Tuesday, June 28, 2011

what makes you put a book down?

so that whole thing i said last week about making time/sacrifices for your writing?
yeah, i forgot to mention - i also sacrifice internet time for writing. that's just my little way of saying, between BILLY D revisions and BUTTER edits (and hopefully writing GRIM or something new), i'm probably going to be down to 1 or 2 blog posts per week throughout the summer. but i'll be around on twitter, so say hi! :)

on to today's post:

i want to know: What Makes You Put a Book Down?

i was asked that question the first (and only) time i ever attended a book club. i embarrassed myself by misunderstanding the question and said something like, "oh, you know, when i have to go to work and go to sleep and stuff..." o.o
what they meant was, of course, when do you put a book down FOREVER and decide not to finish it?

this question shocked me at the time. i was very much a "finish what you start" kind of gal, and it seemed wrong somehow to not see a book through to the end, even if you were reading it for pleasure and not enjoying it.
but that's the whole point, isn't it? pleasure? enjoyment?

i've since learned it's okay to not finish a book. or at least, i've gotten better about setting aside stories i'm not enjoying.. for now. some of the books in my "to be read" pile could easily be added to a "try try again" pile. i always tell myself i'll pick up the book again later and give it another shot. however, i rarely do this.
that's probably part of the reason i badgered my beta reader, K, to tell me any and all points in the current WIP where it could be put down - put down for now or put down forever - because we all want to write a page-turner, right?

and it got me thinking about what makes ME put down a book for good.
#1 - sloooooow pacing. maybe it's because i read so much YA these days, but i have little patience for a turtle's pace. if one page doesn't pull right into the next, i'm likely to fall asleep or get distracted and, ultimately, put the book down.
#2 - boring. not in pace, but in storyline. if it's not something new and unpredictable, or if the characters are just ordinary with ordinary things happening to them, i tend to walk away. i mean, if i want ordinary, i'll just look at my own life. why read about someone else's?
#3 - lack of plot/tension. i may love the characters, but if i'm not on the edge of my seat yearning for them to get what they want, then why would i keep reading? i have cool "characters" to hang out with in the real world. i need a story too.
***disclaimer: i may or may not personally struggle with one or all of the above issues in my own writing. (hence the badgering of my beta.)

other things that could lead to me skimming or altogether skipping the rest of a book i've started:
- unlikeable characters
- poor writing, small vocabulary
- elements or scenes i find personally disturbing (everyone's got their thing they'd rather not read about.)

and there are exceptions to my own rules, naturally. Vonnegut, Kerouac and Thompson have all sucked me straight through stories despite a lack of plot (#3), thanks to amazing writing.

so, as those book clubbers once asked me, What makes YOU put a book down?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

making the time to write

Inquisitive friend/family member/acquaintance/stranger: How do you find the time to write?
Me: You make the time.

sounds simple enough, right?
take a few minutes, sprinkle in some seconds and a big helping of hours... and voila! you've made time.

or if you're not so great at following recipes, you can do as your friend/family member/acquaintance/stranger suggested and find the time. maybe time just slipped in between your couch cushions or got pushed under the bed. really, it has to be around here somewhere...

yeah, making and finding time hasn't really worked for me either. here's why:
there are only 24 hours in a day.
there's just no getting around it. i have personally tried to squeeze an extra few minutes out of that last hour of the day, and still the clock flips to Midnight, and a new day begins.

see, when we writers tell people we "make time" to write, what we're really saying is:
we make sacrifices; we make tough choices; we make ourselves sick from lack of sleep.

if you're anything like me, you have a day job that makes it impossible for you to write for 9 hours out of the day. you also require a minimum amount of sleep. (for me this is about 6 hours a night with the occasional good solid 9-hour slumber thrown in to catch up.) it's also hard to avoid about 2 hours each day of eating, driving, attending to personal hygiene. (please do not neglect the hygiene, i beg of you.)

so we're up to what? 17 hours out of 24 gone. well that leaves a full 7 hours! surely that's plenty of time to write.
yes, by all means spend your 7 hours writing.

