Virginia, over at Poeta Officium, was nice enough to invite me to be a guest on her blog, and today is the big day! It’s up!
Take the time to check out her blog, which is always a great source of comfort since she talks a lot about the writing process and the trials of the effort. She’s also had six other great bloggers post their answers to the questions I answer today, and those have been very fun to read as well. Check it out!
Okay, not even close. But I have been asked to be a guest over at Poeta Officium! For some reason, lovely Virginia, the hostess of that blog, thought I might have something interesting to say. I told her that I was going to answer her three questions while trying to walk the line between sounding like an idiot and an arrogant asshole — in other words, I’m going to do my best to sound normal. Or nice. Or…I don’t know! I’ve never been asked to be a guest blogger before. I’m probably more honored than I should be, and probably more excited than is proper.
So be sure to check out her blog and read about the other guest bloggers she’s chosen while we all wait with bated breath for me to answer the three questions she posed!
Writing the dreaded synopsis. and Be Not Afeared. Worth a look.
Though I’ve been procrastinating, this is inevitably in my future. I’m at the point where I am beginning to submit to the agents I met back in January who inquired about reading some or all of my book, In the Shadow’s Grasp. I’ve delayed a long while in submission, going through several major edits since then (luckily, the story I pitched is the one I wanted to end up with and not the one I had in January!) And now I’m thinking that six months is probably long enough and that if I wait much longer the whole point of shortcutting the initial query process may be pointless. One of the agents, I know, has already moved to another agency (luckily with forwarding address.)
Why do I feel like the whole submission process is such a secret? Humility mostly, I guess. The odds of anyone saying, Hey, this is great! I’d like to sign you! are so slim… that while I’m not saying it can’t happen, I doubt it will. And I’m not the type to get my hopes up. So I don’t want to get anyone else’s hopes up either. Or let them believe that I think so much of myself that I’d believe this were a possibility. I’d much rather get my rejections quietly or – perhaps, if Hell really has frozen over – tell them of my success once it’s assured.
So this is all I’ll say about submission. I’m on it. And it’ll be 6-8 weeks before the potential of any kind of response. So if you hear good news from me in August or September, you’ll know. And if you hear no news. You’ll know. Which won’t stop me.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on a critique site where writers can post work, critique work, discuss writing. And it has been very helpful. It’s made me a more critical reader, more conscious of what I’m reading. But I think that for any writer using a tool like this site, there are two things to watch out for… (Actually, I’m sure there are more and I’ll come up with those as I learn more. For now, I’ve realized these two and have thought a lot about them lately.)
1) Not all rules apply to all kinds of writing. Writers don’t like run-on sentences. But I’m reading We the Animals by Justin Torres, which begins with one of the longest run-on sentences I’ve ever seen. And it’s brilliant. And if he’d posted this work for critique on this very useful site I use, he would have been reamed and called sophomoric and inexperienced. After all, everyone knows that run-ons are bad, right? Not right. Not always. Like the adverb rule I railed about before… no rules of writing are hard and fast. But there are probably best practices. I think the danger of a critique site like this is that we get very comfortable building our ideas of what good writing looks like and then have difficulty accepting someone who is breaking those rules, especially if he or she isn’t an already established and esteemed author. It’s fine for Victor Hugo to spend 100 pages in description at the beginning of Les Miserables, but that would be totally ridiculed if attempted by a fledgling writer working on something new. Start in the action, right? The reader’s not going to sit around for 100 pages for you to paint a scene! You’ll never get it published, Hugo, you silly lout. I think that this kind of blanket criticism leads to more and more people writing in a formulaic way that dumbs down language and limits expression. And that leads us to number 2.
