Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To Read On or Not to Read On

Yesterday, in the comments, Genie of the Shell remarked on the importance of both good story and good writing.

This reminded me of a book I recently finished (name to be withheld, sorry. Maybe, one of these days, I'll write about a book whose name I feel okay mentioning. Maybe). At first, the writing didn't grab me, so I didn't pick up the book. However, every time I returned to the bookstore, I'd find myself thinking about that book and looking at it some more. Eventually, I folded. I bought it.

It turned out, the writing never grabbed me. When people asked me how the book was going, I told them, "B/B+. Almost all the points for a good idea."

The only thing the book really had in it's favor was the unique and interesting idea (which, by the by, they misrepresented on the coverflap, which I hate, but that's a story for another time). I kept going for the sake of the idea, but the writing wasn't fabulous, in my opinion.

This isn't the first time I've stuck out mediocre writing for a good plot or idea, and I know I'm not the only person who does that sort of thing.

What does this mean? It means we need good ideas!

Okay, you're all rolling your eyes and saying, "Umm... No duh, we already knew that." But, what I mean is that, though editing is important and story craft is really important, the story and the idea are super important. Maybe even more important. Because, unless you've got an original and interesting idea, there's really no point in crafting it to perfection. It'll feel trite whether it's perfect or not.

I've done this myself. My first novel was ridiculously trite. I didn't bring anything new or original to it. And it took me a good long time to realize that polish that baby all I might, edit the words until they were perfect, it wouldn't change the fact that I was writing a story we'd all seen a million times and not adding to it anything we hadn't seen before.

Ideas are essential to good stories.

Which do you find essential, good writing or good story? If one element is slack, can the other make up for it? Do you sometimes read books with bad or mediocre writing for the sake of a good idea or plot? Will bad writing make you chuck a book away even if the story is good?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To Buy or Not To Buy

Recently, Miss Snark's First Victim invited readers to submit the first 25 words of their WIPs for critique. I posted mine and got some interesting feedback. (Sorry, not linking to it, since I've got to agree that it isn't my best.) The point was for the commenters to say whether or not they were hooked.

Now, this might just be me, but I can almost never tell if I'm hooked by a book within the first 25 words. I usually need the first 150 or so to figure it out. Really, at least one paragraph, sometimes more. But, rarely will I know whether I'm interested or not in the first 25 words. (If you've scared me off that fast, holy hopscotch, what did you do?) Usually, at such an early stage, most are in limbo, some are on probation, everyone is still awaiting judgment.

My book selection process is simple and gleaned from how agents pull books from the slush. (I kid you not, learning how agents pick books made me better at picking books up at the store. I now am better equipped to select my own reading material):

1) Read the summary on the back cover or book jacket. Basically, read query. (Books without 'queries' tick me off. I resent being asked to make a decision with basically no information.)

2) Read first page or so--
a)If I don't like it, put it back.
b)If I sort of like it, read a bit more (like requesting a partial) or set it back on the shelf to see if I like it enough to think about it (considering a partial/full MS).
c)If I love it, select for purchase/borrowing.

Now, for you guys. How do you decide which buys to buy/borrow? How long does it take you to decide if something is good/your type of book or not? Where did you get this decision making style?

Monday, March 29, 2010

To Post or Not to Post?

When I asked last week what sort of material you'd all be interested in seeing more of on the blog, some expressed an interest in seeing some of my writing posted. Admittedly, it has, generally speaking, been my policy not to post things I've written on the site. There are a few reasons for this.

~I don't generally think things are fit for general consumption until they've been seriously scoped out and edited, and I don't have a lot of material in that state.

~I secretly worry what agents might think if they stumbled upon the excerpt I posted. (Yep, I'm just that whimsical, moony, and dreamy. Hush, though. That's a secret.)

~There are times when I'm insecure about my writing. So, you know, I'm a little scared of the possible effects of the internet on my weak, little story that can't quite defend itself yet. (But hush, that's also a secret.)

That all being said, there are some good reasons for people to post excerpts online.

~Getting feedback can improve one's writing. Unbiased feedback can be especially helpful.

