Monday, August 31, 2009


I've heard some pretty interesting things about the month of August (ie: It should be abolished, because people commit crimes in August. No lie, I've heard that. Personally, I think if we called it Kittens instead, there'd still be crime. But, who knows, I could be wrong.) But, this post isn't about that. Just me, in August.

My goal for August was to finish my first draft of my WIP. I figured I get it all typed up in September and that everything would be swell. Yeah, that didn't happen.

I'm close. At least, I'm sort of close. See, I figured the book would take about 50k words. Well, that was a fail. See, I didn't figure on some subplots going on that suddenly appeared, so it's looking like it'll edge closer to 55K or so. Minimum, because I ended up about 2 chapters or so from the end.

Right now, it's about 47K. I probably would have done better, but my plans were interrupted by my move to Undisclosed Location. See, I totally forgot to factor in packing. My bad. Will do better next time.

Yep, that's right. I've moved. I am now somewhere else, which should be interesting. I've never really moved before, at least not that I remember. So, this has been a new experience. So far, so good. I'll keep you posted. :D

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mississippi Mud

I once saw a piece of Flair on facebook (for non-facebookers, think of it like a bumper sticker, which by the way, this should be) that said "Writers Bleed Ink." It made me laugh. And, on some level, it's true. Hell, since I write longhand the first time around, it looks sort of true. I've always got ink on my hands somewhere. And maybe on my face,too, if I leaned on it for a bit. But the line also made me think of one of my favorite songs by Heartland (Yes, that's right, I like country. And I am not ashamed) called "Mississippi Mud."

The song is about a guy who stayed to work on the family farm in Mississippi (go figure) instead of going off to work in a city. He says he loves "a little house, a piece of land, making things grow with my own two hands," and that he's fallen in love with that Mississippi mud. When I hear the lyrics "I've seen so much Delta rain, it must have seeped into my veins," I can't help but remember the words "Writers bleed ink."

Writing is rough. The process is draining. The muse is temperamental, not to mention cruel. The rejection is killer. But we all still do it, because we love it. (Hell, let's face it, we're certainly not in it for the money, though some money would be nice. Not everyone can be Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, though that too would be nice.) It's tough. I know I'm not the only one beating my head against walls/tables/computer screens when the words won't come. We all deal with tough revisions. I don't even need to mention the pain of waiting to hear back from agents, or worse, the rejections that happen to everyone.

It's not easy. But, then again, it shouldn't be. We're all doing this because we feel something compelling us to. We've all got that drive, that determination to see this idea through to the end. And that's what makes what we do special.

It's in our blood.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

POV Whiplash

I recently picked up the last book in a series that I read about two years ago. The authors had ended book four on a cliffhanger, properly undoing all closure they'd established, and then ceased writing the books, leaving me royally peeved. So, when I saw book five in a shop, I HAD to get it. What can I say? I like knowing how things end.

Well, I'd forgotten something about these books. The authors like to jump POV a lot. They LOVE it. And it never bothered me in the other books. I would remembering being seriously ticked if it had. But here's the thing: they're jumping all the time now.

There are maybe six or so separate stories going on here, not to mention that they authors like to cut back to the hawks (which I think are supposed to be symbolic or foreshadowing things). And I'm getting POV whiplash. I understand why the author needs to jump around a fair bit. I mean, there are loads of stories to keep track of here. But, then again, some of these jumps are 3 POVs on a page.

In book one, there were only two main POVs and occasionally two others, but not really. Generally, it cut between one family and the other, and that kept it simple. The benefit of that was that each character's section was long enough that I didn't feel like a hackey-sack being kicked from person to person.

I do shift POV sometimes, I admit it. But I try to minimize how often I need to do it. Sure, I know there are other characters out there, and you want to keep the reader apprised of what's going on with them, but a POV shift can be a rather abrupt way of trying to do that. It will, to some extent, remove the reader from the story. So, you shouldn't do it if you don't have to. For example, that page where there were 3 POVs on the page, I didn't need that paragraph about the hawks. The shift to them pulled me from the stories, because it felt jarring. And, all in all, I don't think I needed the paragraph about the hawks. It could have been much simpler and better without that shift.

Sometimes, I shift POV, but I like to ensure that it's always important. If it doesn't serve a point or if it risks being too jarring for the reader, there ought to be a reason that this risk was worth taking. If it didn't move the stories along well or could have been done in a different way just as well, then there was no reason to do it. A POV shift is noticeable to the reader. Do you want the reader to be distracted by 'um... why did they just do that?' when you're characters are running all over the place doing interesting things?

