Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love to write, but hate the words

“I love to write, it’s the words I can’t stand.”

Ok so that quote isn’t a direct quote. My sister mentioned it- or something very similar to it- when she came back from a Neil Simon play. That one of the characters had said it and it made her think of me.

LOL- how appropriate!

I think that absolutely speaks to my writing state of mind. Especially my recent state of mind. I have to admit that I love to have written. It’s like going to the gym, I don’t like going but I like having went.

Writing is the same- sort of. Part of me loves to actually write, digging out words, placing them just so, making them funny and shiny. But only when the writing is going well. When it’s not going well, that’s another thing completely!

As of late I’ve been fighting to beat my steampunkish novel into submission. I have a deadline of Sept 30th for a challenge from my local RWA writing group and it ain’t looking pretty about me hitting the deadline.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve shown to myself that I can write like a mad woman when the need arises (two years of successful NaNo’s taught me that ;)). But I’m just having a problem with this book! It could be that some deep dark part of my psyche really is looking longingly at my other WIP and just wants to dive back in to it (two books this close to the end are NOT a good idea folks). Or it could be that I’m writing complete drivel and the entire book is crap (ahhh the mind of a writer- self doubt anyone?).

But the thing is, I’m at the "liking having written, not actually writing" stage. When I read back a few days worth of work I have to admit, it’s not a bad rough draft. Then I charge forward into a pile of sticky, messy words and they just slow me down again.

What about any of you? Do the words sometimes annoy you?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Talk like a pirate day!

ARRRRGGGGHHH! It's Talk like a pirate day mateys- I took the test and here's what I be!

You are The Quartermaster
You, me hearty, are a man or woman of action! And what action it is! Gruesome, awful, delightful action. You mete out punishment to friend and foe alike – well, mostly to foe, because your burning inner rage isn’t likely to draw you a whole lot of the former. Still, though you may be what today is called “high maintenance” and in the past was called “bat-shit crazy,” the crew likes to have you around
because in a pinch your maniacal combat prowess may be the only thing that saves them from Jack Ketch. When not in a pinch, the rest of the crew will goad you into berserker mode because it’s just kind of fun to watch. So you provide a double service – doling out discipline AND entertainment.

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

Oh and you can find pirate names many places- this one says I'm Plankwalking Patty McKracken - sure and I'll be runnin' ya through if ya laugh!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Do you trust yourself?

The other night I was watching one of my guilty pleasures, the TV show Eureka. There was a scene where the lead character, acting upon knowledge sent to him by a future him from the past (don’t ask) is charging his truck towards what looks to him like an open gorge. The entire time he’s muttering, “I trust me.” “I trust me.” However, when he gets to the edge he yells, “I don’t trust me!” However, even as he yelled it, he kept going and thusly saved the day.

That got me to thinking, how many times as writers do we not trust ourselves? Self doubt is sadly a major component of what we do. It’s not like in graduate school where you wrote a paper then received a grade and a detailed list of what worked and what didn’t. Here you write and write, never really knowing if you’re good enough. The reasons for rejection are huge, unlimited, and may have nothing to do with your ability. Unless you get a revision letter you will never really know. Sometimes it feels we are screaming into a dark abyss and the only answer back is our own echo.

So what do we do? Do we scream, “I trust me!” and barrel forth into what looks like a certain death? Or do we let the lack of trust in our own skills and thought processes make us hover on the edge?

Now while barreling forward does sound more heroic, it could be argued that nothing will be lost by hovering. Less risk after all.

Here’s why writers have to trust themselves. Lack of trust can destroy the writing. We’ve all seen it, the story where the same point is brought up time and again. Where within three pages the same concepts have been stated and restated numerous times. Those are signs of a writer hovering on the edge. They worry that the reader may not get it. They don’t trust in their own writing enough to take that leap that their craft is strong enough to carry the reader safely to the other side.
Self doubt can affect the writer in other ways as well. If the writer has too many self doubts, they may constantly search for validation. To the point of getting too much feedback on their work and changing it each time. Now don’t get me wrong, I love feedback. There have been many times when someone reading my work has caught things I was too close to see. Or suggested a better way to put something. But for the writer with not enough trust in themselves, this can be devastating to the work.

I read a blog not too long ago where the author said how her agent hated the first three chapters. The ones that had been in contests, crit groups, and polished until they gleamed. All rubbish. The author didn’t trust herself enough to not re-work those chapters after each contact with another person. It turned out fine for her; the agent loved the rest of the book. But the point is that lack of trust could have been fatal for that book.

So the next time you find yourself doubting your skills- find a way to charge forward instead. Find ways to improve your craft through books, conferences, workshops. Don’t give into the mindset of dwelling on a concept or idea repeatedly. Do it once, do it well, and move on.

Be willing to charge your truck into the abyss, you might just save the day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Commas…vagrants of the punctuation world

Today’s blog is all about those little miscreants of mayhem and injustice- commas.

Sure, they look innocent, sitting there slightly curled as if to give a sense of comforting friendliness. “Come here,” they seem to say. “Pause a bit before the long trek of words before you.”

They don’t let you see them for what they really are.

Vagrants. Hooligans. Tramps.

Now, to be fair, in the history of the English language, commas were not always troublemakers. While lacking the solid respectability of the noble period, they still had their own set of fairly stable rules. People knew where to put a comma, and it was the same no matter what you were writing. Punctuation was the same regardless of it being a term paper, newspaper article, or the latest fiction book.
Alas, those days have changed. Below is the definition of a vagrant. I would argue that the comma has finally shown its true colors as one.

a person who wanders about idly and has no permanent home or employment; vagabond; tramp.
Law . an idle person without visible means of support, as a tramp or beggar.
a person who wanders from place to place; wanderer; rover.
wandering idly without a permanent home or employment; living in vagabondage: vagrant beggars.
of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a vagrant: the vagrant life.
wandering or roaming from place to place; nomadic.
(of plants) straggling in growth.
not fixed or settled, esp. in course; moving hither and thither: a vagrant leaf blown by the wind.

The important image here is “not fixed”. These little bits of ink, now have free range to move about hither and thither, landing where they will on the page, left only to the rules of the author. Justification can be made (and often is) by authors for using these marks where they will and how they will. “The rules have changed,” they cry as they find another comma has snuck off somewhere new and unique. “They don’t have to follow the same rules for fiction.” The beleaguered novelist whimpers as they defend the placing of yet another troublemaker.

However, these authors think the placement was their choice. I would argue we have all been put under the sway of punctuation with minds of its own. They want us to think we’ve changed our rules, that commas don’t have to follow them as stringently anymore. How do we know this hasn’t been some masterful stroke by the Comma Liberation Army? A chance for punctuation to run amuck everywhere?

I think we should all be concerned about the increasing vagrancy of commas, who knows what punctuation will next make a bid for freedom?