~Posting online can build confidence, much like practice at public speaking. And, arguably, since y'all are unlikely to come upon me without my prior knowledge, you are a not-so-scary audience. (Sorry, if you were hoping to be the terrifying minions/followers/merry men. I can go back to expressing looks of meek terror if you prefer. Seriously, I think I've got that look down.)

I am taking the suggestion that I post some of my own work online under advisement, and it is receiving serious consideration.

But, now I'm curious about your views. (I warned you there might be more prying into your lives and minds. Tehehe.) Do you post your work in public? Do you enjoy it? Do you read excerpts that others post online? Do you enjoy that?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Posts that Amused Me

Instead of a straight-up jokes, this week I'm rekicking to some posts that were amusing and informative.

Stephanie Thorton posted this little gem. Really, it's hilarious six ways to Sunday, so you should skedaddle on over there and check that out.

Karen Hooper encourages the release of our monsters. Mine should be attacking Port Arthur, Texas in a week. Hehehe.

The Girl With One Eye talks about jeans. And, quite frankly, we should all be talking about jeans. Because they're just that awesome.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What Banagrams Can Teach Us About Writing

Okay, we've heard me say before that I like Bananagrams. Turns out, I wasn't kidding. And, to prove my love, as all great knights and story heroes must, I'm writing a blog post about what that game can teach us about writing. (Okay, so, it's not as heroic as slaying a dragon, or even a gila monster, but it's what I've got.)

Get something big up front. That way you've got something to build on.
Imagine trying to build an entire board of words from Cat. It's hard. You've got limited things to build from and not a wide variety of letters to use in your building words. Not ideal. A similar principle applies to ideas. While I'd never claim a full-fledged idea cannot spring from a single line of dialogue or the flicker of an imagine in ones mind, I wouldn't advise a person with only one line of dialogue to sit down and start banging away on the keyboard. They won't know what to do once they've run out of initial steam, and they'll probably give up. The idea should be kicked around and thought about until it's more fleshed out, bigger. Then, it will be something you can build on.

Build on what you've got. Don't scrap the entire board just to place one tricky letter.
When you're staring at a Q and thinking, 'Aaahh! I have no vowels free and nowhere to put this, I don't know what to do!' you might be struck with a sudden urge to take a lot of things apart to find a place for it. 'I can put the other stuff together again in a different way. It'll totally work.' It can work. But it's also going to take a lot of time and effort, and it might not even work. Alternatively, when in a whole, the appropriate response is not to dig to China. It's to use the shovel to put footholds in the wall. It's easier to make smaller changes and solve one problem then rebuild the entire thing and possibly make more. Simpler solutions are often available if we look, and they're good options.

Resist the urge to dump. It often makes more problems than it fixes.
Some friends of mine, whenever they hit a rough letter, dump it. That means they put it back in the Pile From Whence Words Come, and draw three more letters. This can be helpful when faced with a really tricky letter, like a z or an x. But for an ordinary letter, like a r, this often creates more problems than the one it solves. It adds to the list of things you have to deal with, and like destroying the whole board to manage a hinky letter, you run the risk of taking on a lot of nonsense you don't know what to do with. In writing, it you get lost in a scene, the solution is not to spin all sorts of meaningless stuff you'll have to cut later. If you've got a plot hole, don't pull nonsense from nowhere to fix it. Go with what you've already built in the story. There's probably an answer there. Think. Focus. Then type. This isn't a timed event. It doesn't have to all happen this instant.

Don't be afraid to take apart what you've already made.
(This is the part where I end with the one that's not like the others.) Okay, from what I've already said about not destroying everything, I don't mean that what you've already done is set in stone. It's not. Shuffling can occur. Editing will occur. Things can change. And they can certainly change to accommodate an issue you've only just noticed. I just meant you don't always have to change everything. If you see a small change that can be made to one scene (a letter you can pull from a long word without creating a problem over there) and use that to solve you problem that you're having now (and use it to create a great word that gets rid of your icky letter), you shouldn't be afraid to go for it. Place things now, solve the problems now, and don't think you can't possibly change them later to manage the problems as you go.

