Read More Books!

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Months after its release, I finally watched Ender’s Game. Now I know why I read. A lot. Movies often disappoint.

I read Ender’s Game when it first hit the shelves in 1985. Yes, I was alive and literate in 1985. And I loved it―the concept, the character development, the twists. I loved it so much, I shared it with everyone. That’s probably why I avoided watching the movie for so long. I knew I would have expectations. I did. And the movie failed me.

If you watched the movie and thought meh, I would have to agree. The movie lacked all the things I loved about the book. No spoilers with this review, but if you watched the movie before you read the book, your innocence is lost. There’s no going back to that first magical time when the story hits that ah-ha moment. You can try―and I hope you do if only to see how well Card weaved his original story―but the best part of any story is the journey and you already know where this story ends. If you haven’t watched the movie yet or read the book, I’ve reached you in time! Read the book first… and then skip the movie. Unless you want to spend long hours with a friend deconstructing in excruciating detail where the movie went wrong. That’s the fun we get up to around here, but it doesn’t always appeal to others.

Moral of this post? Read the books first! Okay, I know it’s shameless self-promotion from someone in the writing business, but really, the film industry relies on good storylines. Those come from writers. And they generally make film adaptations from books that sell well. Most books that sell well are worth reading for some reason, if only to participate in the water cooler conversations. I know. I know. There are some very notable and obvious exceptions to that rule, but if the book already sucks, you’ll be light years ahead of the general movie viewing population. You’ll already know the movie will be a train wreck. Money saved (for more books)!

Divergent comes out soon. READ THE BOOK FIRST! I’m telling you, your imagination will love the workout.

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Be Prepared

Prepared

I prepare for emergencies. It must be that early Girl Scout training. FEMA advises that everyone should have a disaster plan. So, what plans should a writer formulate over and above the usual FEMA stuff?

1. Plan for your risks. Review history and determine what could happen in your area. What things have I considered? Fire, flood, theft, equipment malfunction, my own error. I’ve even wondered what would happen if my offsite, online storage service suddenly vanished. Your risks may vary. Only you can evaluate each scenario.

2. Create backups. If you have only one copy of your work, you are courting disaster. Always keep in mind that multiple backups are only good if they are placed where one local disaster can’t wipe out them all. For instance, three miles separate my office from my house. If a tornado rips through my part of the Midwest, as they are wont to do, keeping a copy of my manuscript at my home and office may not be sufficient. Again, consider your risks and plan accordingly.

3. Keep it real. Can’t afford to mirror all of your electronic information in multiple locations around the globe? Can’t afford a Swiss lock box to store a printed copy of your manuscript? Don’t worry, neither can I. And if the disaster is big enough that it takes down the entire internet, then I’m probably not worrying about my book. I’m more concerned with my water supply. So weigh your risks with a fair dose of practicality. Is it possible that I may mistakenly delete the latest copy of my work in progress? All too possible, so I keep multiple copies on various hard drives and flash drives, taking precautions to keep the information secure. Reasonable. Convenient. Inexpensive. Is it possible that a meteor wipes out the US electrical grid and my novel with it? Yes, but I’m not giving it a high probability, and I’ve made zero planning for that contingency. Practical. If it happens and I still care about the novel, I’ll cobble up some electrical recovery scheme in true MacGyver fashion.

If you are interested in general preparedness, there are all kinds of sites out there with advice. Just be reasonable in your preparations and keep them up-to-date. When your hard drive dies—and it will—you will chuckle when you whip out your flash drive and reinstall your work in progress.

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Writing in Layers

Girl_with_a_Pearl_Earring

So what have I been up to since my last post? Reading, writing, working. The usual.

The largely finished novel is receiving a final polish. There are two novels “in transition.” They have shape and text, but are nowhere near done. And then there is the new baby WIP—my current darling. Like all babies, it’s receiving all of my attention right now.

I don’t know about you, but I read when I write. It keeps me fresh and hones my skills. Problem is, I have so much going on, and I hate to waste my time with a book that’s just meh.

When I was taking suggestions for my next read, my amazing crit partner, Ms. Bean, suggested that I try Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Coming from the girl who rightly steered me toward Anna and the French Kiss and Unwind, I launched into this wonderfully written historical fiction.

I once attended a lecture by Kurt Vonnegut where he drew a graph representing most writing. It had the peaks and valleys of a wild rollercoaster ride that ended with the final hill shooting off into the sky. While we laughed, he pointed out how this in no way represented real life. That graph stuck with me.

All these years later, it’s as if Tracy Chevalier was sitting next to me on that day, learning what real life looks like. Girl with a Pearl Earring did not have the extreme dramatics of the usual conflict driven stories I read. Sure, there were peaks and valleys to this tension-filled story, but in much more realistic terms; more like the rippling hills of the Amish countryside than the ski slopes of Vail. It gave the whole novel plausibility.

