Friday, May 28, 2010

Do you post your work online?

This weekend could NOT come any sooner if it showed up yesterday. Which it didn't, but I will forgive it only because it's bringing an extra day with it as an apology prize. I plan to sleep, read, catch up on Deadwood (we don't need to discuss how long I've had the DVDs from Netflix), and of course, write. And maybe scour the interwebs for clips of Ian Somerhalder (I'd post a picture of him but it would make the internet explode, I promise).

SO, onto my real purpose (not to be confused with a porpoise, although just as cute) for bringing you here today. A question! Who doesn't love answering a question? So my question for you today (in case you're a bit hung over and didn't see the title of this post): do you post your work online?

I've thought about this a lot lately, especially because I am drawing in on the end of my first draft of the current WIP and will be looking for beta readers soon. All writers crave that feedback, and while some online postings (like Roni's beta club critiques) give good solid feedback, I've noticed that a lot of the comments when writers post their work are mainly positive. As in, no bad, all good.

I'm not going to call out names or anything (because that would be positively wretched, and while I have a black soul, it's not that black), but I've read some bad excerpts. Poor grammar, incorrect word choice, awkward sentence structuring, immature characters, you name it I've seen it. I've read some good ones, too, but you wouldn't know the difference based on the feedback people receive. Now I recognize how particularly subjective writing is, and maybe these commenters truly feel the way they say about the excerpt, but I have a feeling it's more that they're looking to give positive reinforcement no matter their actual opinion.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it's great to see a community of people spread out all over the world coming together in a shared experience and supporting each other. It's great to witness that support, and to spread it around ourselves and feel its happy buoying effect.

On the other hand, it reminds me a lot of American Idol. These contestants who come on in the first round who are TUUUUURRIBLE and get all uppity when they're told so. Like, "Well my mom and my friends say I'm gifted and you just don't know what you're missing out on." And their mom and their friends probably do tell them how talented they are. It's not true, but hey, they're just being supportive. I can't help feeling like they're being set up to fail because they'll never recognize their own shortcomings.

So I've chosen not to post my own work online. I know, I can hear the sound of all of your hearts breaking now, but I don't want to open that door. Not yet, anyway.

What about you?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The end of Doctor Who, a temporary reprieve, and a much-needed reminder

All things that live must die, so the universe has decreed. And never has a show brought that home to me more than Doctor Who. I just finished Season Four last night (via Netflix Instant), and while I'm waiting for the last special featuring David Tennant to come in via DVD (why is it not on instant, WHY?!?), I'll have some time to ponder. There are some shows/movies/books/stories that stay with you for a long time, that subtly shift your interaction with the world around you, that change the way you feel your feelings. Some people may look at the show as a purposefully cheesy throwback to the sci-fi shows of the 60's and 70's (where it originated), but I appreciate it for the genius storytelling of Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat. Of course, calling these men writing geniuses is like calling DaVinci a good painter; it really doesn't do them justice. The life and struggles of the Doctor have crawled into my mind and eaten away at what I thought I knew about accomplishing goals and telling a compelling story.

Why am I sharing this (aside from the obvious urge to gush)? Because watching the show has done two things for me as a writer:
1) Showed me what really really really really (insert to your heart's content) good storytelling can do
2) Urged me to leave a legacy worth remembering

So when this post came around, I was ready.You should really go read it - it's well-written and inspiring, and more than a little butt-kicking - but in essence it says: stop wasting your time with stuff that doesn't matter and focus on writing a good book. Mixon's post has to do with social networking, but I extrapolate it to my whole life. Sometimes I get so caught in the nitty-gritty of a day that I fail to step back and look at the big picture: why am I doing this? What's the point? Yes, I know that being hit over the head with the idea of mortality (one of the main themes of Doctor Who: he's constantly losing human companions) makes me a little shaky about doing something HUGE and LASTING with my life RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND, but that takes time. Time that I'm depriving myself of when I watch TV or read too many blogs or whatever else it is that I do that wastes so much of my damn time.

And on a non-sequitur, I got my first real feedback from a beta reader on my current WIP yesterday. It was only the first 25K words, but I was still terrified that she would come back and say "I read the side of the cereal box to avoid reading your manuscript" and that I would get dejected and give up and live in a spiral of despair for the rest of my life. But she actually liked it, and the feedback that she did have was so constructive I couldn't even feel bad about it. Sometimes the axe doesn't fall as hard as we're expecting, and I don't mind a little nick here or there if it saves my head.