Summation: Nothing's set in stone. You've probably got lot's of great foundation already laid. Don't scrap the entire thing to solve one problem in one part. Just use what you've got to make your fix. (There's probably an architecture metaphor to be had here, but that's for another day.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010


According to the Blogger tracking device that I've decided to trust implicitly, this is my 250th blog post. Golly gee willickers, I've been doing this for a while. Also, according to Blogger, I have 65 minions, (I mean, followers. Yeah, of course...)

Well, minions/followers, I'm curious, what would you all be interested in hearing more of?

~More thoughts on writing? I'm sure I could beat my head against a wall until some other useful/interesting things came out.

~More humor? I can be funny. I think. (I'm told my humor's an acquired taste, so that could be interesting. Seriously, I've some weird stories about my attempts to be funny. Crash and burn failures at humor, really. Yeah....) Or I could get humor from other, actually funny sources.

~ More kicks? Do you like me linking to other blogs I think you might enjoy?

~More about my life? Yes, I'm aware I'm not the center of the universe. That's quite a pity. But maybe you're interested. (Just promise not to be creepy stalkers, okay. Don't worry, I trust you.)

~ More invasions of your personal lives. I mean, politely and uninvasively asking for your opinions and views on things. (I like this, because y'all are cool people and I like hearing what you think and do. In a non-stalker sense, of course.)

~More reviews of book or movies or end of the world theories?

~You don't want to be called my minions or my followers but would rather be known as something else? That would certainly be something to weigh in on. I'm open to suggestions. (Personally, I'm hoping someone suggests calling you my merry men. I know, a disproportionate number of you are probably female, but I see no reason for that to stop us. ;P )

~Other things you think should be included?

Anything you want to hear less about?

I'm open to all sorts of suggestions. Advice will be noted, if not always heeded. (For example, any requests that I post in Portuguese will not be met with compliance. That I know of.) I promise not to do anything crazy about constructive criticism. No strange stalking. I swear. (See, that was an example of my humor that often only works if you know me. I wasn't kidding when I said my head was an unusual place.)

Have a great day. :D

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Kill The Baby

Okay, before I scare anyone, this isn't an issue post or anything involving graphic images of anything whatsoever. Because that's an image that none of us need, I'm sure.

This post is about theater. We like that, right? Something nice and warm and sweet (even if theaters can be dark and kind of cool temperature-wise, but that's besides the point.)

Okay, it's about killing babies and theater. And writing, of course. But mostly about the later two, I promise.

Anyway, getting on topic...

Once upon a time, in the days when I was two inches shorter and an active member of a certain theater cult (I mean, family-esque theater organization...), an older member gave us some very useful information about improv, or really any material you're presenting: Don't kill the baby.

That line came from a kid in one of her college theater classes who did a whole pantomime as if tenderly holding a baby only to culminate by killing it. Basically, it meant that during an audition or something of that sort, don't do things that will scandalize or horrify your audience past traditional bearing.

Here's the thing about doing something like that, if you kill the baby, people will be pretty well horrified, and that's all they're going to remember about your work. They'll walk about saying, 'Heaven's to Betsy, they kill the baby.' 98% of the time, that's not the reaction you're hoping to elicit.

So, unless you're in the two percent who want people to think, 'Aaahhh! They killed the baby!' I'd strongly recommend not doing it. Really strongly recommend it.

I'm not saying that shocking your readership is a bad thing. It can be a very good thing to do. But there are times, places, and ways for it. And it's probably best to make sure that the way in which you're doing it does not detract from your work overall.

I recently finished a book (which shall remain nameless, because of my policy of not dissing books on the blog) that killed the baby. It's wasn't a bad book, but the Killing the Baby scene is one of the two I seriously remember. (Actually, arguably, there were three shocking scenes, one of which stands out as seriously Killing the Baby, all of which I remember, and one regular scene that was good. The traumatic stuff, though, is what leaps to mind.) Basically, the baby-killing moment wiped a lot of the book from my recollection.

While I think this book might have fallen into the 2% where killing the baby works for the book, it still illustrates, in my mind, the care with which one must handle such material. Is this the part of the book you want seared into your readers' brains? Does this moment make sense in the context of the rest of the book, or will it seem completely out of left field? Is this shocking to help or shocking to be shocking? You'll need to know the answers to those questions.

