Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Writing Vitamins

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Augustana. Today's Writing: Revisions on Ch. 1 Free Lunch. Today's Quote:
"In ordinary life, sounds and words are cheap. Paying attention almost makes one a pariah. To steal silence [ ], one develops outlaw strategies (hiding, white-lying, disappearing). Monks and poets (America's archetypal outcasts) recognize the transformative power lurking in simple things (like words). "Let words work the earth of my heart," they pray. Perhaps culture as a whole no longer feels safe with such potentially dangerous toys." - Gail Sher The Intuitive Writer: Listening to Your Own Voice.

I had writing group last night. I was both eager and dreading it at the same time. Writing has been hard for me lately--like shoving shit sitting down (to borrow Stephen King's words). But it was GREAT! What a boost I get from being recognized as a writer. They take me and my words seriously. They listen, they suggest, and they praise. Sometimes the praise is the hardest for me to hear, but the most needed and appreciated. I am learning that I cannot always trust my own feelings about my writing. When it is hard, like chipping away at solid rock, I start believing it is bad--flat, uninspired, uncreative. Writing group helps me know exactly what isn't working so that I can see what is working. Yup, there's most chiseling to be done, but how exciting it is when they see the shape emerging.

So this is a shout out to them, wonderful muses all. Do you belong to a writing group? If not, what gives you a boost? What helps you go back to the computer (or paper and pen for those who still do) day after day, putting down words that occasionally (or often in my case) seem shriveled and dry like month old mushrooms?

Oh, and how do you like that quote? It comes out of a chapter titled "Poets are never mad - Everybody else is."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Today's Mood: a bit blue. Today's Music: hmm, I had it on mix earlier. Nothing now. (Although the damn furnace fan has a rattle that drives me crazy if I think about it.) Today's Writing: Revising 1st chapter of Free Lunch. Today's Quote: I should have one, but I am sitting in bed and really don't feel like getting up, stumbling down the stairs to get the book, and then climbing back up here again. So... just do it. (take that as you will)
Delving further into Stephen King's book, On Writing, I continue to be intrigued. In a section he calls "Toolbox," he talks about the tools writers should carry with them at all times. And mentions the fact that most of them are things we already have. Let's think for a moment about the top level--vocabulary and grammar.

One of my best grammar lessons came from working with Tricia on my Black Dragon manuscript. She would read a section and get it back to me all marked up with purple ink. She crossed out the adverbs (those pesky ly words), and marked any passive tense. Often she suggested changes that when I read them, I thought "oh yeah, of course. Why didn't I see that?"

Now, as I start revising Free Lunch, I find I have incorporated her voice, those grammar lessons, into my head. Today I got rid of several adverbs (and Steve King would be especially proud of me for getting rid of the ly word in the dialog tag.), and made sure every word mattered.

Vocabulary I don't worry about a whole lot. I do try to make sure I am using words that fit my characters, and since I write about and for teenagers, every once and awhile I have to go back and change things. If it sounds like a mom (me) saying it, it's got to go.

One more point of note from my reading today. King talks about the paragraph being the building block even more than the sentence. The way the text looks on the page, the white space, the chunks of thought (my words, not his. His were more eloquent by far). I've seen some interesting things done with this in YA fiction. There is a book I read to my eighth graders called The Children's Story by James Clavell. It is a little book, but powerful. We read it to introduce a unit on Anne Frank and the Holocaust. In the book, there are full pages of text, as well as pages with a sentence, or even just a word or two. It is all about pacing and the impact of the words on the page.

So as I read Stephen King's advice about paragraphs, that is what comes to my mind. It makes me look at what I am writing in a different manner. Chunks of thought, not just words.