There was much to love about this book. The imagery was written with a painter’s eye, rich and vibrant in every aspect—from grinding the paints to adding and removing backgrounds. As you read, the paintings and the novel grow, layer by layer. That’s when Ms. Chevalier taught me something about my own writing.

I’m a Vermeer. I write in layers. An object catches my eye, and I know there is a story in that image. I collect objects that may go into the novel—or not. I paint a background and then add on details, layer by layer, meticulously erasing something if it just doesn’t fit. After time and lots and lots of revisions, I add the pearl that brings focus to the work, that one thing that brings together the face and the headdress.

Another great call Ms. Bean! Now, what’s your next recommendation?

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A Lesson from Gibran

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Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream. Khalil Gibran

This morning, I had a dream moments before the pesky alarm was to ring. It was a wonderful, amazing dream, encapsulating every wish currently whirring around my brain. Before I could savor the illusion, my rational mind kicked in, turning this fantasy into a lucid dream. Even though I knew it was only a dream, it left me with questions. What if it was a true vision? What would I do if my dream became reality?

Don’t worry, I’m making a list.

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Tool Magic

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Have I mentioned I’m a tool junkie? Chain saw, power washer, detail sander. You name it. I’m a girl who’s not afraid to get her manicured nails dirty. These past few weeks, I put my gadgets to good use sprucing up my house and removing trees that decided to fall during a strong summer storm. What does all this have to do with writing? Good question.

Sometimes, I have to walk away from my Work In Progress to gain perspective. Garden, work on the house, cut up wood, read a book. Clear out the junk clogging up my garage and mind. This year, it took a dumpster and a donation truck, but there’s so much room now. And I have fresh eyes and a brush-clearing mindset for tackling the WIP. Time for more pruning.

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Today’s Inspiration

Fear

Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.

Cypher Raige in After Earth

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Quote for the Day

bleeding book

Novels aren’t just happy escapes; they are slivers of people’s souls, nailed to the pages, dripping ink from veins of wood pulp.

–Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz and the Evil Librarian

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#PitMad

Pitch Madness

Last week, I frittered away a lovely Friday afternoon deep in the throes of the #pitmad twitter party. If you’re a writer and don’t know about this action-packed, hair-raising event, read up. This is a golden opportunity to see if your COMPLETED manuscript can catch an agent’s eye.

A potential request for pages isn’t the only reason to participate in these events. Read the twitter feed. Read the pitches that got nibbles. I’ll wait because there were tons! There are some amazing ideas out there. And some amazing writers, many of whom are willing to mentor. Need a crit partner? Hint, hint… hang out with other writers. And here’s a hashtag full of them.

Check out these blogs for future events:

http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com
www.downunderwonderings.blogspot.com
http://shelleywatters.blogspot.com
http://www.fizzygrrl.com

And when you read these links, you’re going to find yourself slipping into that rabbit hole of information you’ve been searching for your whole writing life.

Polish those pitches, mark your calendars, and good luck all!

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Hey Soul Sister

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Mid-October, my blog writing winked out. That’s when my dearest friend returned to the hospital, her once-stable blood count a barely detectible blip on the usual charts. She was holed up in the Long Branch hospital as Hurricane Sandy pounded the eastern seaboard. Eventually, they sent her home, the diagnosis not good. For a few weeks, she was allowed to run free—apparently just long enough to put some affairs in order. In December, the news broke that her cancer, held at bay for 11 years, had returned. With her usual optimism, we planned a trip to Paris. But in January, she returned to the hospital and never left—at least not until her soul sprang from her body with a joyful howl on February 5. Now she dances among the stars.

Facing each day without my soul sister has been excruciating. She was my first crit partner and my constant muse. Not a day began without me saying “good morning sunshine” and not a night would end without a “good night dear” from her. I confess, I still occasionally message her, hoping that by sending the charged particles through the aether, she will still hear them.

If mysterious edits suddenly appear as I’m working, I’ll know there really are ghosts in the machine. I’m listening through keyholes, Winter. Feel free to keep right on guiding me. Oh, and save me a place in the nebula with a seat next to you. I’ll bring the widget.

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Inspiration

Horsehead Nebula

A few weeks back, a beta reader was going through my latest novel and asked, “Where did you come up with your story idea?”

I wanted to tell her I woke up one morning and, voila, I had a terrifically unique idea and the rest wrote itself. Ha! Like writing is ever that easy. In truth, I was searching for a story idea because my hands were itching to write. So I started asking myself “what if” questions, plotting things out, doing research, gathering notes and possible scenes, putting things together, taking them apart, coming up with new ideas and, voila, TWO YEARS LATER, I had a terrifically unique story.

Where do writers go for inspiration? Everywhere. Old books, new books, the Good Book, book covers. The guy on the street, the girl in class, the dearly departed. Our daydreams. Our nightmares. Anything can and does inspire us. For some, an idea just manifests out of thin air. Those folks are lucky. The rest of us have to work.

There’s this quote over my desk just to remind me: I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning. ~Peter De Vries

It’s 9:30… better get busy.

 

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