P.S. Sierra Godfrey is talking about living in literary worlds over at her blog today, and for the record I would totally live in the world of Doctor Who, but only if I could be the companion that actually stayed around for longer than two seasons. I'm too important for that, people.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Uh...let's mitigate some expectations here

I have a tendency to let my resolve get the best of me. I get all panicky and sweaty about something and then I make a resolution to start on the righteous path of said failed something. Such resolutions usually start "tomorrow." I don't think I'm alone in this approach, but what usually happens is that I get impatient and overload myself and then burn out a week later.

Above description may or may not be what happened to my writing resolution.

The lovely Lola made a very good point in the comments section of my last blog post: if you're a full time non-writing worker (that would be me), 1,000 words a day is a reasonable goal. If I didn't believe that before, it's been made clear to me now. I've done well with my writing goals to a certain extent, but keeping up 2,000 words a day was making my skin itch (not literally, that would be indicative of an entirely different problem). It was also forcing me further along in my story each time than I anticipated, which brought me to a stopping point when I tried to figure out how to move forward or transition into the next scene. However, with word counts on the table I didn't think I could afford to stop and ponder, which lead to crappy transitions and filler dialogue.

All of this explanation leads to one simple point: I'm adjusting my goal. 1,000 words a day is much more reasonable for me, and won't put me that much farther off my end goal of finishing the damn thing all together (don't bother me if I've used the wrong all together/altogether. I never did learn that right). I know I can accomplish 1K easily and regularly (much like Metamucil), and if I happen to go over that in a certain day because the fire takes me, well that just brings my end goal that much closer.

So I hope to hop back into the world o' blogs a little more this week as I reset my expectations. Also, I might actually have time to work out now, which is good for everyone (TRUST me).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In which I am a wee bit shamed

Last week I posted about word counts, and the comments really surprised me. Mainly because I was like "look, Ma, I did a cartwheel!" and you guys were like "look, I did a backflip into a somersault and ended with a triple lutz without ice skates."

To which I say: woah. Your word counts were off the charts! They shamed my word count output into the dunce corner. The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous my behavior seemed. Here was I, saying that I wanted to make this my profession, and I would let entire days go by without doing any work. Nothing. No new words, no revising of old words, nothing. 50K words had taken me 2+ months and I still didn't know when I was going to make it to 80K words (my target word count for the current WIP).

Was I discouraged? Oh, sure. Did I use that discouragement to set some goals/rules for myself? Oh you know it. So I'm keeping myself honest to you lot.

Goal: Finish current WIP at ~80K words by the end of May
Current word count: 52K as of last night
Pace: 2K words a day until May 31st

You guys are my witnesses to this word count. So far I've slacked off over the weekend and made up for it by writing a whopping 4K words yesterday (go me), but I plan to be a little more consistent about it from now on. Of course this means I won't always have time to post, which bums me out, but I've got lots of good ideas for posts and will be writing them when I can.

If you could wave a pom pom for me, I would really appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's your word count Wednesday

There should be a question mark somewhere in this post title, but I couldn't figure out where to put it without looking awkward. Such is life.

I've been playing with numbers lately, childrens; always a bad idea for my brain, but I can't help myself. See, I'm not a patient person, never have been. I am definitely of the "me" generation, and as soon as I have a thought that I want something, I want it right that very second. Which makes buying books on Amazon hard because I have to wait like three to seven days and I just caaaaaaaaaaan't doooooooooooo iiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttt OHMUGAH it takes so long.

So writing, as you can imagine, is a somewhat masochistic endeavor for me. I mean, 2,000 words? I got that down. 5,000 words? Well, you're pushing it, but I could paint you a pretty word picture. 70,000 words? 80,000 words? I know you must be trippin' with those kinds of figures. Let's see if I can do some simple math here:

80,000 words total/2,000 words per day = 40 days
80,000 words total/1,000 words per day = 80 days
80,000 words total/500 words per day - 30 words that I wrote and rewrote seven times = 160ish days
80,000 words total/2,000 words one day followed by two days of sleeping followed by another 500 words one day followed by some cider-induced introspection followed by 1,000 words that will probably get cut later = ???

