Do you remember this post, about my secret shame? Well, my shame is slightly less shameful now. Slightly. I went through a lot of old files and notebooks and determined which ones were fit for the fire – literally. These old drafts have provided warmth and ambiance in our little home. The whole experience was cleansing but also humbling – so many pages about Erzebet Bizecka, so many pages about Catherine Howard. I was reminded of all of the work I put into those two books, and realized again the futility of my own impatience about writing. A book takes as long as it takes. Fighting it gets me nowhere.
I wanted to sign up for Nano this month – I love the spirit of the thing – but I’ve been busy with work and with re-outlining/restructuring my book. That said, I do want to write a Nano post today.
I had a great book talk last month at the Worcester Public Library where I met a bunch of young writers. One asked me about how I add to my page count – what to write about when I feel I’ve run out of ideas for a book. I told them not to worry about that…which was not a complete answer. Because November is Nanowrimo, and at this point in the game you’ve got to bulk up that word count if you want to reach the finish line. So, if you are in need, here are my suggestions: write about a different character. Rewrite a scene from the antagonists point of view. Write a flashback from the main character’s childhood, or the antagonist’s childhood – maybe something they have both experienced. Write an indulgent description of the main character’s bedroom: open drawers, look through jewelry boxes, read her diary. Read her antagonist’s diary. Find a reason to feel empathy for the antagonist. Find a reason to find fault with your hero; a mistake, a weakness.
Don’t worry that you won’t use this stuff in your next draft. Don’t worry that you’re writing over the edge into digression. You may come up with a new idea that you wouldn’t have found without this spastic, desperate generation of words. That is the danger and the beauty of Nanowrimo – embrace it.
We should be celebrating with red velvet cake and raspberry sauce. Or chicken with lots of paprika and wine from the Carpathians. Or blood letting. Whatever you fancy, be sure to celebrate Stoker and his beautiful book. Yes, I know that he pulled together a lot of pre-existing legends to create his vampire tale. And yes, I know that it was not the first vampire story ever written. But it is just so GOOD. Love it love it. Still haven’t read this version, illustrated by Jae Lee, but the images are stark and beautiful.
Have you read this book, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson? I can’t believe it took me this long to pick it up. Well, actually, I can believe it, because I don’t always gravitate toward contemporary realistic fiction. But Anderson is an exception – and this book proves just how narrow and ill-fitting that descriptive can be. It may be a very serious, realistic subject, but the words are mesmerizing, terrifying, magical. Loved it.
Here’s another book that inspired me – yes, that’s right, my obsession has lead me to read a 400 page book about David Bowie, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I have another book about him sitting on my to-read pile right now. There is something comforting about reading about the creative struggles and triumphs of someone I so thoroughly admire. Plus, there are photos! I’ve also been listening to all of his albums in order. My favorite changes on a daily basis, but I will say this: I have been dreaming the songs from “Station to Station” – especially the title track. That song has apparently hijacked a synapse of it’s own in my brain.
Also reading various stuff about getting organized and meditation and all that good stuff. And recipes! It’s that time of year for warm yummy cozy recipes! It’s the theme of the holiday card at GSLIS and I get to collect all the submissions, so that’s pretty awesome. Speaking of GSLIS, the book club is reading The King’s Rose and I’ll get to chat with them later this month.
In event news, I’m visiting the Worcester Public Library during Teen Reads Week, next Wednesday at 6 p.m. Other than that my goals will be to get back to writing and create some reasonable expectations of what I might accomplish. In the meantime, enjoy this clip. There are few things I love more than when things I love are suddenly combined in unexpected ways. When that google commercial featured the Muppets singing “Under Pressure” and Beaker sang the Bowie part, I cried a little bit. So here’s another “world’s colliding” treat, for fans of Labyrinth…and Amanda Palmer.
Hello, all! I was the Writer of the Week on this very cool and fun blog, where I included a photo of my short haircut (chopped off several inches a couple months ago):
In other news, I had a lovely little vacation and came home with a less than lovely cold, which completely leveled me for days and I could not look at writing until Saturday, when the headache had subsided, somewhat – and even then I did so only briefly. It feels good to get back to it after a while away, but I do feel like I’m moving at a snail’s pace…ah well. Snails are pretty cool, anyhow.
The writing is the reason why this blog has been so quiet lately – the best reason for it, I would say. I need to focus on the writing and limit other writing tasks for the time being. But I will blog when I have something to share.
This quote loses a little something when you’re not hearing it in Marjane Satrapi’s beautiful voice, but I still needed to share it. You can listen to the interview here:
On “nursing hurt” and the role of suffering in art:
“Listen, to tell you the truth, I don’t think that you need a huge amount of [suffering], because if you suffer too much, normally you finish in the mental hospital. But at the same time, I have to say that sometimes — rarely, but sometimes — it happens to me that I wake up in the morning, I look at myself in the mirror, I think that I’m very beautiful. You know, the sun is shining, I’m very, very happy. This day, it’s impossible that I go to my studio and I draw and I write something. This day, I go out, I buy myself a dress, I call my friends, I have some pina colada, I never create. If we were very happy we would be like cats — we would lick ourselves and then sleep and eat and probably we would be much happier. But we would be cats.”