Baby killing scenes are specifically Handle With Care.

How do you feel about such shocking material? Have you used it in your own work? Has such a scene ever drastically changed your view of or reaction to a work?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Lotta Words

Those of you who stop by on Saturdays to see the things that amuse me probably remember the video I posted.

In the short version, it's about the idea that talent doesn't exist. Hard work exists. A lot of hard work. According to the author of a book I've never read and consequently don't remember the details of (they're in the video if you want them), talent is really 10,000 hours of hard work.

Well, I don't know how I'd measure how many hours I spent working on my writing. How far back in the process would learning to write kick in? I mean, education requires training in expository (and sometimes narrative) writing, so would that count? Would time spent honing ideas count towards the hours? I find hour-counting to be a hinky measurement with writing.

Units should be easy to figure out. Like in chess, they say you have to lose 500 games to be any good. It's easy to know if you won or lost the game. That's a workable unit.

I heard somewhere on the internet that, to be a decent writer, you need to write 1,000,000 words. Well, I guess there's some comfort there, in that it's a workable measurement. Did you write the word or not? Straightforward.

On the other hand, that's a hecka lot of words. One million. Part of me says, oh heaven's to Betsy, I'll be writing from now until I die to get that far. I'll never make it.

I'm currently at 183k, counting all finished drafts. 817k to go. To me, that looks at a really, really long way to go. Someone said to me yesterday, 'Oh, 183k, that's really close.'

To which I say, no, no it isn't. 82% to go is not close. That's 17 NaNoWriMos. It's 13 first drafts. It's years.

Part of me wants to beat my head into a wall.

But, I also know it's important. Because, just like you have to learn all the ways not to make a light bulb (at least 1000), and all the ways not to win at chess (at least 500), I need to know all the ways not to write a good sentence, paragraph, chapter, novel (thousands upon thousands). And, as such, I will persevere.

817k, here I come.

How many words do you think you've written? Do you subscribe to the idea you should write a million?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On Talent and A Hecka Ton of Work

This is funny and interesting.

However, be warned, this does contain cursing (including an F-word). Probably a PG-13. Just clearing that up up front.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Today, I'd like to send some congratulations to Beth Revis, who has gotten a book deal for her novel Across the Universe. You go, girl. :D

To celebrate, she's holding a contest. Why don't you all go over, say congrats, and check out the contest.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Happened to My English?

I tend to I think I've got a pretty good grasp on the English language. It's my first language, and I spent a fair amount of time learning about grammar. I read a fair bit, and, you know, I do that whole writing thing. What I'm getting at is, I thought I had my English pretty well sorted.

But, lately, something funny's been happening to the way I write. While editing a paper, I noticed myself shifting clauses because I thought they sounded better in other places. But, when I thought about it, I realized syntax wasn't what I'd have used a year ago or what most people seem to use.

I have a theory. I've started studying Chinese, and the grammar is pretty different. For example, prepositional phrases must proceed the verb. Yeah, we don't do that in English. Except I've started doing this. I'm pretty sure that's weird.

This surprises me. I didn't do this when I took French in high school. Maybe it's because French grammatical structure isn't uber-different from English, but though French taught be a lot about grammar (certainly the first time I'd ever heard the words Indirect Object Pronoun), it didn't do trippy things to my English.

So, what I'm leading up to is this, has anyone else experienced a similar phenomenon? Has learning a new language effected the way you use for other one(s)?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

There Is No Future, Only the Past

I know that title probably sounds depressing, but it isn't. At least, not for me. I cribbed an old quote by O'Neill, "There is no present or future, just the past happening over and over again." Well, the truthfulness of that in regards to historical events, I will not debate at this moment. But, I must say, from what I've seen, in stories, at least, it's true.

Don't believe me?

Scenario #1: A young couple from waring families falls in love and must struggle to be together against seemingly impossible odds.

Obviously, I mean Romeo and Juliet. Except I really meant the myth about Pyramus and Thisbe. Or did I mean Troilous and Cressida? No, wait, I was thinking of The Wicked Books by Holder and Viguie.

Scenario #2: Pretty, spirited young miss becomes involved with a slightly older, highly attractive man, and through her love saves him from his dark past.