If I shift POV, I try to keep each section of POV relatively long. I mean, at least a page. True, there have been times when I flashed between characters every 200 words of so, but I had a good reason for wanting to do that. The conflict of the chapter was the characters running into each other, so I needed the reader to know how they both ended up where they weren't supposed to be. However, if the POV is short, it can be disquieting for the reader. It will be a lot of dashing back and forth between mindsets, creating a feeling of being chucked around. If they spend longer in each head at one go, it will feel more like separate chapters and less than mind ping pong.

I compare book reading to movie watching a lot in my head. In a movie with two MCs, or nine MCs even, how often do they jump around? I'm guessing it's a scene, a full length scene, per group of characters, maybe more, before they switch. They don't just do shot, shot, shot all the time. Otherwise, the audience wouldn't know what was going on and just feel unbearably frustrated.

Do you use multiple POVs? How do you feel about POV shifts?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Balancing Act

I've never seen the movie Mulan 2, but some time on the youtube directed me to the song "Lesson Number One," which I personally enjoyed. Mulan explains to a group of young girls that to be a great warrior one must find the balance between all things hard and strong and all things soft and weak. Think yin yang.

How does this relate to writing? Well, I once heard writing described as a socially accepted form of schizophrenia. That makes sense. After all, we all have lots of other people running around in our heads and we imagine worlds that are not there. Not to mention the fact that we're probably not sleeping much and we're trying to obey all sorts of conflicting advice.

Writers have to balance advice like "Plan ahead" and "Follow the characters where they lead." It is hard to know how to balance the need to have the plot structured in advance and to have to flexibility to change the plan when things do not seem to be working. It's enough to drive a person mad, I'm sure.

However, this madness is imperative to creativity. It seems to me that as Mulan tells the girls that they cannot be great soldiers without balancing tough and gentle, one cannot be a great writer without balancing preplanned, organized, and structured with relaxed, flexible, and open.

How do you manage your balance? Do you think a true balance is possible?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I've been angsting for a bit about the latter half of The Thief Book. She's married to the prince, which should be nice conflict (no, the wedding is not the happy ending), except no matter what I do, everything seems to be sounding rather like a romance novel.

That's not okay. Sure, I like reading romances, and I like having a bit of romance in the story, but that's completely left field for a story that started out being about a girl working as a pickpocket and living with a professional thief.

Then, yesterday, my MC said something stupid. Not stupid like, 'Gee, that was a ridiculously dumb thing for you to say.' Stupid like, 'Well, jeez, why'd you say that? You just about admitted to everyone that your cover story is false.' And then it hit me.

Why would they think the cover story is false? I mean, she's no liar, and her dad isn't a liar, and the prince seems to believe them (yeah, he's in on the lie, too), so why would people be so ready to believe the lie's a lie. Except it is.

So why would that guy across the room, who seems like he should be figuring this out (Not my fault. He just plain told me he'd figured it out. Not even the extras consult me these days.) be able to see the truth. Unless maybe he's that guy from earlier in the book who never really had an identity.

So, it's decided. The extra is actually the guy they almost got arrested robbing about 7 chapters ago, and he knows. At least, they think he knows. Joy of joys.

Well, who am I to complain. It's not like it's my story or anything. I'm just writing it all down. At least it's conflict, and not a romance novel.

You know you're a writer when conflict makes you happy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Okay, That's Not An Ending

I can readily admit that the chances that someone has read Anne of Green Gables are dramatically increased by being Canadian and, you know, female. However, I'm going to reference it anyway.

About midway through the book (and, I promise this is in no way pivotal to the plot, so it's not a spoiler), Anne and her friends form a writing club. Anne is very good, and her friends do okay, though they all have their faults. Each girl's writing had a unique 'flaw.' The one that I best remember was that of Diana Berry, Anne's best friend. Diana was forever having new characters appear in her stories, and she never knew what to do with them after a while, so she just killed them all off.

I remember this now, because it seems to me that some people cannot resist writing the ending where they kill off every character. I've seen it at the end of more than a few critically acclaimed movies (I won't name names, because that would be unfair spoiling) and everyone left the movie feeling a bit unsatisfied.

Why do I take issue with this? It is not an ending.

