Tuesday, June 29, 2010

i done been tagged!

dawn, one of my favorite bloggers of all time, has tagged me with "seven things i love about being a writer".

here goes:

1) it makes me feel like i'm a very productive person!
whether i've written a hundred words, or twenty pages, i walk away from my computer feeling like i've accomplished something.

2) i get to be in charge.
ok, ok, usually my characters dictate what needs to be written, but for the most part i'm in control. there are no orders or directives from other people and no one looking over my shoulder and telling me how i should write what i want to write.

3) i get to do lots of time wasting web-searching, so long as i call it research.
i'm one of those people who always has 3 or more tabs on my internet browser, which i switch back and forth from continually. sometimes i'll only manage half a sentence before i'm compelled to check out the awkward family photos site. i'm not ADD by any means, though you'd bet money i was by my behaviour in front of the computer screen.

4) i've met some amazing people on my journey to be published.
if i wasn't a writer, i would not be reading 70% of the blogs i follow. and i would not have had the extreme pleasure to become friends with some of these bloggers.

5) it helps mi be less "me-centric".
alright, motherhood has done this more than anything, BUT having crit partners and beta readers forces me to look at someone else's perspective and opinions. it gets me out of my own head (as fabulous a hangout it is) and allows me to look at my work more objectively.

6) it makes my morning cuppa taste better!
i've been a tea drinker for most my life because i absolutely love the stuff. but nothing has made my first cup of the day taste better than sitting in front of my computer reading over what i'd written the day before.

7) it...completes me
believe it or not, for years i fought the writing bug. for a very personal reason, i never wanted to live under that label. but i finally succumbed because i had to. it's who i am, and what i do, and it feels incredibly wonderful to live it.

thanks again, dawn, for tagging me!
and everyone reading - consider yourself tagged!

Friday, June 25, 2010

a source of f(r)iction

i do a lot of research when i write my novels.
a lot.

if i say a certain band was on the cover of a certain magazine in june of 1992 - well, they were.
if i write about a small wine bar within walking distance of the spanish steps - well, it's there.
if i have a wiccan coven use dandelion leaf in a protection spell - well, it's because they do.

do i do this because i fear a reader might be fact checking me?
no - because i'm sure readers have plenty more important things to do than googling to see if i did my homework. i do it because i believe it brings credibility and authenticity to my manuscripts.
"but, don't you write fiction?" you might ask.
yes. yes i do.
but i don't write fantasy (well, ok, there was this one time a few years ago but i haven't tried it since - i swear!).

now, i'm not saying all writers should or have to do this. and not all readers care about authenticity.
but this one does and it drives me up a wall when things just don't add up, or when they are completely false. luckily most the authors i read are very good about their facts, or making it seem like their fiction is factual.

but occasionally i will read a passage that will include something so glaringly untrue that it pulls me right out of the story. often it is just a few words or a short sentence - a phrase so inconsequential that my reaction might seem disproportionate. but even if i'm the screwy one without the ability to ignore these "truth smudges", i can't help but think less of the author. ESPECIALLY when these untruths have no real bearing on the plot and could have easily been corrected by just doing a simple internet search.

in my book (har har) that's just laziness.
and insulting to those who spend their money and time reading the words you put to paper.

Friday, June 18, 2010

book review - will grayson will grayson by john green and david levithan

my two cent(ence)s - well-paced, engaging story with some very memorable characters. definitely lived up to the hype!

i decided to read will grayson will grayson for two reasons:
1) i assumed it was a novel written in alternating first person pov, and
2) EVERYONE was gushing about how great a novel it is

well, my assumption was correct. like nick and norah's infinite playlist and grand & humble, this novel has alternating first person pov chapters. i was really interested to see how well it worked in this book since my wip is also an alternating first person narrative.
let me tell you that will grayson will grayson did not disappoint!

the book is written from the point of view of will grayson - both of them. i like how the authors not only gave each will grayson a distinct voice, but chose different text styles so you knew exactly which will grayson you were following at any given time.

i have to say, as a character i liked the first will grayson better, but as far as storylines go i was hooked with the second will grayson's chapters. i'm not going to reveal much about the plot because i would hate to ruin the book for anyone who's interested in reading it, but i have to say that at the halfway point of the novel i was totally sold!

each will grayson arcs beautifully, and although i thought some elements of the ending were "too convenient" and a bit contrived, it did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the book. i highly recommend it, and am quite pleased to say that it really did live up to all the hype it's generated.

