Archive for the ‘novels’ Tag

Readers make Writers   Leave a comment

Paul Bunyan and his cradle.

Paul Bunyan and his cradle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

The first piece of advice I give any aspiring writer is to read. A lot. Every day. Read a variety of things, fiction, nonfiction, books, magazines, blogs, whatever you can get a hand on, for at least an hour a day.

 

Why? Because even if the writing isn’t very good, you can learn something from it and become inspired in your own writing. If the sentence structure is poor, if there are misspelt words, if the plot is lacking, you’ll probably sit there and say, “I can do better than that!” Hold on to that thought, and once the hour is done, go for it! Write on the same topic, make it better, make it yours.

 

When the writing is good, take notes. Ask questions of the piece. What makes you enjoy the writing? Try to mimic these techniques. Don’t plagiarize the content. Ever.  Play around with the style and themes, try to build on them and make them your own.

 

And, finally, it’s good to research and read on topics you’d love to write about. This is just as important in fiction and poetry as it is in nonfiction. For example, I never know when I’ll stumble across a new unique word that I can use as a poetry title. I’m currently reading Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s new novel, The Long Earth. In it, one of the characters uses the word tracklements, which are the accompanying foodstuffs used on or around the main course. It’s a fantastic word, and I wrote it down immediately on my vocabulary list.

 

I’m also reading up on the folklore of Michigan and the surrounding areas, especially the tall tales relating to Paul Bunyan. I have an idea of a story deconstructing Paul Bunyan’s myth in light of modern issues such as deforestation and global warming. I’m always looking for folktales I’ve never heard of before, or to learn something new about the ones I thought I knew, both for my own enjoyment and to use as springboards for new short stories.

 

What about you? What are you reading, and how does what you read affect what you write? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Another Day, Another 1000 Words   2 comments

Mr Zombie

Image via Wikipedia

My love affair with zombies continues, everything else is going to have to wait until I figure out where this story is going. When I started it, it was a cute little flash, but then I kept adding more. I still don’t have an ending in mind, I’d always assumed, since there’s a horror element in there, that someone was going to have to die, or get chopped up into itty bitty pieces. Now I’m thinking, maybe they just get through the divorce and go their separate ways.  Both seem feasible right now, but I’m still just enjoying the ride.

Last night I added 1000 words or so, expanding my writing time from 45 minutes to a little over an hour. It was tough to get started, and since it was at the end of the day, I forwent the timer and just watched the clock. It was fun, I introduced hints that there were problems in the marriage even before Max became a zombie, I explored the details of how he became a zombie. I added more zombies.

Thinking about endings, even if you’re not there yet, it can help to brainstorm all the different ways a story could go. You don’t have to commit to just one, but having an idea can help determine which way you’re going to go.  Try brainstorming all the different ways your characters can meet the end of their stories the next time you get stumped. Keep the list handy.

Time Out For NaNoWriMo   Leave a comment

sculpture: a dead man's hand

Day two of timing with the timer, and it worked again. Passed the thousand word mark on the zombie story, still not sure where it’s going to stop, but it’s still a pleasure to write. Putting poetry and Cain on the back burner for now seems to have been the best idea.

Writing is therapy, more than anything. I write because it makes me feel good, like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m hoping that come December 1st, I can keep this momentum going. Writing 45 minutes a day, you never get burnt out. It never becomes a drag.

Of course, what do I know, this is only day two of timed writing?

Good things that came from today’s writing, besides the thousand plus words:

The two main characters now have names, Jane and Max

Max has a job

Zombies prefer to be called the bodily impaired

Whatever you’re writing, or putting off writing today, think about the occupations of your characters. Have you given them one yet? Perhaps it’s something about their jobs, their coworkers, how they got there, that will give you the angle to open your stories up further, get you excited about writing again.

A Sheepish, Triumphant Return to NaNoWriMo   Leave a comment

An old timer

Image by * hiro008 via Flickr

So, I’ve been bad the past week. No writing got done. Zip. Zero. Recovering from the GREs last weekend took longer than I thought, a brain dump of mass proportions. Reading good books helps, but then all my free time is caught up reading, no time left for doing my own writing. One night I was up until 2 am reading Emma Donoghue‘s newest novel, Room, (which, btw, was fantastic!). Read Sara Gruen‘s Ape House, then Water for Elephants. A little sheepish I hadn’t read Elephants back in ’06, when everyone was reading it.Mucking my way through Franzen’s Freedom.

Anyway, what I eventually had to do today to get writing is put myself in time out. I set the timer for 30 minutes, and then told myself I couldn’t do anything but write during those 30 minutes. Of course, about 15 minutes into it, my daughter woke up from her nap with a poop. So I had to get her cleaned up and back to sleep, then added another 15 minutes. I didn’t get a lot of writing done, but I did get another decent page or so for the zombie divorce story. I’m really liking these characters a lot, thinking they may stick around longer than a short story, which is exciting. I didn’t get a poem written, and I didn’t even open up the Cain files, but I’m also writing in a way that doesn’t feel forced, it’s almost a freewrite exercise, but with purpose behind it. It’s a good feeling.

It’s funny, I do NaPoWriMo every year in April, and every year, I don’t have any problem sitting down and writing a poem a day. Perhaps it’s the time of year, more face time with the sun. I think it may also be, with NaPo, there’s a focus and a freedom that’s missing in NaNo. You’re starting fresh each day, you aren’t going back and working on something you stalled on the day before. You’re also not trying to maybe divide yourself between projects.

Whatever the cause for success or failure, I’m going to put myself in timeout again tomorrow. At least thirty minutes, nothing but writing. If you’re having trouble starting, keeping to a schedule, try the timer. It worked for me, and I live with five kids.

 

Girls With Insurance   1 comment

Cigarette

Image by Pensiero via Flickr

http://frsh.in/60

I have worked with a number of great editors in my writing career, bu Dawn Corrigan over at GWI is one of my favorites. She saw great potential in my flash, “Breaking it Down”, but was not afraid to point out its flaws and make suggestions that made the piece even better without bruising the fragile writer‘s ego.

She was also perceptive enough to recognize that not everything in this story is fiction, and asked if I would rather have it published as non fiction. My answer was no, because then the neighbor in Breaking it Down was still my neighbor in real life, and while I seriously doubted she’d be reading the story, there was always the slim possibility that a visitor to my home might shout out to her “hey, you’re the neighbor with the fat shoulders!” if they saw her sitting out on her stoop, paperback in one hand, smoke in the other.

If the story had been published today, I might very well publish it as non fiction. There are fictitious elements to it, yes, but I’ve moved on, both physically and emotionally, from that time in my life,  and am more secure in who I am that I am willing to admit the darker sides of my life, to truly own my life, and not care as much who sees it. Rereading this story after so many months has made me realize how much I’ve changed since then. I get a little thrill of joy rereading it, not just because it’s well written, but because it’s therapeutic to look back, and appreciate what you had then, and have now.

So today, nonfiction. Put real people in your stories, without disguising them, without fear of hurt feelings or recriminations. Let your stories speak freely.