True, at that point, the story has come to an end. However, just because the writer stopped writing -- and yes, if you've offed your entire cast of characters, you will have to stop writing -- that doesn't mean that anything has actually been ended. Nothing got accomplished.

If the books ends with all of the characters dead and none of the plot resolved, it never "finished" as things were. It just stopped. And that's just annoying. Think about it from the perspective of the reader. The reader doesn't know what came of the plot arcs the character was involved in at the point of their demise. The reader has no sense that the events of the plot mattered since there's no one alive to be impacted by what occurred. Why should they have cared about any of this? You'll leave the reader with the feeling that they've wasted their time.

The reader should never feel like they've wasted their time. If you leave the reader feeling as if you've stolen 15+ hours of his or her life, then they won't recommend your books to anyone else -- except to maybe, you know, people they hate -- and they won't pick up any of your other writing. That's bad.

So, I guess the moral of the story is, find something to do with the characters other than bumping them off. After all, just because you've got them off the stage, doesn't mean the audience has forgotten about them or what they were doing before their tragic and untimely demise.

All characters deserve a chance at a full and realistic life. Sure, some characters must die. And, if they must die, by all means, kill them. I'm not advocating peace and long life for all characters here. I'm just saying, they don't all have to die. Not during the book, at any rate.

Does this sort of ending bug you, or is that just me? Do you sometimes off characters when you don't know what to do with them anymore? What do you do with characters who like to hang around when you're done with them?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Vicodin Song

Okay, I'll admit it, this post has nothing to do with anything. Except that this supports my belief that there is a story in anything, and one can tell a story about all things.

Also, I'm in love with this song.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Running a Relay

Many months ago, I read an interesting post that compared methods of story telling to relays and marathons. The idea stuck with me.

In relay storytelling, the inciting incident begins a cascade of conflicts that move one after another, passing the tension of the story like relay runners passing a baton. For example, say, in romance, a twenty something young woman working as a waitress learns that the father she never met was actually a for hire assassin and that the annoying regular at work with whom she fights every day was her father's protegee, who her father asked to protect her. When she learns the truth, she quits her job and plans to move to escape the annoying man who claims she's now the target of a Colombian drug lord. She is attacked by the dug lord's henchmen but saved by the regular. She agrees to help the regular, who tells her that her father is the drug lord's hostage. As the story progresses, the drug lord continues to hunt her and she must go under cover with the man and pose as his wife, which allows the romance to blossom, whilst they attempt to rescue her father.

In marathon story telling, the inciting incident commences a long, hard struggle towards a single goal. While there may be twists and turns along the way, there remains one central conflict. In a thriller, marathon version of the previous story, our young waitress learns that her long absent father is being held hostage in Colombia and that she is now a target of the drug lord holding him. She is forced to team up with the annoying regular from her work, because the main claims he can lead her to her father. The issues of their prior dislike for each other and the fact that they must pretend to be married, in that case, are spice to the original motivations but cannot detract from it.

Usually, I read marathon style books, and when I first read the post, the idea of relay storytelling was new to me. To my view, most people are more familiar with marathons than with relays. It seemed to me that all of my writing would be marathons.

The Thief Book, however, is relay storytelling. The MC runs away from home into the conflict of unemployment and insolvency, which leads to working as a thief with a group of kids, which, oddly enough,leads to living in a thief den with a famous crook, which thrusts her into problems between said crook and the law. My unfortunate MC finds herself handed from one problem situation to another.

I believe that both methods have their uses. It seems to be that relay method lends itself to the romance genre, as well as literary fiction, among others. Marathon, I believe, is good for epics, thrillers, mysteries, among others. Of course, there are books of both method in all genres, though I am sure that some stories are better lent to one method or the other.

One interesting thing I noted from my Alpha reader's reaction (she must be very familiar with the marathon style) is that, since she did not anticipate relaying, my Alpha assumed the first conflict my MC faced would be the central conflict, instead of first in the line of many. The perception of how the story would be told effected her perception of what the story was.

Which method of storytelling do you use? Which do you prefer? Do you think there are other types of storytelling?

Golly Gee Willickers! It's Huge!

As someone who has previously marveled at the size of Canada -- in addition to it's general awesomeness -- I felt I should share this, for all Canucks everywhere.

Canada is REALLY big.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't Play Games With Me. I'm Just Not Ready.