2) There are a lot of popular books out there at the moment that are not exactly, um, high art. They are written…but not necessarily well-written. And they’re fun, and a good read, and an enjoyable story. But they are not what “real writers” want to write. I know that because these “real writers” are drinking their coffee, smoking their cigarettes and bemoaning the lack of good writing out there all over the forums at this critique site. They sit back and wallow in their own brilliant and as yet unpublished words and spit venomous threads about the terrible writing getting attention today, about the stupidity of the audience that they themselves have not yet managed to woo. They cry about the failings of the publishing industry, the consumerism of readers, the lack of writers creating “good work” (the same work that they themselves critique on this site and warn about the use of modifiers and run-ons…) I think there is a real danger in this. Should we not be supportive of those who have played the publishing game and won? How does it hurt me to be happy for EL James? Why should I be upset that Charlaine Harris is doing so well? Shouldn’t I take heart that maybe there is a place for my work if theirs has found such receptive readers? I greatly dislike the jealous poison being spewed by would-be great writers about the successes of those who have managed what they have not. Say all you like about JK Rowlings adverb abuse… didn’t we used to celebrate her for bringing literature to a whole generation of kids who we previously believed to be hopelessly illiterate thanks to the advent of computer games and consoles? Isn’t anything that keeps people reading good for all of us?
Just my two cents.
I know I’ve been ignoring you. It isn’t so much that I haven’t wanted to write. I have. It’s more that I’ve allowed life to get in the way. I’ve actually been in a whole terrible cycle of dropping balls — good thing I don’t actually juggle my children. Physically, I mean.
In the last few weeks, I’ve missed a physical therapy appointment, forgotten to pay a bill, put off mailing my samples to the Be The Match registry (which you really should look into), and neglected to make a phone call to our insurance about a bill for urgent care for our kids from like…months ago. I’ve neglected some other things, too. Like laundry. Cleaning toilets. You know, pretty much everything.
I’d like to tell you that I have a good reason. That I’ve been so busy working on my writing that all else has fallen by the wayside. (Where the hell is the wayside, anyway? I think I have left a lot of stuff there.) In a way, this is true. I’ve had the first two chapters of my YA novel pretty well worked over by two different groups of readers (who are not my best friends or my mother). And it’s looking better than I thought.
Here’s my big struggle. And maybe you can weigh in. Should all YA be written in 1st person? I am in the middle of rewriting the whole damned thing to third person because I have always felt like 1st was just sort of…amateurish. But maybe YA needs that close up somewhat awkward inner voice to really connect it to the reader? I know that most of the YA I’ve read is written in first. But I wouldn’t mind avoiding comparisons to some of the really poopy YA that’s out there, too.
Weigh in, won’t you? Should YA be written in 1st person?
Okay, lazy might not be the right word. But I got you riled up, huh?
When you just can’t seem to get words on the page, what is really going on? I’ve seen a lot of consideration given lately to “writer’s block.” I assert that there is no such thing. There are a few concrete reasons — at least for me — when writing is not happening.
1. Simple time constraints. Life is getting in the way. This takes prioritization. For me, that is a re-commitment to getting up before the sun (and more importantly, anyone else in my family) and getting some work done. However, if I haven’t planned out what to write the night before — decided what scene to work on, which events to write, 4:30 a.m. is not the time that’s gonna happen. Which brings me to
2. Planning your work. Sure, as writers, we like to think that we’re fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pantaloons creative types, that we go where our bliss leads us or whatever. And perhaps that works for some people. But for me – and for most of the writers I’ve been lucky enough to talk with who have had any success in this world – writing must be approached like a business, or at least like a job. It takes planning and dedication. You lay out a strategy, whether it’s an outline or a brainmap, or whatever your choice of tool might be. If you know what you’re sitting down to accomplish, you’ll spend a lot less time staring at the screen.
3. Committing yourself. Even once you’ve made time and planned what you want to accomplish, if you don’t bring your best intentions to the desk, it probably won’t get done. If I sit down to write, but find that I can’t stop thinking about the talk I had with my son’s teacher at school about a potential learning disability, or about whether or not to grow my hair out, then I’m not really there to write. I’m not committed and it’s worth getting up and doing something else until I’ve got all three elements aligned.
Is your writer’s block real, or are you just giving a name to the manifestation of a few other things that are getting in your way? Worth a look…