Monday, July 25, 2011

Community of Writers

Hey, y'all. I'm glad I found you. See, for the longest time, I wrote all on my own. Yeah, I had a couple of college classes on creative writing. They were okay, but that was a long time ago and no one was really writing novels. Only short stories. And that's what they taught us about, as if short stories are the first step along the road to novels, which is debatable.

And yeah, there's a local writing group. They meet every other week to read and critique, and that's really good because there are vastly different people. Some write stories, some poetry, many are working on a novel or two. That group helped immensely. But the meetings were long, and at one chapter every two weeks, it's not a great way to get a novel reviewed. They helped me clean up my writing, mostly, as there were a few, ah, fearless critics in the group.

And then I started blogging. And it's fun. I enjoy it. I don't blog on a schedule, just whenever I feel like it and about whatever I feel like—which is almost always about some aspect of writing and trying to get published.

I read similar blogs, written by people like me. I've learned a lot about every aspect of the process from various blogs by writers, agents, and editors. Fantastic advice abounds on the internet—along with some not-so-great advice. C'est la vie.

What do I get from doing this? Certainly not fame or fortune. I get friends. Understanding. Support. Shared experience across continents. Many of the best things found in any community. And I get readers and critiques that are immensely valuable to me.

Cheers, friends. See ya 'round.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Everything You Know Is Wrong

Up is down, black is white, and short is long. Stole that from Weird Al. That's my song of the day. Why? Because it's probably true.

About me, I mean. Not you. Necessarily.

 It turns out that it was true last week, before I realized the following things:

No, I can't please everyone. I shouldn't even try. I mean, we've all heard that. But good writing is good writing, isn't it? (Of course this is about writing. Do I blog about anything else?) Part of me still holds to that notion, that nagging feeling that the first sentence of this paragraph is just something that crappy writers tell themselves when people don't like their books. Just look at Harry Potter! Everyone loves Harry Potter. But more and more, it's sinking in that no matter how well I write, how amazing a story teller I am, some characters and stories won't get along with some readers. Some characters and stories won't get along with most readers. Because...

Voice really is important. Just look at The Catcher in the Rye. I could hardly stand it. Didn't see much merit in it. But millions of people have read it and many of them LOVE it. Strong voice? Oh yeah. And if I were J.D.'s beta reader, I'd have wanted him to strip that voice right out of it because it bugged me. He would have ended up with a book that was palatable to me and loved by virtually no one. This leads me to believe...

I should critique with a light touch. Because who am I to play the person a writer should be trying to please! I guess if I love the book, that gives me some right to critique. Chances are I'm in its audience. Still, it makes me wonder if we rely too much on outside feedback. There was my first novel, which kind of sucked and I didn't get much feedback, and it still sucks. But then...

If I rewrite, revise, or edit too much, I'll kill my own writing. People talk about polishing, editing, revising, revising, revising and doing twenty, thirty, a million drafts and working on books for years until they're perfect, AND I don't think that works for me. Seriously, it's an art, not bricklaying. It's like I start out with a block of granite and carve a story in it. Every new pass makes it smaller and smaller, until there's nothing left of that beautiful stone I started out with. All that's left is the words. The core is gone. I know this because I've done it. Of course...

Everything I know might be wrong. The best I can do is do my best based on what I think is right today. And that's why...

I still need feedback from a lot of different people. Everyone knows what's right in a slightly different way. In the end, it's my decision what to do. It's my baby. My responsibility. And I'm not at all objective. But everyone has something helpful to say, even if they hate everything about a novel. I guess it's just a matter of feeling out what I need to learn from each reader and how, when, and where to apply it.

Maybe that's all I really need to know. I'm pretty sure it's right. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's All There

In Drivers, said drivers are recruited via the internet. I didn't go into specifics, and I didn't ever do the "research" to find out exactly how this could be done—until this morning. A few people wanted to know more about how the company found suicidal people. I didn't think it was important, and frankly, I was a little uncomfortable with searching for actual people.

As it turns out, it's easier than I thought. A Google search, a result on the first page, and there they are. Some of them want to be contacted, and for various reasons—advice of both kinds, help of both kinds.

I added a few sentences to my book to clarify this, and that's enough. Rest assured that whatever you're looking for online, it's there.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What's Going On

There are now five people who've read Drivers—besides me. I've gotten some good feedback, and version 3 is coming along well, I think. Sometimes it's hard to implement a suggestion, like adding emotional impact to the beginning of a scene. No ideas yet. If none come, I'll just leave it. With this manuscript, I'm much more wary about making major changes. Everything seems to be working so well in a broad sense.

Drivers is dark. When people started telling me this it kind of took me by surprise. It's dark? It's sad? It's really depressing? And I smile, because that's what I was going for. It doesn't seem that dark to me, though. Maybe because my eyes have adjusted to the dim light after five months.