I'm not even going to play with you on this one. That's the plot of about a million romances whose names I couldn't even begin to list. And Twilight. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

So, this brings about the old question, what constitutes new and original anyway? For most stories, I'm sure there's something there that, when stripped to the bones, is really something we've all seen before.

But, for me, that's the key. You've got to strip it to the bones to see that. There should be enough new and interesting meat on the bones that it distinguishes itself from others of its kind.

Bear with me on what could be a disturbing metaphor, okay?

Human skeletons, by and large, look a lot alike. (Not that I've seen a bunch up close or anything like. I'm generalizing.) If you look at pictures of different human skulls, you'll always know, 'Hey, that's a human skull.' And, if I showed you five skeletons, you'd probably need a while to find the two that were exactly alike. (Ooh, an interesting, but slightly creepy, game to play at Halloween parties.)

But, not all people look alike. We're not even shaped alike, for all we've got similar bones. Some bones are longer some people. Some people have more muscles in certain areas. Our hair and eyes and all the little details come in different dimensions and colors. The details change.

It's the same with stories. To make an old story new, change things up. Elongate some bones and shrink others (change the basic framework to shift the focus to another aspect of the tale). Redistribute the muscle groups (change some big aspect, like POV or time and place, which can do a lot). Replace the hair and eyes (make the minor details way different. You can change the MCs personality and end up with a whole different seeming story.)

The past is happening over and over again. Why don't we always feel like it? Because it's a different looking history every time.

How do you feel about story repetition? Are these all just the same old story over and over again? What do you do to make your stories original?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Feeling Fabulous?

During discussion of what makes a good thesis, a teacher once said, "You're thesis should make you think, 'Wow, that's interesting. I want to think more about that.' You don't have to think, 'Wow, that's possibly the best idea I've ever had,' -- though that'd be good -- but you should certainly think you've hit upon something great."

That made me think of the Chaucer in A Knight's Tale. During one of the scenes, he's introducing William (the MC) to a crowd and gives one of his characteristically amazing speeches, and when the crowd erupts in applause, he cries, "God, I'm good."

(About 4:10 to 4:42, if you want to watch. Had to put up the video. Paul Bettany is that good.)

I think we all know that writing is not like that all the time. We often enough look at the a hundred words (you, you know, ten thousand words) and say, "What in the name of ice cream was I thinking? This is ridiculous?" Then the delete key becomes your best friend.

But, every now and then, we write something and think, "Okay, that was fabulous."

A while ago, my friend read the line in The Thief Book,"Charlotte could smell him from where she stood several paces off. 'Would it kill him to bathe?' she wondered. Flavian, it seemed, thought it would," and she laughed aloud. That made my day. I got to think, "Yes, I'm good. That's what I do this for."

I think that's what we all do this for. We sweat and stress and cry over wording, characterization, story, and all the first. We work our hardest, all for that moment when everything comes together and it works. And, maybe, for once, we get to think, "God, I'm good."

How you thought that lately, in writing or in life? What elicited the emotion?

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Weird That It Made Me So Happy, But I'm Okay With That

I've recently been reading the book Magyk by Angie Sage. (Don't ask for my opinion. I'm not done yet, so officially, I don't have one.) (Notice how I say that right before I'm about to mention an opinion. That personality trait might be important later.)

Well, the other day, someone asked me what I thought of the book. I said, among other things, "The author's really got a way with boldface." Which is totally true, by the by. Every now and then, I'll read a sentence and think, 'Her use of bold here is really great." It's especially impressive to me, because I never use boldface in my own writing. (I do use italics sometimes, as you might have noticed, but I never bold.) (Okay, I'm going to stop typefacing now, because even I know that's probably getting old.)

But, after kvelling about the use of boldface in Magyk, I transitioned into talking about Fly by Night by France Hardinge. That book makes incredible use of Capitalization. Fantastic, actually. The book's Capitalizing really made it that much better. Capitalizing is something that i do sometimes in my writing, but I don't think I do it quite as well as Ms. Hardinge. That's certainly something I'd like to work on.

