous hottie. I suppose they think it’s “realistic” but I think it’s actually selling teenagers short. Are there shallow girls out there who only like the hot guy? Of course. But is that how all teenage girls are? No way! In fact, I would venture that the kind of girls who are avid readers are the intelligent, well-rounded types that look for more in a guy than a six pack and big biceps.

Ladies, what attracted you to guys when you were a teenager?

I know for me, it was NOT only looks. Did a gorgeous pair of brown eyes make me melt and think I might be in love? Sure. I can admit that. But was that the sole reason why I liked a guy? Uh-NO!

I was attracted to talent. Intelligence. Humor. A guy who was genuine and not stuck up. Where are these qualities in our YA male love interests??? They are there, but falling sadly by the wayside. I want to see these kind of guys overpower the Gorgeous Bad Boy. I want to see our female protagonists develop feelings for the guy who will treat them with respect and like them for their personalities as well. Isn’t that SO much more helpful to learning how to develop real, mature love?

I say, down with the hot Bad Boy! Who’s with me?!

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Photoshop Friday

I love reality shows. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Especially the reality competition shows. I guess I relate to people fiercely striving to live their dreams. Anyway, today I was envisioning the next big hit. I call it:

America’s Next Bestseller

It starts with eager writers all over the country gathering to New York City to try their luck.

The first round will test the young writer’s abilities to think on their feet. They will each have to write a piece of flash fiction on a secret topic, which will be revealed, Iron Chef style by The Chairman. (Dramatic music and flashing lights included.)

After the first cuts, and many tears, the remaining contestants are given a larger assignment of editing their novels. This will test their endurance and stamina. They have 24 hours to make things perfect.

But don’t worry, they’ll have someone there to give them pointers and encouragement.

After the editing round, the selected finalists will face the big moment. The Readings. In front of a live audience, and the American public on TV, the writers will read excerpts from their manuscripts. These will be judged by a panel of editors and agents.

And in the end, after grueling week upon grueling week, a single writer is crowned the Next Bestseller!!

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Nan-oh NO she didn’t!

I’ve been reading all these posts on NaNoWriMo lately and feeling very jealous. I find myself waxing nostalgic on the joys of writing that first draft. There’s really nothing like it. It’s raw creativity mode. Anything goes. Just go with your ideas and let them soar.

It occurred to me that it’s been seven (almost eight?) months since I’ve been actually producing new material. That’s seven months of all editing, only editing, all the time. I must admit, I grow weary of it. I think one of the things that makes it so tough is the lack of positive feedback. That first time through is all about “Go! go! go! This rocks! Keep going!” From yourself. From your Alpha readers.

Editing is the opposite. And it’s hard to stay in that “this sucks, gotta fix it, now wait . . . now fix again, because this still sucks, now wait . . . now fix again” mode for so long.

So what are some ways you beat the editing fatigue? Or are you all happily frolicking in NaNo land and don’t know what I’m talking about? *sighs* That’s what I thought.

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