Quote of the Week, Writing

Quote of the Week

 .      “Action is eloquence, …”
.                  –Volumnia, from The Tragedy of Coriolanus by William Shakespeare.

Put another way, “Actions speak louder than words.” (Or, if you prefer, “You are what you eat.” But I ate an avocado today, so I sure hope I don’t become one of those–green and wrinkly! Yuck.)

It’s been awhile since I’ve made some “regular” postings here. Sorry about that, but let me tell you what I have been doing: I’ve been writing.

I don’t just think about writing. I write. I don’t just say I want to be a writer. I write. And as Shakespeare so correctly pointed out, action is eloquence. I won’t say that my writing is all eloquence, or that Shakespeare has something to fear (what a laugh!), but I’m putting my money where my mouth is and writing.

Some days, I really don’t feel like it. Well, some days I really don’t feel like getting out of bed in the mornings, but I almost always do (unless I’m really sick). So, I write despite “not really wanting to” some days. And you know what? Usually, once the gears get oiled and moving, the writing flows anyways. It feels good, once I start, and I’m always glad that I did write. Always. Even if I get stuck somewhere. Even if halfway through I realize “uh-oh, I need to re-write all that because of this.” Because it’s all progress. Because I’m getting better, day by day, word by word.

Drink the writerly Kool-aid. Set some goals to become a writer.

Now go write.

Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week

Writing is a struggle against silence.
                                —Carlos Fuentes

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.
                                     –Gustave Flaubert

I believe both of these things. Writing is a struggle, especially as one improves (or tries to, at least). Am I really doing this as best I can? Could I make this character more real, could I make the situation more dire? At times, you want to just shrug your shoulders, give up already, do something easy for a change.

Well, duh.

But “easy” things don’t make you think. They don’t wake you up in the middle of the night, your mind racing with possibilities, your mood and pulse jazzed with the adrenaline coming from the words you’re going to write. They don’t make you curl your hands in despair that “I’ll never get this right!,” either.

That internal critic wants me to shut up, more often than not. It wants me to be a quiet, good girl who sits in the corner, smiling at those who pass near enough to reflect their light onto me. But you know what? Sitting in someone else’s reflected glory isn’t nearly as fun as making your own mess, and turning it into something wonderful.

In the process of making that mess, of discovering what to write, and what your characters will do–how they’ll react–a writer has to figure out what really matters. Writers ask: “What is really at stake, here? How will this really resonate, instead of sitting limp and dead on the page?” Answering that means putting your passions on the page. It means, as the Flaubert quote says, “discovering what you believe.”

As I’m doing the world building for My Next Novel (honest, I’ll try for a better working title once  “World-Building, Round One” is over!), I’m finding my passions coming out in little ways, both in the world and in both main characters. They certainly aren’t “me,” but each has parts of me contained in them. And the underlying basis of the story–of their world–is something I’m very interested in. It shows, I think, in that I keep coming back to it, keep tweaking it and making it better. Their world fascinates me.

How will it all work out? I don’t know yet. I’m still making a mess, still twisting and braiding the strands together into–I hope–something bigger and better than the sum of its parts. But this I can promise you:  if I stayed did the easy thing, if I stayed silent, this book–this world–would never happen. And that would make me very sad.

Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.              .                                                                                –W. Somerset Maugham

There are so many rules, and guidelines, must-do’s and must-not-do’s, that it’s easy to forget that one is left standing there scratching one’s head, trying to make sense of the often-times conflicting advice. Here’s what I’ve learned: every writer is different.

Just like some writers are strict Outliners, and some are dedicated Pantsters (writing by the seat of the pants, or without an outline of any kind), while many fall somewhere in between, so it is with everything else. No piece of advice applies to all writers. For some, getting up early to write (an often-repeated bit of advice for getting in daily writing) is the worst possible thing to do. Those people would be better served by staying up later, or maybe writing at lunch, in their cars if necessary. And some (gasp!) just can’t write every day, no matter what. But every other day if perfect for them, and in this way, in a week’s time they’ll exceed the output they’d make if they attempted writing daily. Because that “daily” bit just doesn’t work–for them–now.

Things change over time. We change, our minds change, our habits and our circumstances fluctuate. So we need to revisit things occasionally, to see if what once didn’t work now will.

When I first started writing, I couldn’t write on a computer. The clacking of the keys distracted me, made me feel horribly self-conscious. “Who the heck was I,” my internal editor demaned of me as I was cringing at the sound, “thinking I can write a story, a novel, even? The nerve!” For me, at that time, writing in a notebook with a pen got me over my initial fear of writing. Eventually, I moved past that fear. The ease of editing in a computer swayed me, at last, along with a quieter keyboard. Now, while I sometimes go back to pen and paper, I usually write on my laptop.

Some folks start stories with nothing more than a gentle prompt. Others need at least two days to contemplate the character, the plot, and the storyline. Some people kill if you don’t use the Oxford comma, others smack you if you even think of using it.

Don’t sweat it. If it gets you writing, try it. If it works for you, do it again. If it doesn’t, try something else. End of advice.

So, what writing advice has worked for you? Or what hasn’t worked at all?

Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ––Sylvia Plath

Wow, but this is really hitting me right now. Self-doubt cripples your creativity, because you doubt that very creativity’s existence. Or its validity. And that makes for a self-fulfilling prophecy in that the doubted Muse deserts us, and we’re left alone with the blank page and our naked fears. Ugh.

And yet, we all doubt. Especially at the beginning, but sometimes even later, we doubt our ability to create this project, or to finish that book, or that our ideas will ever become as awesome as the things written by the authors we admire. We’ll never get published, and we’ll never get better and…the list goes on. And when we doubt, we hesitate.