Monday, June 14, 2010

over-thinking every little thing

i had fully intended to write my review on will grayson will grayson today, as well as finish revising my opening chapters, but i got seriously sidetracked by this song:

some of you might have read my post explaining how upset i am my favorite group will be disbanding after december 5th.

this song is their last single and written especially for their fans. it world premiered last night and i've listened to it on a continuous loop.
of course, any of you who know me probably already figured i was reduced to tears upon first hearing their last ever song.
and i was.

one of the reasons i've always loved a-ha is because of the stories their lyrics tell. being a writer, i'm often moved by songs that take me on a journey and are filled with emotion. usually, the words (i've always preferred the french word paroles) speak to me the first time i hear a song, but this time it took me several listens to decipher the meaning.

Butterfly, butterfly
Flying into the wind
You can be sure of it
That's no place to begin

Over-thinking every little thing
Acknowledge the bell you can't un-ring

Tomorrow you don't have to say what you're thinking
You don't have to mean what you say

Butterfly, Butterfly
Flutter in to the skies
Butterfly, Butterfly
Their molecular cries

Chrysalis dreams waiting on the fifth instar
These stained glass wings could only take you so far

Tomorrow you don't have to say that it matters
You don't have to turn something in
Stay with it through thick and thin
Butterfly, begin

Tomorrow you don't have to mean what you say
Left without a reason to stay
Comes the last hurrah
Here's our last hurrah

Butterfly, butterfly
You can be sure of it

i've heard several interpretations of these lyrics. some people think the butterfly is supposed to represent a-ha. others think the song is about the fans.
personally, i think there's a mix of both.

for instance, the acknowledge the bell you can't un-ring seems to be directed at people like me. the ones who don't want to think of them ending their career.

but these lyrics seem to be clearly written from the band's point of view:

Tomorrow you don't have to say what you're thinking
You don't have to mean what you say

Tomorrow you don't have to say that it matters
You don't have to turn something in
Stay with it through thick and thin
Butterfly, begin

Tomorrow you don't have to mean what you say
Left without a reason to stay

as much as i want to believe their 25 year career has been nothing but the best of times for them, these words show there was limited freedom in being known worldwide as a-ha. that after december 5th they'll no longer have to say "the right things" or constantly be pressured to deliver a new album. they won't have to be chained to their identity as a norwegian trio.
to me, it seems obvious a-ha is the butterfly. that they have spent the last 25 years going through a metamorphosis, and in december they can begin the next phase of their lives.

but, as all great songwriters do, they've left us with a bit of a mystery.
to me, this line Left without a reason to stay can be interpreted two different ways:
1. at the end of 25 years, they no longer had a reason to continue as a group
2. they chose, individually, to leave each other and disband. they didn't want to be talked into recording another album or doing another tour. and they didn't want to hear any reasons to stay.

i'd love to hear what you think - if this song sounds like someone yearning for freedom, or if it's a gentle reminder to adoring fans that life does go on.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

a rejection in time

i feel i'm about the catch the wave of completion and ride it all the way to the shore.

i'm gearing up to write the last 15k words of my wip, and it's exciting, scary and nerve wracking all at the same time. i am still not exactly sure where my final word count will end up, and i checked my email records to see how many words my last manuscript was (47k, incidentally). 

now, it has been three years since i sent out queries for my last novel, and although my success rate was high for passing through the initial gate, i received rejections on all my partial and full submissions. looking through my past emails, i re-read this rejection:

I would love to see more from you. I thought TITLE REDACTED was a wonderful story. I think where it fell down was you left MAIN CHARACTER's point of view. You have a great voice and obvious talent... 
I really do mean it when I say I'd like to read more from you including MAIN CHARACTER's story if you put it in her pov. Either way I truly wish you great success in your literary career.

"wow." was my first thought. "how the heck did i miss this?"
i wondered if i was so consumed with the fact it was a rejection that i missed the part where the agent offered to give a second look at my manuscript providing i did a rewrite.
i know i'm not so prideful that i would refuse to change my novel if an agent asked. i've done it before (though still with the same result *rejection*) and would certainly do it again if i felt the changes were reasonable. and indeed, in retrospect, this agent's request was.

so why didn't i at least attempt a rewrite? and why did i have no memory of her liking my writing so much?

well, a little visit to the absolute write forums told me exactly why.
although this agent is/was not a scammer, she did not have any real sales to her credit. there were also more than a couple testimonials where writers shared their (not so great) experience with this agent.
and no, she did not manage to help these writers get any steps closer to being published.
it seems this agent no longer does business, and the handful of established writers she represented all ended their contracts with her.

honestly, i'm happy that three years ago i (apparently) did my homework, which is why i never followed up with this agent. i'm also happy that my vision wasn't so clouded by the stormy skies of rejection that i was blinded to a possible redo with an agent.

so now it's back to my wip.
before i start the big finish, i need to go back and read everything i've written thus far. and i guess while i'm there, i will make all those edits and changes i told myself i'd do once i'd finished the novel.
so yeah, there's a chance it will be a few more weeks before i start the conclusion, but at least everything else will be tight and polished, right?


