Daily Archives: December 12, 2011

What it Takes

I just read this article. *

My favorite quotes are these:

“Without a narrative structure in place, even the most elegant and powerful prose plops to the ground in a heap of moist, quivering helplessness.

Order and structure is always – whether planned or retrofitted – a function of design. And design, by definition, is a practice based on certain physics, principles and those proven laws and models.

Learn them, then build your writing upon their proven strengths, and your story will be set free to elevate itself to art.”

This has taken me awhile to latch onto but it’s true. There must be a plan–maybe loose, maybe tight, but it has to be there. I am a messy, unorganized person and writer and sometimes I like to say, you know, that i just follow my character around and see what happens. That sort of does happen but in truth, I have a plan. Whether it’s in the back of my head or written out on a piece of paper, there has to be a goal. With my latest novel, which happens to be very plot driven, that this even more crucial (and painful).

“Writing is very much like singing, playing an instrument or excelling at athletics. The more you do it, the more evolved and polished your sensibilities become, until finally you can instinctively add subtlety and nuance to your performance.”

Writing takes time. It takes practice. And the more you do it, the more you can feel the rhythm of it. The more you sense when it’s working and when it’s not. When the pacing is slow or way too fast. It’s one thing to trudge through twinkle twinkle little star as a beginner and another to play a concerto onstage as a guest performer. The beauty and excitement of writing can come, but it’s not without a lot of hard hard hard work.

“Persistence is every bit as important to a writing career as talent and craft. This isn’t a business for the thin-skinned, and it isn’t a marketplace for the uninitiated.”

Never ever give up. Take a break. Get some rest. Rewrite. Start over. But don’t give up. It’s a journey and it can be brutal, but it’s worth it.

“Your story needs more than a genius writer, a crack idea, a ruthless editor, a maniacal advocate and a few lucky breaks. It needs someone to love it.

Someone to will it into a state of excellence, who understands and accepts that good isn’t good enough in today’s market. Good is just the ticket to someone’s submissions inbox. The ultimate winners bring more.

What they bring is the love of their story, forged and coached and loved into existence at a motherly level of commitment.”

You have to love your writing, love your book, your novel, love it enough to work you tail off for it. To push yourself, to make it happen, to be resilient and be willing to write and rewrite and send it out and revise and send it out again and through all of this, to love it.

So what do you think?  Do you love your book? Do you want this? How much do you want it?

*there’s a little language. FYI. Sorry.


Filed under Ann Dee

We All Gots Colds Here

So this will be a short post.
I have a student (tomorrow is my last day with her) who is a runner.
I just finished reading her memoir about running the Boston Marathon.
And I am amazed with her.

I’d like to say that running and writing are similar, but, well, I’m don’t think so because I do hate to run.
That said, I believe Mette Ivie Harrison, who will be teaching the Science Fiction class at next year’s Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, is talking about writing and running.

What I know is I hope my stories make people feel like this girl’s memoir made me feel–happy for the journey, grateful for the run.

Today I am thinking lists.
As we come up on Christmas, Ann Dee and I will take a few days off.
During those days (and maybe during the rest of this month) I have a few lists for you to make. Maybe one per day, taking off weekends.

1. What are you thankful for? List every little thing. Take all day to make this list. Post it where you can see it and add to it. Tonight, before bed, read your list. Now think of your character. She has things to be thankful for. What are they? Remember, our characters are ‘real.’ That means they have loves and hates and etc.
2. Start your list of goals for the New Year. Starting early gives you plenty of time to come up with EVERY LITTLE THING you could possibly do this next year.
3. List every idea you can come up with for possibilities of incidents that could happen in your current novel.
4. List every person you remember from your childhood (before you turned 12) and a characteristic or two about them.
5. List all the foods you would miss if you could no longer go out to eat or if you could no longer make fancy meals. Perhaps include a few recipes. How would your character remember a meal?
6. Name all your friends from high school, and all your enemies, and write several lines about each person. Include adults.
7. Take the day to think about people who have influenced you in one way or another. How have they influenced you? How can you use this in your writing?
8. Talk about all your loves, every single one, including the ones that broke your heart and the ones that buoyed you up. Go over the emotions connected to these lovers. List them. Believe me, this will come in handy whether you have a romance thread in your novel or not. Emotion is more than important in novel writing.
9. List all your talents. How did you get to where you are with them now? Think about three other people and their talents. How did they get to where they are? What are you characters’ talents?
10. List all the places you have every lived, every visited, ever wanted to go and so you researched the heck out of those areas. What makes those different places home to you? Now, with deep detail, describe the setting of your novel. Describe specific places your character winds up ( a bedroom, the park, the grocery store etc).
11. What do you most want out of life? Take the day to write this list because I want you to take your time, maybe writing a paragraph or two about each thing you want. How will you get what you want? Will you be different when you get it? What do your characters want? How will they get them? How will you, the God of your novel, keep your character from getting what she wants?
12. Three times in one day, when you have thirty minutes at a sitting, write every idea you can think to write for future books. Go as fast as you can, not stopping during each session. Write ideas you may never write. Pen ideas for picture books, middle grade novels, YA books, nonfiction, and adult novels. Put down every idea. If you are compelled, write down as much as you can about each idea. Be sure (as I have said in the past) to include HOW YOU FEEL while jotting down ideas. Write on 3 x 5 cards. Save.
13. Spend one hour thinking of all the ways one of your books could end. “She dies” or “She wakes up and finds out it was all a dream” does not count. Spend time in the climax of the novel, changing it up in every possible way.
14. Write fifty free-write ideas for yourself. Cut them into individual free-writes, fold, and put them into a jar. For the next few weeks, use your free-writes as ten-minute warm-up writing exercises. Here’s one to start you off: Change the place where your book takes place. What happens to the story? Would this work? Why or why not? Give a detailed description of this new setting.
15. Make a list of all your characters’ deepest confessions and secrets and darkest moments. I don’t care if you use these confessions in the novel or not. How do these things influence your character?

Have fun! I’m off to reading more memoirs!

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