Second quote: “He who hesitates is lost.”––Joseph Addison

Because in that hesitation, it’s easy to put aside the pen, turn off the computer, or just go surf the web or play video games instead. It can be hard to turn away from those activities and go back to doing something that made you feel “bad.” When you think you’re failing at something, our ego says it’s prudent to quit. Really, it’s just an opportunity to try harder, but we love to resist this idea.

Better to  try differently. Write something different. If you write short stories, try flash. If you write flash, try something longer. Maybe even a poem. If you’re writing a novel, maybe a short piece of fiction can whet your appetite for writing again. Or, how about non-fiction (like this blog post)? Just find your joy, and your enthusiasm with re-emerge, trailing your missing confidence in its wake.

Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.  ~ Anaïs Nin

Isn’t this the joy of writing? To taste again something so sweet, or so magical, that it stayed with us? To shudder once more at the delicious horror in the finest detail, so cunningly wrought in our words as to appear in our readers’ mind’s eyes and make them shudder as well?

I’m editing a story right now, picking and choosing the exact (I hope) right words to convey the perfect shade of meaning. I’m also selecting the most detailed imagery I can to suggest the emotions, to further the plot. It’s work, but yes, I’m in heaven. Words are bliss.

Happy writing. And reading.

Personal Life, Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.    —James Dent

It’s almost a perfect summer day. After all, I don’t own a lawnmower seeing as how I live in an apartment. But the subdivision across the street is in full lawnmower–and worse, leaf blower–swing. Ack!!!

These aren’t the only machines in modern life, though. I sit behind this one, my computer, almost every day. Usually, I like it. Sometimes, though, I long for something more portable, more social, less conspicuous. And, while it feels odd at first, on those days, I grab my “archaic” paper notebook and a pen. Then, I disappear outdoors. I write on a bench in a park or at the beach. Or in a coffee shop or outdoor cafe. I don’t have to worry about power sources, or glare, or my polarized sunglasses deleting my view. I may not always write the fastest this way, but I’m writing. And I’m happier than a clam (why are clams happy, anyway?) about my “mini vacation.”

Moral of this story? Don’t feel tied to the machine. You can escape it, if you like or need to, for a day, or longer. Whatever works for you, works. Just because it’s not the most efficient method doesn’t mean it’s not viable, or the right method for you. For however long you like. After all, rules were meant to be broken.

And Further Thoughts on the Season:

It’s a fast-escaping summer: the red raspberries are done and gone, and while I’m mourning their loss, the blueberries glory in their full flush. A new batch seems to ripen as soon as you leave off picking on any particular bush. So I can’t remain too sad.

Mosquito larvae are squiggling in the saucer under my large urn-shaped planter on the patio, which really makes me happy. Because, you see, I just bought another new betta after the last one succumbed to a fungal infection brought on by companion fish I’d gotten for his tank (sigh). Poor Snowball wasn’t eating, though. And he wasn’t swimming. He’s young, but he had a bad case of “betta-bowl syndrome” (my term for the fish that just lies there, never having learned to swim due to a lack of space his entire life), and I feared he’d just wither away and die. Even though his new tank was lovely, spacious and clean, he hid under a leaf, wedged at the bottom, or hovered just under the surface if I turned off the filter. I never saw him eat, or even look at the food.

Then I brought him a few wriggling mosquito larvae. They scared him a bit at first, but they tickled some inner instincts, for he was soon more fascinated than afraid. And then, he bit. And missed. And bit again, successfully this time. He munched and swallowed. And the rest is history (in the making). Snowball will live. He’s become a keen and wily hunter, swimming eagerly through the plants in search of his next snack. Although I’m going to have to wean him off live food come fall . . .

Quote of the Week, Uncategorized

Quote of the Week

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. –Gustave Flaubert

I don’t know about you, but for me, I often don’t discover what I’m really writing about in a short story until halfway through the initial draft. Oh, I might have some notion that the main character is So-and-So, and that there are time-traveling guinea pigs involved, and maybe a robot, too. But until I get into the meat of the story and wrestled with it a bit, I don’t know what emotional response I’m looking for. Is this a funny robot, and the story is a sideways look at tech gone awry? Or will the guinea pigs eat one another, so I want the reader to come away with a revulsion for the intricacies of “over-civilization” and such? Am I looking to make you, the reader, long for something unattainable, cross and re-cross your legs in discomfort as you recognize something in your world that is less than pretty, or do I hope you’ll get misty-eyed at the thought of a reconciliation?

Longing, discomfort, hope — these are just some of the emotional responses a reader might have to the overall story. Sure, you might still laugh at a funny robot joke in there, but if the end result is one of longing, I’ll go back and temper some of those jokes in later drafts (or start writing that way mid-draft, once I “get” my own story). See what I mean?

A few stories I’ll know the strings to pull right from the beginning. Those are, in some ways, easier to write. And in other ways, they’re harder. When I don’t know the emotional heart of the story, I can’t overdo it. When I do know it, it’s far too easy for me to go overboard. Then I’ll have to go back and cut, cut, cut. It’s a toss-up, I guess in that regard.

But those I know beforehand generally stick in my brain longer, forcing me to write them. The others will fade away if I ignore them too long, and their emotions will sweep away like the tide, only to reappear in some other story further down the beach. Unlike in life, nothing in writing is really lost.

So, this is part of my process. What’s yours?

plain silliness, Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week (end)

One only needs two tools in life:  WD-40 to make things go,
and duct tape to make them stop.
  ~G.M. Weilacher

Just in time for the traditional beginning of summer, and the summer to-do and chores lists, this little gem of a quote. Remember, sometimes “simple” is really, really good. It gives you more time for the fun things in life. Now, go duct-tape something. Then, go have fun.