Monday, June 7, 2010

may not be suitable for readers under seventeen

the other night i had the movie heathers playing in the background as i did laundry.

two things became very apparent to me while the film played:
1) it is not nearly as clever, witty or cool as i originally thought when i first saw it as a kid
2) there were things mentioned, portrayed and alluded to in the film that went completely over my head upon my first several viewings because i was a kid.

that isn't to say i didn't know what sex, murder and suicide were, nor was i so innocent (re: naive and gullible) to think i was watching a slightly roughed up john hughes film. but even though i had limited knowledge of such "meaty" subjects, i had enough imagination to make sense of the parts i didn't quite get.
for instance in this scene:

i always thought heather#1 moved out of camera frame to lie down on the ground so she and college guy could have sex and the sound of a zipper unzipping was her taking off her dress.
i did, however, wonder why the college guy closed his eyes instead of looking at the naked girl lying at his feet.
a minute later (i'm referencing the youtube video, not how long it took college guy to finish) heather#1 is in the bathroom looking in the mirror. she fills a glass with some water, takes a sip, then spits the water out at her reflection.
again - as a kid i thought she was just mad at herself for sleeping with college guy. i didn't realize there was a very specific reason why she had the water and spat.

the funny thing is, although i didn't fully understand what was going on in these scenes, it didn't take away from my overall understanding and enjoyment of the film. in fact, i probably would have liked the movie less if they'd been more graphic with the sex.

it can work the same way with novels, especially young adult ones.
i don't believe sexual situations have to be graphic or explicit to get the idea across, or for the reader to "fully" get involved with the characters. it's entirely possible to hint at, allude to, and make innuendo and still convey what needs to be made known.
just like my experience with the movie heathers, creating a certain setting and letting the reader "fill in the gaps" can be just as effective.

at least that's what i'm hoping since i will never be the sort of author who gives a blow by blow *ahem* description of a coupling act.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

context and continuity

pet peeves.

we all have them. some of us have lots of them.
and you've probably already guessed i'm one of those with a long list.

some of my pet peeves are just harmless annoyances:
when people say "i could care less" instead of "i couldn't care less".
when drivers don't wave thank you when you let them pull out in front of you in bumper to bumper traffic.
when someone misses the trash can when throwing their garbage away, and they just leave it on the ground.

and some of my pet peeves push my buttons to the point of irrationality. like my book pet peeves:
i HATE it when someone borrows a book and breaks the spine.
i HATE it when someone tells me the ending of a book that i'm only just halfway through.
i HATE it when someone tries to converse with me when i am clearly reading.

and i have author pet peeves. and these pet peeves seem to haunt me years after i've read the novel, silly as it may sound.

for instance, about four years ago i read the chicklit novel time after time. as someone who is admittedly 80s obsessed, i was looking forward to reading this book since it had some fun 80s flashback references.
but the book opened with a conversation in italics, between two girls, discussing a boy and his betrayal.
when the font goes back to normal, we see the book is actually written in first person, and that the main character is at her reunion. now, she was NOT one of the girls having the preceding conversation, nor was she the subject of it. in fact, the two girls never reappear in the book and their conversation is never referenced.
that is the sort of thing that REALLY annoys me.
i can only guess the author was trying to "set the mood" but the only mood that came over me was a foul one. we've all heard the importance of the opening page, and this one just seemed to be one huge non-sequitur.

i also hate when an author opens in a certain time period, and never goes back to it.
for the life of me i can't remember the name of the YA novel (i probably blocked it out) or who wrote it, only that the author wrote under a latino pseudonym because he didn't think anyone would buy a book about chicano culture written by a jewish male.
anyway, this novel opened with a drunk twenty-something man driving up a hill to look down at the valley below him. it was the valley where he grew up, and within the first five pages we are smack in a flashback and reading about the narrator as a teenager. the entire book is about his experience as a teen. at the conclusion of the story, the narrator (still as a teenager) lets the reader know he has a lot more adventures, but ends the book with this statement: "but that's another story for another time."
end of novel.

uh, WHAT!?!
you can't start a novel in the present day, tell the story in a flashback and never come back to the present!
well, i guess you can since that's what this author did, but it bugged me immensely. so much that i still get quite heated when i think about it.

it's true that as a writer you can write a story in any way, shape or form you want.
and as a reader i can be selective about which authors i will give my time to.