OR - start subtracting the time you spend:
attending your children's dance recitals and sporting events, talking on the phone to family and dear friends, paying bills, cleaning your home, running errands... those 7 hours are disappearing right before your eyes.

making/finding time to write is HARD, and you have my empathy. it's all about figuring out a schedule that works for you. maybe one day you spend your 7 free hours running errands and doing chores. another day or 2 or 3, it's all about attending to your family. but some days - some days - you will find that those 7 hours are wide open. and then you have to choose. you can spend those hours catching up with your TIVO, connecting with people on social media, playing your favorite video game, lounging by a pool, reading, working out.... the list is endless.
but at some point, you have to choose writing.
and to make this choice, you should enjoy writing as much as you enjoy all of those other things. it doesn't have to be your top priority (like family - or hygiene!), but it should be A priority.

for example, i love TV. i mean, i looooooove TV. whenever Handsome suggests we cancel cable, i get a clutch in my chest. don't take away my TV! but i am equally entertained - and a hell of a lot more fulfilled - by writing. so about 80% of the time, i will choose writing over television. that means, while i TIVO my soap opera daily, i only watch one episode a week and delete the rest. other shows have been wiped from the recording schedule altogether.
as a writer, cutting back on TV was my first step toward making time, and i've never regretted it.

i've also sacrificed having a spotlessly clean house. "picked up" and "not obviously dusty" are now good enough.
i let my roses get 5 feet tall before trimming instead of obsessively sculpting them at a perfect 3 feet every few weeks.
i found the time to write in my rose bushes and under the pile of dishes in the sink.

and still i don't write every day. heck, i don't even write every week. i take long breaks between drafts to catch up on life and recharge the creative batteries. and i don't beat myself up about it. i know i am capable of choosing to write, so i give myself permission to sometimes choose something else instead.

holy long-winded post!
all of this is to say... whatever sacrifices you are making, however you are stealing your moments, you are doing OKAY! you don't have to write as often as anyone else. you don't have to feel guilty for sometimes choosing yourself over your characters. as long as you are making some time to write, you are on a good path. some days you'll find more time, some days less, but set your own pace. and - above all - write as often as you need to to scratch that creative itch, but only as often as you can and still love it. make the time to write because you want to.

Inquisitive friend/family member/acquaintance/stranger: But how do you make the time?
Me: *sigh* Let's just say I borrowed this time turner from my friend Hermione...

Friday, June 17, 2011


things i am obsessed with this week:

Pottermore - the website that is so far only a countdown to the next "big thing" from JK Rowling and the world of Harry Potter. if it's not a book, what's bigger than a theme park? could it be the long-awaited encyclopedia of Potter - delivered in an online format instead of ink and paper? the suspense is killing me !!!

The 2nd official Trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2:

Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch... and really,the entire cast of the Hunger Games. i know there was much controversy over the picks (isn't there always?), but as far as i'm concerned, these casting directors nailed it.
click here for a slideshow of the cast - and please, do try to see past their hair color! ;)

finally, i'm obsessed with wondering - what will be the next big book? ...the one that has us lined up for a midnight release party or creating live countdowns on our blogs. is it already out there, sitting quietly on a shelf, waiting for word of mouth to spread like wildfire (a la HP), or is it about to burst onto the scene with all the marketing fanfare a publisher can possibly afford?
what is it? when is it coming? and can i get an ARC??

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

RTW: the battle of Plots vs. Pants

i haven't done YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday in awhile. i also haven't blogged about plotting vs. pantsing for awhile, so it works out well that this week's RTW prompt is:

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

i always say, proudly, i am a plotter.
but perhaps i've been lying... to myself.

loosely defined, a plotter is a writer who has an outline with clear points/events in the story planned out ahead of time. a pantser is a writer who just sits down and starts typing, letting the story travel where it may.

i always figured i fell into the first category because i do, indeed, plot story points ahead of time and usually have an ending in mind.

but i don't outline like this:

Chap. 1
- MC meets love interest
- establish MC desire for adventure
Chap. 2
- meteor slams into earth
- MC faced with choice to rescue family or new love
Chap 3
- MC chooses family but is conflicted and sets out on mission to go back for his love... (AHA! Plot!)
Chap 4
- obstacle to finding his love
Chap 5
- more obstacles, subplot, etc.....

instead, i outline like this:

chapter1 - MC meets love on beach, says line about adventure and "y'know, like armageddon" that will come back to bite him. chapter2 - meteor hits earth - fast montage of scenes: grocery store mom, dad at bank, more?, zoom in to MC with girl - where at when meteor hits? park? then what happens? chapter3?4? mid-book scene: sees girl across the street, but blocked by soldiers and can't call out or will be shot on the spot. "her eyes reach mine, but they don't lock. and in an instant i see - they are not hers. instead of warm brown, these eyes are the ice blue of the taken." note - who are the taken? establish early on? chap 4 or 5? decide.

so really? is that an outline? or is that just me pantsing in short-hand?

maybe we can come up with a category for those of us who fall somewhere in between - PLANTSERS?