Well, after we'd been having this conversation for about ten minutes, I realized that we'd just spent ten minutes discussing books in a very strange manner. I mean, I can talk about books for hours, but even I understand that talking about typeface and capitalization for ten minutes and meaning to go on for longer is quite unusual.

Still, I can't help it. Those aspects, when done well, can be Fantastic.

What are your thoughts? What are some things in books that you enjoy that might be unusual to enjoy?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Do You See Your Story?

The other day, in a comment, Karen G referred to a character as 'wanting more screen time.' This made sense to me, as I say things like that about my characters all the time. Enough time spent talking to Captain Film Major about story development and movies, and such things worm their way into one's vocabulary.

Very commonly, I'll refer to my characters, "waltzing into the scene," as though they strolled onto it from the wings. I've probably also said "And such-and-such enters from stage left," and I have a sneaking suspicion I've said, "They want to change the blocking!"

On the other hand, I have never said, "So-and-so wanted more page space," or "I thought it would be a shorter scene until such-and-such demanded five more inches to discuss the issue."

The way I view my writing, it seems, has been inescapably influenced by my time working with theater. Characters, for me, come on and off from the wings (maybe explaining my care with noted entrances and exits), and sometimes I feel like my book is a fleshed out script, with lots of dialogue and important actions but details other than general notes and stage directions not always present.

How do you see your stories? What made you start seeing things that way?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


It's come to my attention that, as there are so many awesome people out there in the blogosphere, I've posted several posts about Some Things Of Interest. From now on, to simplify, I shall just abbreviating that label to STOI. For your convenience, and my own. Just FYI. Now, on to STOI.

Wendy posted some very interesting thoughts about writing like a building. I feel like the Great Wall of China. What building(s) are you?

The Intern gave some useful insights on xylophones, magicians' hats, and writing. For the record, I cannot play the xylophone, but I have a healthy respect for those who can.

And, Elana Johnson is having a blog contest to celebrate having more than 700 followers (Wowzers.) You'll want to go check it out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Predictably Unexpected

The other day, Piedmont Writer posed in a post an interesting question: "Do you ever do something to your book that was never in the way you originally saw it?"

Okay, this is currently happening to me with The Thief Book in a big way, since apparently my characters decided the new ending was a chance to Carpe Diem and totally change everything from what I'd expected. They want to talk about their feelings and grow as people and nonsense like them. (Curse them. Don't they know I've got a schedule and plans?) But that's a conversation for a different time.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I've a feeling most writers encounter a moment when the story just stops going to way we thought it was going to go. If it's not in the first draft where characters sometimes grab the wheel and drive off in whole other directions (and, let's face it, that happens), it's during the revisions, when you realize things need to change and go a different way or the characters decide to politely (or not so politely) inform you that they'd like to take things in a different direction. Today, I watched a vlog in which John Green stated he generally throws out 90% of his first draft. Things change in revisions.

But, this is a good thing. And, more than that, it's a natural, sort of unavoidable thing. A long time ago, Lady Glamis said something about everyone growing. (Sorry. I'd link to the original post, because it was pretty brilliant, except I couldn't remember the exact language, so Google wouldn't help me.) Anyway, to me, the ideas seemed related.

See, Glamis's post, if I may paraphrase, and if I'm not making too bold with the original content, said that over the course of the time it takes to write a book, we all learn a lot and grow as people and writers. Therefore, from the time we start the first draft to the time we end it, and even more from the time we write the first draft and the time we revise it to make the second (or later) draft(s), we could be in a very different place as writers. So, from there, we try to fix things up to be equal to where we are now. But, of course, we grow even more in that time, so it's an unending cycle.

Well, it seems to be that sometimes, we're getting jumped and surprised by our stories, because we've grown more than we thought. So, all of a sudden, these ideas and realizations come to us that we didn't see or think about before, because now we are wise enough to see them.

So, I'm warning y'all know, you're going to be surprised. You'll be surprised by your ideas, your characters, your writing, and even yourself. It's going to happen. Expect the unexpected.

Okay, sharing time: whose been taking by surprise lately? Anyone's writing/ideas/characters do something really crazy and unexpected lately?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Some More Thanks.