But it ends well. I love it, anyway, and no one's complained yet—except about what does or doesn't happen to the bad guy. To be honest, I'm leaving him available for a sequel. Drivers stands alone, but it doesn't have to. There are possibilities.

There are always possibilities.

But, oh, what I'm thinking would be so cruel. Poor Ash and Zephyr.

I'm smiling, now. Am I sadistic or what?

Anyway, once I'm done with this revision, it's off to a couple more beta readers. And then another pass or two of editing. And then—I guess I'll query. Speaking of which, I keep changing the query. The latest version is on the DRIVERS tab at the top of this page. You can even leave comments, dear readers, if you wish. Oh, and the first scene is there as well.

And that's what's going on with me. What about you?

p.s. Hey, relatives-who-live-nearby, if you don't want to wait for version 3, I have a printed copy of Drivers version 2.5 you can read.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Time Travel or I Can't Believe I Did That

Have you ever wondered why time is so one-way and restrictive? Like, why am I here right now instead of yesterday before that big mistake I made or tomorrow after that horrible thing I dread?

A Brief Story:

When I was but a lad—and also a Mormon missionary—I once borrowed a television from the local church meetinghouse. Some other missionaries were coming to visit for the night, and one of them wanted to show us some videos he'd shot. As I lifted it out of the car, the cord fell down far enough to drag on the ground.

"I should pick that up so I don't trip on it," I thought. Then I thought, "Nyah, I'll just be careful." I would have had to set the TV down, and it was an old boxy one, partly made of wood, and quite heavy.

You can see what's coming can't you?

I carried the TV with the screen against my chest and my arms around the sides far enough to grab the bottom. It was pretty well balanced. When I stepped on the cord—like you knew I would—it pulled the back of the TV just enough to tip it out of my hands and onto the sidewalk right outside our apartment.

There was a crunch. And a hiss. And I watched a circle in the middle of the screen darken. I knew exactly how bad the damage was.

And in that moment, I experienced the awful linearity of time. That WHY DID I DO THAT? feeling. It would have been so easy NOT to drop the TV. I shouldn't have even been borrowing it in the first place! What business did I have TAKING a TV from the CHURCH, let alone BREAKING IT?!

I would have given anything to get a second chance at the previous three seconds.

Stuff like that still happens to me, though not usually that bad. There was the could-have-been-fatal car mishap on an icy curve. The email with some unfortunate wording. Other stuff. Like, say, blog posts.

*SIGH*

You know, the guy I had to call and tell I broke the TV was terrifying, but it wasn't so bad. When the branch got together to watch General Conference a few months later, he publicly thanked me for making it possible for them to get a brand new TV. It was humbling, as stupid mistakes always are.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Homeless

Okay, this a huge freaking deal to me, and my biggest complaint about the publishing industry:  They split my favorite kind of books between the young adult and adult sections of bookstores, and it makes them rather hard to find.

Of course, the real reason it bothers me is that I write books like the ones I love—and I have no idea where to categorize them! You know what I wish? That there was no Young Adult section of bookstores. They should just lump them all together from Junie B. Jones through Tolstoy and let us pick the ones we like from actual genres:  science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, pointless, etc.

Or, if they really feel like there needs to be an arbitrary division, they should group them by length:  short, medium, long, extra long, extra extra long, and Robert Jordan.

Oh, I know there are plenty of books that fit squarely into teenager land. They're not usually my favorites. There are some books that are sold as YA that I really, really love! And some books are sold as adult that I really, really love. Part of the problem is the name Young Adult. I'm sorry, but if your main audience is thirteen years old, that's not Young Adult. It's Teenager. Actual young adults are 18 through 25, give or take.

But then you run into the fact that EVERYONE'S DIFFERENT ANYWAY! There's no good way to classify books based on age, and I wish they'd just quit pretending there is.

So I end up dumpster diving to find a few tasty morsels among the juvenile and adult bins, and I curl up squarely in the doorway between the two to write my little stories.

And I spit watermelon seeds at the ankles of anyone who asks me which one I prefer.

(This rant sponsored by Sarah LaPolla's insightful post of today.)

Nothing.

Just nothing.

That's what I've had to say on my blog this week. I tried to write a post about metaphors, similes, analogies, symbolism, and other similar things. But finding the right analogy is like. . .it's like. . .uh. . .

On the bright side, I do know what to write in my book. That's what's important, isn't it? I spend all day writing things that I have to write. I just can't make myself do it in my free time. So I write what I want to write. And that's all I want to write.

How do people blog on a schedule?

p.s. You can tell when I'm not actively working on a draft because I blog more frequently.