Saturday, January 29, 2011

lucky pug

this is NOT about writing.

also, it is probably funny ONLY to me and handsome.
and it is funny to NO ONE without the volume turned up.

hope you're having a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

pssst. i write.

when we first start writing, a lot of us keep it to ourselves. (what if people roll their eyes at me? or give me a patronizing "aw, good for you?" or worse - ask me when my book will be published??)

sometimes i worry this secretive start to writing comes from a place of shame. many writers fear that inevitable eye roll from somebody.
(not all writers, obviously. some are loud and proud about writing. others keep it private because they're simply private people!)

but i do see on forums and blogs and other such web stops - people who are quiet about writing until they actually have a book deal, because they're worried about what others will think. (yo! i was one of them! i remember smuggling my first manuscript to a friend at work and making her promise not to EVER show ANYONE.)

but why should writing be different from any other art form?
i've never been afraid to tell people i play a little guitar, because i never worried they would ask me, "oh yeah? when are you going to be a rich and famous rock star?" people just don't do that.
and it's perfectly acceptable for me to follow up my guitar-playing confession with, "and i really suck at it!" - people accept that.

but when you say you write, some folks out there will make an instant judgment call - maybe that you stink ..or that you are going to be a "big deal" ..or that writing's so easy, they'll probably write a book here someday soon too. (we've all heard that one, right?)

it doesn't seem to occur to these people that writing is something you practice, just like guitar or any other craft. it doesn't seem to occur to them that you might write just for the love of writing and not necessarily with the goal of publishing.
(fun fact: i know someone very close to me who happens to be both a talented guitarist AND a talented writer who wants neither to be published nor to be a rock star. he just enjoys being creative in his free time. hi, Dad! *waves*)

i think the secrecy is part of what feeds the huge online community of writers. we're all reaching out for people who understand the lingo, the steps, the struggles.
most everyone in my "real life" knows i write at this point, but even now - after handsome and my parents - the first people i share news and updates with are my writing/publishing friends i've met online.

so as much as i'd like to demystify writing for some of my non-author friends and fam, i'm also a little glad for the secrecy, because it's the reason i turned to the internet and found all of you.

maybe a little mystery isn't such a bad thing after all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the Lemi Shine solution

i am trying to build a website.
it is not going well.

after a marathon evening (6 hours!) of sitting in front of the computer trying to download programs and decipher code and interpret techno-talk, i threw up my hands and said something to the effect of: "i'm a writer, not a f*@$!^% website designer!"
then i had a charming little temper tantrum that involved ripping papers to tiny shreds and moving all of my newly downloaded files to a folder i titled: "Stuff I HATE!!"
this behavior may or may not have been fueled by half a bottle of red wine.

on this very same night, i discovered a solution to another problem that's been eating up my time.

for the past year, i've been noticing a slight film left behind on my dishes after they come out of the washer. recently, this problem became so bad, i had to throw out utensils and cooking equipment that had become permanently coated in a white chalky film.

handsome and i tried everything from different dishwasher rinses to scrubbing the dishes with rough sponges AFTER they'd already been washed. we turned to the internet for advice several times and finally found a suggestion to buy a product called Lemi Shine.

try to imagine this bottle with a cape and super hero music

a single load later... TA DA! - sparkling dishes with not a speck of film anywhere. it turns out that chalky stuff was from our hard water. now, instead of spending a bundle for a water softener, we simply add a little Lemi Shine to every load.

i estimate this discovery is saving me an hour of effort every week. that's more than two whole days every year. and for just a few bucks a bottle, i say it's a bargain. i'm such a fan, i'm considering Lemi Shine product placement in my next book.

it got me thinking about how valuable our time is and how much of it gets unnecessarily wasted.
so i made a decision to find an easier route to website creation.

24 hours after my temper tantrum, i remain stressed, but much less so, because i enlisted the help of a website developer to do my heavy-lifting. this is going to cost money (though not nearly what other people pay, because i'm hiring a friend and doing a simple site), and i believe it will be money well spent.

it's not exactly the "Lemi Shine" solution, but it's going to give me a lot more time to do what really matters - write!

Friday, January 14, 2011


just a quick post to say i'm super excited to be one of the Apocalypsies! (link! click it!)

it's a group of children's authors whose books will debut in 2012 (hopefully before that whole nasty apocalypse thing.)

expect my blog roll there on the right to get a lot longer this weekend as i attempt to follow all the other apocalypsies.

have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

reading with abandon

i used to read books to escape, to be entertained, to be enlightened. i used to read books with abandon.
and i still do... all except for that "with abandon" part.

ever since i got serious about writing a few years ago and dove into all the online forums and well-meaning blogs loaded with advice for writers, i've developed something of a reader's block. i can barely read a book now without putting on my critical writer's hat.
- this story starts with the MC waking up from a dream? and now she's looking in a mirror to describe what she looks like?? how did this get past the editor?!
- an entire chapter of info-dumping with no dialog? in a YA book?? how did this even get an agent?!
- why does the character "whimper" instead of just "say?" who approved all these fancy dialog tags?? and this sold for six figures?!
- stereotyped high school characters! telling instead of showing! GAH, i can't even remember what this book is about, i'm so busy critiquing it!!

i went through all of those exact thoughts with a book i just finished, in fact. i kept putting it down after a chapter or so, too irritated with the writing to notice the story.
then something happened.
Arizona suffered a tragedy last weekend - a tragedy that, as a journalist, i have to live and breathe every hour i'm at work (and they are long hours this week) - a tragedy that hit me emotionally, so i cannot turn it off when i get home. sad angry thoughts stayed with me while doing chores, while surfing the web, while running errands. i needed to escape these thoughts.

