Sunday, August 30, 2009


Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Robert Pollard--Suitcase. Today's Writing: nothing--just reading. Today's Quote:
We think we believe what we know, but we only truly believe what we feel.
-Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival

I spent the day reading the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. I have read accounts of people who have survived against incredible odds--personal narratives of Holocaust survivors, stories of people trapped, broken in the wilderness who still manage to keep going--and I always wonder why it is that some people survive and some don't. What makes the difference? What is it that keeps people going even when there seems to be no hope? And of course, my own history of battling the black dragon has made me doubly curious.

The author of this book has spent his life seeking the answer to that very question: what makes some people survive and others not? What makes a survivor?

I need time to process the book more, but I have been struck by how many things about the way the brain works, how many things that help/hinder people in life/accidents can be applied to writing--and maybe specifically to being stuck in one's writing. Stay tuned for more discussions on survival--and surviving writing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Word count

Today's Mood: determined. Today's Music: Office of Hearts by Guided by Voices (at the moment) Today's Writing: IFFY (new chapter)

My word count for the day: 892. It felt like more. It even looked like more. But at least I finally got going on this chapter. Might be easier tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Better than poetry

Today's Mood: Amused. Today's Music: Nothing--no power. Today's Writing. Nothing--I was dealing with downed trees and and spoiling food. Today's Quote:
The rational pride of an author may be offended rather than flattered by vague indiscriminate praise; but he cannot, he should not, be indifferent to the fair testimonies of private and public esteem. - Edward Gibbon
Today, amidst the storm debris, came a self-addressed sealed envelope in the mail. Goes to show you never know what sea treasure a storm leaves--or that the mail really does get delivered come rain, shine, or high winds and lightening. Anyway, I opened it with some degree of angst (don't you just love that word? Angst.) It was the paid critique for the SouthWest Writers Contest. I had submitted in the Young Adult Fiction category, a synopsis and the first 20 pages of Black Dragon. The critique sheet looked professional, specifying hook/opening, protagonist, setting/descriptions, plot line, antagonist, dialogue, voice, secondary characters, manuscript presentation, synopsis, and then suggestions for the author on a separate sheet.

I started reading the sheet and was gratified right away with the critique's first comment--"Excellent opening. This person seems to have built in tone and pace. Something one usually has to work hard for." The review went on in a similar, very gratifying manner, right down to the comment under synopsis (remember me bemoaning how hard I worked on that? And what headaches it gave me?) "The synopsis is clear--makes the reader hurry to read the manuscript." Excellent! Exactly what I wanted it to do!

Then comes the suggestions for the author. It says "See typed page." Okay, I turn to the next page. Here is what it said:
Dear Entry #31;

I am floored (cliche) with this manuscript It not only tells a great story but is so well written that I had to catch my breath at the sheer beauty of the written words.

You not only know how to write but how to keep the reader turning pages. It appears that your style is not something you have struggled with but is a natural God given talent. I do not believe you could write badly even if you wanted to. Your work is even better than poetry.

If you are not already a recognized published author you should be. There has to be many awards out there waiting for your work

Good Luck

I admit it; I laughed. In fact I laughed hard. Especially at the lines I had to catch my breath at the sheer beauty of the written words--and Your work is even better than poetry.

Now, I believe in my writing. I believe in my novel. I think it is a story worth telling, and I think I tell it well. However. Writing is something I struggle to do well. I work hard at it. And I can DEFINITELY write badly--even when I don't want to.

When I brought the critique to my writing group tonight, I had a hard time reading it without breaking into laughter--and they were almost annoyed with me! They couldn't understand why I would react the way I did. So am I just "uncomfortable with someone praising my work"?

Maybe. But I did okay with the page that had the specifics. I could buy that page. Granted, it was ALL good--nothing I needed to work on. Well, except the suggestion to write it in third person past tense (which I DO NOT agree with by the way). The only other suggestions for improvement included not using bold typeface for the title and putting in page numbers.

When praise seems too over-the-top, too extravagant, I have a hard time believing it. I get that the reviewer liked it. I'm GLAD that she/he liked it (and they didn't even know me so they didn't have any reason to pretend to like it). But the cynical part of me just can't buy the "take my breath away" and "better than poetry". After all, I've sent it to over a dozen publishers/agents and not one of them had that reaction.

So while I can take hope from it, I don't think I'll quit my day job just yet.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Building connections

Today's Mood: Happy. Today's Music: Linkin Park: Meteora. Today's Writing: This post--but oh happy day, tomorrow I have the whole day to work on IFFY! Today's Quote:
When I can't write, I feel so empty. -John Steinbeck


How do you decide what conference to go to? SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) has a fall conference. Do I go to the PW conference which definitely emphasizes writing time, or do I attend the SCBWI conference, which does much more in the way of workshops? One is more about writing and small group feedback, and the other is more about making connections and learning the industry ins and outs.

So how do I know which is best for me right now?

The other thing I'm playing with in my head is the idea of looking into getting an MFA from Vermont College. They have a program that focuses on writing for children and young adults. Right up my alley. Is there any benefit to having an MFA? I tend to look at it as making connections and lending my writing weight, priority.

All these things in my head and what I really need to do is write. Tomorrow I have the day free to write. Jane has to go back to school in this next scene. I can't wait to find out what is going to happen!

Happy writing to you all--and if you have any words of wisdom for my dilemmas, let's hear them.