I've seen the 500/1,000 word a day goals posted on some blogs around the internets, but we'd all be laughing if we thought I'd actually stick to a daily goal. And even though I try to write a little something every day (doesn't always happen), I'm still only at 45,000 words and that seems like it's taken FOR-BLOODY-EVER. In all fairness to me this is manuscript #3, so I know I can do it, but why is it taking so long? Maybe I should be outsourcing this thing, Grisham-style. I work to be patient, I do gentle readers, but it is HARD and does not involve CHOCOLATE OF ANY KIND. A great injustice that should swiftly be remedied.

So my question to you, authorly friends: how do you keep yourself going? Do you set word count goals for yourself? Do you lock the basement door and shove cotton wads into your internet port? Do you steal a few minutes while standing in your towel fresh out of the shower? How DO you DO it?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tell the truth Tuesday

The truth is probably a bad idea, but I can't resist delving into my twisted brain sometimes.

1) Writing and alcohol don't mix. Oh sure, those words seem brilliant right now, but much like your idea for a pajama jumpsuit for pandas that you scribbled on a piece of paper in the middle of the night, they'll only shame you in the morning.

2) I talk about alcohol way more than I consume it (see #1 above) but sometimes I fear that if I don't use alcohol as an explanation people will detective out that it's really just me being a weirdo (although #1 is still true, trust me).

3) The freedom of choice that adulthood brings has made me lazy in my diet and my personal hygiene. I secretly look forward to being a parent to force myself back on a schedule.

4) I saw 30 minutes of The Vampire Diaries the other night while I was waiting for a show to come on and actually liked it. But then I read the book synopses and episode synopses and got really confused and decided it was enough to just look at pictures of Rob Lowe Ian Somerhalder.

5) I got distracted for the last 30 minutes reading about tv show finales. Damn internet.

What's your truth today?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Turns out, writing gives free reign to the crazy in me

Writing has changed me, gentle readers. More specifically, blogging has changed me. How do I know this? Because I just wrote an email to my mom that contained the phrases "ohhhh, hygiene burn" and "I'll use the time to think of possibly the most epic mother's day present ever contrived." Was epic part of my vocabulary before the blogosphere? Maybe. Was it such an integral part of my daily speech? Most definitely not.

I've always come off better on paper. I have more time to organize my thoughts and pull together the exact right cocktail of words to impart the true meaning and extent of my words. But writing and blogging have tightened up my natural verbosity (somewhat), and they've taught me how to create a distinct character in my writing. Not to say I'm actually a robot who is emulating human emotions in an attempt to better understand the human experience and build toward my eventual world domination (JEM is nothing like HAL, we promise. I mean, I promise...). But a public persona is like the party version of you: you're looking to impress and be on your best behavior. Your words are your accessories; in the right pair of heels and earrings you can take on the world. That's a lot of pressure to be something acceptable.

But now, childrens, now I can be the me I've always wanted to be. What was that weird thought you had that you kept to yourself because you didn't want to seem strange, JEM? Eh, Lila wrote a blog post about boobs, you're cool. What, you want to wax enthusiastic about The Hunger Games ONE MORE TIME YOU PROMISE IT'S JUST ONCE MORE YOU JUST NEED IT THIS ONCE? Oh, well, Sarah has orRyanGosling as an assistant. Go ahead and talk about your Post-it Note wall, Elana has a desk full of them. Indulge that penchant for the all caps key, Le R and T.H. Mafi are way ahead of you.

In short, my friends of the writerly persuasion, thanks for empowering the crazy in me. Or: it's all your fault. Your choice.

Just let me catch my breath for a second

Oh mu...can I...I can't believe...WOAHS.

Frankie. Diane. Mills. I'm a newish follower to the blog but her name echoes around the hinterwebs.

Now I know why.

Frankie is holding what amounts to, in my world, the most EPIC CONTEST OF ALL TIME. If you've looked at almost any post on this blog you'll see my shameless love and devotion for all things Hunger Games, and somehow Frankie has ferreted this out and held a contest for signed copies of the first two books AND a pre-order of Mockingjay. I know what you're thinking, childrens; you've got signed copies of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire and you want to give them away?!?! Let me know if you've ever got possession of the Hope Diamond, please.

Oh, but don't worry, childrens, I intend to capitalize on her misplaced generosity. So do me a favor: go sign up for the contest and tell her JEM sent you. If it makes you feel better, my dying grandmother's last wish was for me to have signed copies of these books (sorry for sullying your memory, Grandma).

Friday, May 7, 2010

The greatest piece of television EVER WRITTEN

Stop what you're doing and go watch this right now.