I know I'm not the only kid who played computer games as a kid, but I can say with some certainty that not many kids played chess as a computer game when they were younger. My dad, who wanted my siblings and I to learn to play the game, one day brought home a computer game designed to teach the principles of chess. He'd already taught us some things, but he really wanted to get the game going in our heads.

I played my way through all the levels of the game, cementing permanently in my mind at least a rudimentary knowledge of the game. After that, I dipped my toe in the pool of chess. I played my siblings, my dad, my uncle, and my grandfather. My grandfather was good. He could play my siblings, me, and my little cousin all at the same time, and win all four games, too.

Me, I'm not good. I never seemed to have the head for it, could never see my opponent's moves coming, nor plan very far ahead. That's important in chess.

Here's the thing. I'm trying to use chess in the Thief Book. In my mind, it's supposed to be a metaphor for the game being played between my MC and the chief of police (and, in a wider sense, the game the thief is playing with the police). Also, it's something for the characters to do while they talk to each other. What this all means for me is that I need to map out the chess game in my head.

It's hard. At the moment, I'm focusing on the dialogue that occurs during the game, so I have a place-holder game going on. A sort of a rough draft game in the rough draft text. However, I cannot avoid it forever. I will, at some point, have to figure out what kind of game those two are playing, on the chess board at least. To do that, though, I'm going to have to return to the world of chess and learn to play the game all over again.

Writing requires a lot of things from us. Patience. Devotion. Love. Now, from me, it is requiring something more. Chess.

Do you use games in your writing? How do you like to choreograph scenes like this one? Do you choreograph them? Do you use skills of yours in your text? Have you ever learned a skill to use it in a book? What's the most unusual research you've ever done for a story?

Friday, August 14, 2009


Today I straightened my sister's hair. Normally, I only do that for special occaisions and sometimes the odd Tuesday. Today, though, she's working on a movie with a friend and insists the only way to get it to look right in a bun is to straighten it first. Don't ask me why. And it occured to me as I worked it with the hot iron that straightening hair is a lot like writing.

For those of young unfamiliar with the process of straightening hair properly (as I was up until last year when a 15-year-old told me I didn't have a clue how to do it), to straighten hair well, one must not only use small pieces at a time, one must work in layers.

Personally, I like to work up the bottom up, and all hair that I'm not dealing with at the time, I like to twist up and clip to the top of my sis's head with a clip. I pull out a snippet at a time and straighten it until it's good. Once I've done that layer, I release the rest, pull out another layer, reclip, and repeat.

How does this connect to writing, you might ask. (In fact, you probably are asking, because I could quite easily sound like a wingnut so far.) It reminds me of editting to turn a book into a better book.

Think of my sister's hair pre-straightening as a rough draft of sorts. (**Dodges objects thrown by people who don't like straightening/anti-consumerists trying to fight movements like hair straighteners/feminists who'd like to remind me that ridiculous beauty ideals are part of the male patriarchy. **) I worked the hair with layers to make it into the hair she wanted it to be.

The bottom layer, which people don't see much but you need to straighten anyway or you missed the point, would be the plot. Maybe you can make it through a reading of a book without a plot whole being noticed, so long as it isn't glaring, but all in all it helps to have that all smoothed out. Otherwise, there'll be some readers thinking, 'you know, that doesn't make sense. Why didn't Sheila just blast the alien with her plutonium death ray, jump down the whole, and save Pietrichoff from the goblin, instead of going the long way around?' If one doesn't straighten the base, one risks it rumpling the other hair. First step is figuring out your plot so it all makes sense.

The middle layers, much more visible than the bottom and very important to the overall appearance of nice hair, would be things like characterization, world-building, tension, suspense, flow of dialogue, symbols, theme continuity, and all those other things that go into making a good book. Without a well smoothed middle, no one cares about the bottom layer's straightness, and a perfect top layer can't possibly conceal a bad middle. The middle part is just too big and too important.

The top layer is overall word choice. While I will from now until I die endorse the practice of using the right word and not that word's second cousin (or worse, it's second cousin's husband's old barber from when it lived in Wichita), I still know that no matter how brilliant and perfect the word choice, no matter how concise the phrasing, if you're wasting these perfect prose on poor under layers, it's not all going to come together well.

Having one of the layers alone will cut it, just like only straightening half of my sister's hair wouldn't have worked. If I wanted it to look good, then I had to take the time to go at it layer by layer and make it all look good. Sure, I could have tried to do it all at once or to take one layer sometimes and another layer the other times without a serious plan, but those methods would not have given me anywhere near such good results.