so i picked up that book with all the so-called mistakes and allegedly bad writing... and i got lost.

i let myself get completely swept away in the pure fantasy of the story. i stopped seeing the words and starting seeing only the images in my head. i forgot to analyze the book and remembered how to enjoy it.

i finished the read in a few hours and am thinking of starting the next book in the series... because now i'm a fan - and because now i know how to take off my writer's hat and just escape into a story.
i'm grateful for the lesson.

sometimes we get so caught up in the "rules" that we forget the most important rule of all: just tell a damn good story.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

the inspiration hour

this is really part two of yesterday's post.
a friend was asking me about making time to write, and he specifically asked how do i find time to write and when??

i told him my creativity is at its peak in the morning, so i make an effort to set my alarm and get up before dawn if i have to in order to write my best stuff. if i'm under a self-imposed deadline, i'll write at night too, but i have to force it. it's not my "inspiration hour."

then he revealed to me the reason why he asked. it's because his inspiration hour is at two in the morning! he wakes up from a dead sleep, filled with ideas and words and ready to write. i don't envy him, but i did tell him if that's the time he feels most creative, then that's when he should do it. (i hope i was not wrong to tell someone to sacrifice sleep, and it's totally one of those "do as i say, not as i do" things, because NO WAY would i get out of bed at two in the morning to write.)

however, if you're passionate about writing and serious about finding a schedule/pattern that works for you, why not get up whenever inspiration strikes? if it's truly miserable, your body and brain may adjust and find you a new "inspiration hour." the point isn't to devote your life to choppy unsatisfying sleep. it's to be willing to try anything to stoke the creative fires - until you find what works.

uninterrupted sleep is not something i would personally sacrifice for writing, but sleep in general - yes, definitely. my "inspiration hour" is in the morning. the more 'morning' i have the better, so if that means waking up after just 5 or 6 hours of sleep, then i'm willing to do it.

(disclaimer: if sleep is integral to your own health or sanity, then by all means, do NOT give up sleep.)

i think the bottom line is... few people really have time to write. you have to MAKE the time. and that often means making sacrifices.

what about you? when is your "inspiration hour," and what have you sacrificed for writing, if not sleep?

butt in chair... in front of the TV while surfing the web

someone asked me yesterday if i write every single day.
my answer was: "No way. No! No no no no no."
and he seemed relieved, which made me happy.

he has probably seen all over the web and heard from other writer friends the same advice i have seen and heard:
Write. Write every day.
it's the butt-in-chair method that works for so many writers to stay motivated and defy "writer's block." but BIC doesn't work for me, and i was glad to be able to tell someone else it's not the only way to write a book.

now, i did tell him, when i'm working on a book, whether writing a first draft or doing a revision, i write ALMOST every day.
i'm just not always writing a book. i'm a big believer in taking a deep breath and walking away from the laptop for awhile after finishing a manuscript. when i'm knee-deep in a story, i tend to ignore the rest of my life (chores, socializing, reading, showering). but we need to keep LIVING to stay inspired, so i take breaks from writing.

i'm on a break right now, in fact. ideas have been creeping up on me, but i either jot them down or push them aside, because i can't get too involved in a new story when my editorial letter for BUTTER is imminent. i finished my first-round revision of BILLY D just before christmas and haven't written anything new since. by the time i start revising BUTTER, that will be about a one-month break from all writing documents. sometimes the break is longer - up to 3 months. sometimes it's only a few days. but i do think it's important to take that deep breath and suck in the world around you - with no pressure or guilt. i give you all permission to step away from the laptop!

my friend and i also discussed finding time to write at all. he asked how i do it and whether there is a certain time of day that's better to write.
i had a definite answer to this question, and i'll share it in tomorrow's post!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

reading, writing and resolutions

well, hello there, 2011!

you know why 2011 is awesome for me? because as of today, when people ask me "hey, when does your book come out?" i can say, "next year!" which sounds a lot sooner than "2012." :D

so i've never been much for resolutions. they're hard to keep, and they usually end up making me feel like i failed in some way. i tend to think of the new year as more of a fresh start in general. it's a good time to look at your life and consider what you might want to change. i, for one, like to start a new year with a clean house and something healthy on the plate for dinner. (not exactly resolutions to stay on top of my chores or go on a diet, but to just be more mindful of those things.)

however, i see no harm in making some writing and reading resolutions! so here they are:


*i will read more adult books this year.
with maybe 2 exceptions, adult books got put on hold in 2010. i didn't know how behind i was on my YA reading list until i joined the blogosphere, so i had to do some catching up this past year. i still plan to read plenty of YA, but i will break it up with some good adult reads too.

*i will read outside my favorite genres.
i love me some dystopian YA, but i should really see what's so great about all the contemporary teen romances everyone's excited about right now.

*i will read more ...period.
i always thought i was a voracious reader, but when i look at other bloggers counting up their 2010 reads, i'm stunned. i don't think i can read 100 books in a year, but i can sure read a lot more than i did last year!


*i will try writing something outside of my comfort zone.
i sometimes get elaborate ideas for fantasies or post-apocalyptic stories, but i never write them past a few chapters, because i get overwhelmed or distracted. this year, i will stretch those creative muscles, even if it's just for my own reading amusement.

*i will write something without curse words...
...maybe. i'd like to try writing middle grade, and i know the biggest challenge might be removing all the F-bombs from my arsenal of words.

*i will edit edit edit! ...without sacrificing writing.
with my editorial letter for Butter incoming and my beta notes for Billy D likely to follow soon after, i know the next few months will be all about revisions. i will try very hard to find time for fresh writing in there, to keep my creative wheels spinning.

i hope 2011 is full of fabulous ideas, beautiful stories and lots of writing for all of you.
happy new year!