I don't care if you're sick in the hospital. I don't care if your kid is late for school. I don't care if you're on your way to the church to get married. I don't care if you're lazy and don't understand hyperlinks. I don't care if you've never seen or heard of this show before and you think you won't understand the context.

If you write, if you watch television, if you like things that are brilliant and funny and will make you possibly question what you've ever done with your life to deserve such genius, you will watch.



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writers: lovers of the word or menaces to society?

I remarked to the P-i-C on our nightly walk/casing of joints that I wished one of my characters in my current WIP were real so that I could be friends with her.

"Is that nerdy?" I asked.
"A little nerdy. But you made her up, so isn't that kind of like hanging out with yourself?"
Cue me making big eyes. "Ohhhhh, do you think I have a split personality? Or multiple personalities? Maybe all writers have multiple personalities. If you really think about it, we're all psychopaths."

My logic is sound, so don't try to refute it. But seriously, gentle readers, are we psychotic sleeper cells waiting to be activated by a bad book review? I mean, think of some of the big bads in literature; those came from writerly types, gentle readers! Writerly types! Hannibal Lecter, Voldemort, the bully from that Captain Underpants series (bane of our existence!) - all concocted by seemingly ordinary citizens like you and me. We've envisioned wars, murders, rapes and pillages, and perhaps most horrifyingly of all, TEEN PREGNANCIES. We're monsters, my friends, monsters of the word!

Do we need to be locked away for our own safety, with only a scrap of chalk and a blackboard as our writing utensils because pens and pencils are too sharp? Will this be like that scene in Identity where you find out that all the people are just figments of some serial killer's imagination? ARE WE NUTCASES, GENTLE READERS?

Has this post been written by my paranoid and delusional alter ego? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I really just used this sentence

"The egregious breaches of grammar protocol make reading fun!"

Genre wars

To be honest, sometimes writing feels a little like high school, minus the bad fashion and angsty poetry. Well, maybe not the first one. Talk to me again in 10 years. But I've noticed around the internets that a lot of writers define themselves by the genres they write. I think we're all aware of the preponderance of YA writers who blog, but I see it amongst the romance writers, middle grade writers, sci-fi and fantasy, and even mainstream adult fiction. We've all chosen our cliques.

Let me be clear about one thing before I proceed: I have no problem with this. If you feel like you only want to write one genre and you're all "once a Kappa Kappa, always a Kappa Kappa" then I'm totally cool with that. Some writers are truly only interested in one genre, whatever that genre may be. Believe me, I've read Summerland by Michael Chabon; some writers are better off in certain genres than others (for reals, though, I liked it despite its flaws. I even wrote a song inspired by the title DON'T JUDGE). Me? I couldn't write sci-fi to save my life. Too much learning and technology for my celebrity-engorged brain.

But for me, I like a lot of genres. I'd like to write in a lot of genres. The current WIP is a YA, but I have several ideas in the pipeline for fantasy, mainstream fiction, downstream fiction, upstream fiction, downwind get the point. So when someone asks me, "what genre do you write in?" I tend to want to answer "whichever one my brain suggests." I'll be the first to admit that I tend to segment people. If someone is a singer, they can't be an actor. If someone is a writer, they can't be a dancer. You choose one thing and that's the thing you do.

But the real truth is, most people are good at a lot of different things. Innovation comes from versatility, and from putting together disparate ideas to form new ways of thinking. When we confine ourselves to one space - or are confined by others - we get tunnel vision. We get people who say no instead of yes, people who don't consider moving out of their genre because that's not what you do, people who block innovation because they're afraid of what the change will bring.

Woah, I went all political on you there, didn't I? My bad. Have a panda!

My point is, we shouldn't hold ourselves to genres if we don't want to. Most of my favorite books cross several genres, and deal with subject matters that aren't typically addressed in said genre (like this lady or this guy). So go forth and innovate! If you want.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Drinking is a numbers game

Number of secret lair warming parties held this weekend: 1
Number of beers procured for said party: 72
Number of beers unexpectedly brought by party attendees/sidekicks/nemeses/arch-nemeses: 68
Number of beers left in secret lair refrigerator: 70
Number of beers consumed at said party:70
Number of hangovers that have lasted until Monday morning despite copious amounts of water, coffee, and bargaining with mother nature: 1

Peoples, I'm not even including the wine count. This is how my brain feels today.