The key is time, patience, and taking it one piece at a time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Middle Ground

The Thief Book, when I planned it all out, was set in a fictitious city in a fictitious country. (Shh... Don't tell my Alpha reader. She still thinks it's set in Italy. Not quite sure why.) That all works well enough for me, since I'm using English, French, and Italian names, mimicking the English aristocracy, using mostly French nomenclature, and basing a lot of the Thief's Code on that of the Russian vor v zakone.

So, here's the question: timing.

When I first came up with the idea, I never really put a date on it in my head. Most of the technology I've been using dates up 1837 at the latest, though much was probably discovered earlier. The fashion, on the other hand, tends towards 1815. (In my mind, that period had more practical fashions.)

It seems to me there might be a bit of trouble trying to set this book at an actual time in the real world. I am not quite ready to parce the question of what earthly year this story could have occurred in. Frankly, it probably wouldn't add more than a passing level of 'interesting' to the story to set it in Europe (the might fitting Earth place for this country) in any time that indeed occurred. Therefore, in my mind, it exists in its own little bubble. At least, it will until I am forced to think of sometime much cleverer to do to resolve these matters.

How do you choose the timing of your stories? How important do you find the issues of 'period'? Can some fiction exist without time period?

New Theory

Okay, I officially have a new theory of the universe. Here it is: the whinging helps.

Yesterday, I whined about my first draft. I can admit that my frustration was mostly tied to the fact that the words aren't coming as easily as they used to, so this is feeling more like work these days, so minor things get less of my patience.

But last night -- post whinging -- I had this amazing surge and I ended up writing about 1000 words without breaking a sweat. It was unbelievable.

So, my new theory is that the whinging helps. Now, I'm not talking about constant complaining of ranting about every little thing, but sometimes just getting the annoying things off your chest frees up some qi and gets the creative juices flowing again. I endorse venting.

So, for today, what's your pet peeve? What is frustrating you at the moment?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Minor Whinging

Today, midway through Chapter 8, I realized that what I was using to start a new chapter worked much better as the end to the previous chapter. And whilst I contemplated that fact, I realized that I had completely forgotten to write an important scene.

Earlier in the book, the MC's necklace is stolen, which is sad for her, because it was a gift from her dead mother. The other character is supposed to return it to her before she has to leave. I was about to write the scene where she has to leave but I hadn't written the return of the necklace! I wanted to beat my head against a wall. How did I forget that?!

I don't personally like to type my first drafts, but I have to admit that these errors would be much easier to rectify on a PC than in my notebook. Admittedly, with the first one, all I had to do was cross out the chapter label at the top of the page. It's not pretty but it's easy. The second fix isn't as pretty at all. (Yep, I care if it looks pretty. I'm an aestheticist.) I went back to the old spot, put in a post-it that says "Holy Hell! Forgot a crucial scene!" and added a note to flip to section A for the insert.

I don't like this because I like my draft notebooks to be neat and clean (in about 99.9% of cases, I write in perfect order. This is my first insert.) The only saving grace of that correction is that I was capable of adding the section without having to staple something in. I don't like doing that. Yes, this probably sounds like a silly thing to whine about (and I can admit that it's a silly thing to let bug me, I really do know that), but did I mention I like things pretty.

I'm sure there's a learning experience to be had here, maybe something like 'Don't write when tired,' or 'Constant Vigilance,' but at the moment I am not interested in seeking that out.

Okay, whinging over.

Monday, August 10, 2009

If Only Publishing Were This Easy

I'll admit it, I've never read the full unabridged version of Little Women. I made it through about half of it, and then someone gave me the abridged version. What can I say, sometimes I'm weak.

But I am familiar with Little Women: the Musical. (Beware. Impending **Spoilers**). In the song "Weekly Volcano Press", Josephine March tells her friends how she took a story of hers that no one will publish and went straight to the editor of the Weekly Volcano Press to read it to him so he would publish it. (video)

Discontent with the editors to whom she offers her story telling her to "leave it right there on the pile," Jo marches to the office of the editor of the Weekly Volcano Press, and when he tosses her story on the slush pile, she jumps on a chair and offers him a dramatic reading of it.

Long story short, Henry Dashwood, the editor, falls to his knees and begs for the story. In fact, she gets a job writing more stories for the newspaper.