As I slowly wade into the revision process yet again, I’m realizing all of the bad, shameful, deep-fried habits I have developed in the last few years – particularly since the publication of The King’s Rose and the onset of writer’s block. I wonder if much of that writer’s block was caused by indulging in said bad habits.
First off, I get distracted from my devotion. And I’m not talking about taking frequent breaks to watch Firefly on Netflix. I’m talking about being fickle about the book I want to write, always wondering if there is a better book out there for me, and listening to the whinging cries of my tiny writer heart. Good grief, enough already! Focus on one book at a time. Yes, when you need a break you can sip your smoothie and watch Firefly, but then get back to work on This Book.
You know how one day you can feel super inspired about your book and then the next you feel it’s all worthless drivel with no plot? Yeah, I feel that way all the time, riding a continual wave of emotions that does little to ensure my self-confidence. But I don’t think that’s out of the ordinary. It’s okay to feel down about your book now and then; it’s probably healthy. What is NOT healthy is to feel down about your book and respond with: “well then, I don’t need you, little book. this other idea will be nicer to me so I’ll just go spend some time with her instead.” Fickle-hearted jezebel! By doing this, I’m robbing myself of the usually-inevitable upward swing when I figure something out about my book or see it in a new light and get excited again. Due to a lack of patience and an urge to feel that gust of inspiration I can get from a new idea, I cheat myself out of the rewards of sticking with a book through the tough times. And, therefore, cheat myself out of the pleasure of actually FINISHING said book. Or any book.
So, no offense to fried oreos, but I wanted to expose my bad habits in the hopes of saving you from similar pitfalls. I’ll let you know how the revision goes.
I love the Olympics, and these five petite women with superhero arms are my favorite part. Add to that McKayla Maroney’s crazy high cheekbones and the looks she levels from the side – you better watch the heck out. And Jordyn Wieber, who was devastated just days ago, pulled herself together and performed beautifully for her team, and smiled while doing it. And Aly Raisman is a Massachusetts girl! It can’t get much better than that.
I’m relieved that writing is a cumulative effort – if one day my mush-brain writes gibberish, I can fix it all the next (one hopes) or at least hit delete and nobody needs to read that nonsense. But these women work hard all the time, and as much as that work is necessary, it all comes down to a hyper focus on ONE SINGLE MOMENT – a few minutes on the beam, or the uneven bars – and they are either soaring or seeing their dreams crumble (or, in Wieber’s case, both – due to a rule that makes no sense to me and serves to penalize countries with more than two superstars). So hats off to these ladies, for magically seizing those moments of perfection in ways I can’t comprehend. I will think of their hard work and dedication as I sit down to work on my draft.
I’ve been reading, listening, perusing, and thinking (constantly thinking) about my revision for this book. I have a lot of work ahead of me which is daunting and exciting. And then more daunting, when I look at all of my discombobulated notes. So yes, I will have to get myself…combobulated.
I was listening to an audiobook of Margot Berwin’s Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire and this line resonated with me:
“Don’t fall in love with ideas of magic and special powers and shamans’ sons. Develop power for yourself, so that it’s yours. Don’t fall in love with what someone else has. Do the work.”
You hear that, writers out there? Mind you, in the context of the book, the main character was searching for plants with mystical properties and not, say, writing a novel. But this thought can apply to many things. Don’t waste your time thinking about what someone else is doing or writing – concentrate on your own work. And don’t worry about someone else’s success either, it will only distract you from the work you have to do.
Remember First Page Panda? There’s another book giveaway there. FREE SIGNED BOOK! You should check it out: http://www.firstpagepanda.com/.
At GSLIS (my daytime altar ego) we just published a great newsletter with a feature about books transformed into movies – the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. People are very passionate about this subject, and I would love to hear your thoughts! You can download the full issue here: http://www.simmons.edu/gslis/news/publications/infolink/index.php.
In other news, I’m seeing Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra in the fall!! Last night I dreamed that a friend of mine had Amanda Palmer as a literary agent. I was Very Jealous. But I sang a rousing rendition of “Leeds United” with her, so it wasn’t all bad.
Yesterday I came home from the library with a huge tower of books. The feral mommycat I’ve been feeding (because she has tiny kittens and I am such a pushover) was waiting at the stoop, staring. The pile nearly toppled as I fished in my bag for my keys. Mommycat just stared, wondering what in this world could be more important than her dinner.
My pages are sitting for a bit, awaiting a fresh read when I’m ready to devote myself to them. Until then, I need to fill up on as many books as possible. Every now and then I feel a little nudge from another book-idea, infiltrating my thoughts and dreams, trying to entice me into its shadowy realms. But I must focus! I have chosen my path, for a time. Besides, there are plenty of shadows here left to explore.