God, I wish getting published were that easy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Deus Ex Machina de Bois

Once upon a time, my high school drama club put on a production of As You Like It by William Shakespeare. At the end of the play entire conflict is resolved by a new character named Jaques entering the scene and announcing that the combined forces certain to bring around the doom of the main character have halted due to the various oddities of fate. So, all eternal threats were canceled by nothing that anyone got to see. That character became known to cast and crew as Deus Ex Machina de Bois.

Deus Ex Machina is a plot device in which a person or thing appears from nowhere to save the main characters from seemingly impossible odds. The term itself dates back to Ancient Greece. The expression comes from the Ancient Greek practice of lowering the actor playing a god onto the stage with a crane. Euripides used Deus Ex Machina as the end to half of his plays. Yikes.

What's my problem with Deus Ex Machina? It's boring.

Think about it. How interesting would the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone have been if instead of Harry getting stone through the goodness of his heart and fighting Quirrel, instead McGonagal had shown up from nowhere and defeated Quirrel for him while Flitwick retrieved the stone? Not interesting.

The fun of the story is how the MC (you know, the person that the reader actually cares about) works out how to fix the problem/get the girl/save the world. No one wants to watch Deus Ex Machina de Bois do it (Here's a hint: He's new. No one cares about him.)

The only reason Shakespeare pulls it off at all (and just barely) is that the main characters themselves work out all of the personal conflicts that the audience has been watching. Deus Ex Machina, in that case, is only used to resolve that external conflict the audience hasn't been watching. If de Bois had tried to resolve the relationship conflicts at the same time (or worse, if he had actually succeeded in doing it) the audience would probably have thrown down their programs and stormed out.

Let's face it, not even Shakespeare or Euripides could really pull it off. Who wants to spend hours rooting for a character only to have him not resolve the problems on his out?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday Analysis

(Inwardly, I cringe at the dullness of that title, except it's probably the most accurate.)

This week, I broke 20k!

This is, undoubtedly, the result of my Mini Goals, which, I am proud to say, I have been keeping. Mostly.

Okay, Thursday, I wrote basically nothing. I didn't have any ideas, so I needed to think. But, yesterday, I was ready to go, hop, skimp, and jump. I actually got caught up all the way, which made me feel incredible, even if it does not leave me feeling sleepy. (Why is it that the only ever time I feel I can get things done is at night?)

I can attribute this tremendous progress yesterday to one of two things: I have suddenly become a ferocious writer capable of spinning out 2500 words a day without trouble or the internet was down yesterday, so I couldn't be distracted. While I'd like to think it's the former, I think it would taste a lie to claim I've done more than recognized my chief time-vampire.

The internet? Really? A time-vampire? Actually, I'm not surprised, though I think I'll pretend I am. Not having the internet, though it pained me (I'm a bit of a web junkie), did free up a lot of time and creative juices for my writing. It's almost enough to make me want to encourage my sister to take up internet scrabble again, so as to permanently block my access to the computer. Almost.

How was your week? What's your time-vampire?

Friday, August 7, 2009


Today, I saw the movie Julie/Julia. I absolutely loved it. I must admit, I did not read the book, but I did have my sister, who loved the book, next to me to intone her opinions about the differences between the two at semi-regular intervals.

I liked very much the interplay between Julia Child's life and that of Julie Powell. According to my sister, a stickler for detail in some things, there was less Child in the book than in the movie. But, then again, I that's probably why they said the movie was based both on Julie Powell's memoirs and a Julia Child biography.

Maryl Streep was adorable, and Amy Adams did a great job of turning a woman I couldn't find interesting (I did give the memoir the old college try but just couldn't get into it) into a character I found myself rooting for by the end.

All in all: A+

Also, there were some moments in the film portraying Powell's experience as a blogger that I think those who blog will appreciate very much.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Today, I've come just a little short of my mini goal. I think my problem is an idea slump.

I always knew sort of what I meant to have happen in this portion of the book, but the outline in general of it was more than a little vague. Without my outline to depend upon, I am left to pull the ideas together in my head. I need to create a sort of mini outline for the middle portion of the tale (it's always the middles that present the problem, isn't it?) and outlines usually take me time.

Usually, I kick the whole idea around in my head until it's ordered enough for the paper. I feel like I need to kick this middle part around in my head some more so that I can get a better feel for it.

I do know one subplot I hope to include during this portion of the book; however, since the idea only come to me (via the inspirational force known as my best friend), I'm still not sure how that's going to play out.

All in all, I feel like beating my head against my notebook.

Ever hit an idea slump? How do you regroup when things start getting hairy?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Goal Setting

There's one thing I tend to do really well in the planning stage: set goals.
The thing I don't do so well:live up to those goals.

Don't get me wrong. I respond well to deadlines, when they're imposed by someone else. If I'm the one setting the regulations, I often feel quite comfortable ignoring myself. Apparently, one side of myself loves the sound the deadlines make as they woosh by.

My current Big Goal: Finish my first draft (or, at least, reach intended finished up word count) by August 29th, which is my last day before I must head to Boston.

Sounds like a good enough goal to me. And, in my mind, the best way to reach Big Goals, is to have lots of Mini Goals that go along with them, so you can track progress en route.

Current Mini Goal: Write 1300 words a day. (I know the number probably sounds a little random, but that's what I'd have to do to round things up, at least in theory.) This is actually rather ambitious for me, but I'm dreaming big.

Today, second day in a row, I have met my mini goal. Actually, yesterday, I exceeded the mini goal, and was very proud of myself. So, so far, so good.

1300 words is a bit past what I usually can do. It's sort of like working to muscle fatigue. So, I'm careful to spread the effort out over a period of several hours. I just need to be weary of idea fatigue. I don't want to miss Shiny New Ideas just because I'm pushing a bit much.

I'll keep you posted on my goal progress.

What kind of goals do you set for your writing? Ever set goals of how many words/scenes/chapters you are going to finish by a certain date or time? What's your current goal/mini goal?


Today, I read a comment over at the Literary Lab that mentioned the importance of emotions carrying from one scene to the next. I almost slapped myself in the face. Duh!

It just occurred to me now that in my previous scene my MC was way to happy. I mean, she just had to leave her best friend behind when she moved and doesn't know when she will see him again. That has to have an effect.

Excuse me while I got bang my notebook on my head for my foolishness.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The States!

I'm back!

(Actually, I got back yesterday, but today was the first real day States-side.)

You know, I love Canada, but there are some nice things about the US. For example, Starbucks. I've found more than one place in Canada that actively eschews the store. Not fun. I've become rather used to having tea sold within a five mile radius. Also, while Canadian money was not based on Monopoly money (otherwise the fives would be pink), it still looks funny to me. (Though, I must say, twonies, are awesome.)

I learned some interesting things during my trip.
  • "I thought the second act had a bit of a length problem?" -- For the record, my brother thinks everything has a length problem. I mean, he's found short films overlong. So, every time we say a play, he found the second act, and sometimes the first, longer than necessary. This, actually, can be applied to writing. Post climax, your reader only gives you so long to wrap things up. Subplots should probably be resolved along the way, not post main issue.

  • "Miles are far." -- I asked my cousins to translate their 8 kilometers into miles, and when it was done, they were all surprised at how small the number was. "Miles are far," my cousin pointed out. To me, it sounds like one of those "brilliant" things that occurs whilst one is a little drunk, except in that context it made a lot of sense. They all think in kilometers. Life is relative.

  • "Soup! That changes everything!" -- At a restaurant, just when we were about to order, my brother learned that the restaurant sold soup. It did, in fact, change everything for him. Did I mention life is relative?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Must Be This Tall To Read

Today, I saw a very nice production of Julius Caesar. My internal thespian giggles with glee at such productions. One thing disconcerted me, though. As I was leaving, I saw a girl who looked no older than eight. True, she was with her mother, but that doesn't change some things about the show.

Let's have a little thought about age appropriate. This might not have been the bloodiest thing I've ever seen on a stage, but this was still the production where blood actually seeped from the corpse down the pulpit. True, I offer much praise to the techies who pulled that off, but that's not something I'd recommend for kids.

People consider often what to rate movies, how to categorize books, but it's not often people say, "oh, but isn't that play too high of a rating for kids?" At least, if that's happening, no one has ever said it in front of me (or the parent's of the tween or under personages I've seen at some particularly gruesome shows.)

Forsaking the middle, Julius Caesar ends with **Spoiler Alert** two assisted suicides. Interesting to watch when well done, but certainly a gruesome thought. In my younger days, my father's method of information control, instead of ratings or such things, was to tell me which items I wanted to read or watch he thought would make me unhappy. I soon learned that he was often right. I'd include much of Julius Caesar as things that would make a kid unhappy.

What constitutes "too much" for children? What is okay in books/movies/film?