It has come to my attention that I received an award from the lovely Anne Gallagher, who I still think of as Piedmont Writer. Thanks so much, Piedmont. I'm glad you enjoy this blog.

It's my pleasure to pass this award along to some others:

Karen Hooper of * Eternal Moonshine of the Daydreaming Mind *
Elena Johnson in a blog of the same name
Lisa and Lauren from Lisa and Laura Write. (Every time I type that name, I think it's somehow going to be a blog about knitting. It isn't. Strangely enough, it's about writing.)
Susan Mills from A Walk in My Shoes

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blondes For The Win

Finally, I have found it! My official, new favorite blonde joke.

A lawyer and a blonde were sitting next to each other on a long train ride from Orlando to New York City. After about half an hour, the lawyer became bored and leaned over and asked the blonde if she would like to play a fun game.

The blonde just wanted to take a nap, so she politely declined and leaned against the window to get some shut-eye.

The lawyer persisted. The game, he promised, was very easy and a lot of fun. "I ask you a question," he said, "and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5, and vice-versa."

Again, the blonde politely declined and tried to get some sleep.

The lawyer, intent on playing, said, "Okay, if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500." 'She's a blonde,' he thought. 'I'll make some money easy on this one.'

The blonde weighed her options and concluded she wouldn't get any sleep until she played a round or two. She agreed to play.

The lawyer asked the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?" The blonde didn't say a word, just reached into her purse, pulled out a five dollar bill, and handed it to the lawyer.

Then the blonde asked, "What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down with four?"
The lawyer was stumped. While he thought, the blonde fell asleep on the window. Not wanting to be bested by a blonde, the lawyer pulled out his computer, tapped into the WiFi and searched every database he could think of for the answer. He found nothing.

Finally, after over an hour of looking, the lawyer awakened the blonde and handed her $500. The blonde politely accepted the $500, stowed them in her purse, and shut her eyes again.

The lawyer, more than a little miffed, shook her awake and demanded, "Well, what's the answer!?

Without a word, the blonde reached into her purse, pulled out a five, handed it to the lawyer, and went back to sleep.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Confidence -- I'm Pro

Yes, I'm in favor of believing in oneself. Shocking, I know. But, I think self-confidence is great.

What motivated these comments? I promise it wasn't just a desire to hear myself talk or an inexplicable love of tapping away at my keyboard. (Though both of those are fun, I could probably fill those without needs without yammering on a blog. Probably.)

Well, yesterday, I had a nice conversation with The Other One about a movie that we both enjoyed. (I'm not going to give the name here, sorry, because I'm about to give a slight critique of it, and I don't want to publicly diss a movie that was actually pretty good. So, I'm just going to take the learning experience, talk about it here, and leave the movie out of it.) My sister mentioned that the emotional arcs of the characters at the end were not very clear, which I also believed to be true.

The real flaw of with the emotional arcs wasn't that the writers weren't capable of getting them right, because they'd proved earlier in the movie that they were capable of sensical and moving emotional arcs. Nor was it the fault with the actors, because they'd already demonstrated in the film the necessary skills.

The problem was that the scenes necessary to convey the emotional shifts in the characters and the changes in the relationships involved (these things were only hinted at in the final film, leaving the audience the work of figuring out what they'd missed), these scenes were not in the film. They were skipped over with the expectation, as far as I could tell, that the viewer would pick up the slack.

(Now, this could be a moment where I talk about Don't Make Your Reader Work So Hard, but I'm going to save that for another moment and talk about my intended topic. [Me staying on topic, that might actually me a shocker for y'all. Woah.])

It seemed to me that this problem displayed a lack of confidence in their on the part of the filmmakers. (This is the point when The Other One told me I was over-thinking. I do not concur. I believe I am thinking just the right amount.) I think they did not have those important scenes because they didn't have enough confidence in their project.

What I think happened is that they worried the movie would run too long and they would lose the attention of their audience. Their solution: Shorten the movie to a length that the audience would willingly pay attention. The problem: They cut important stuff to get it as short as they wanted it.

First of all, they didn't need to shorten it. They had me. I would have gladly watched the extra 10 or 15 minutes they'd have needed to fill out the emotional arcs at the end.

But, if they didn't think they had everyone, then the right answer would not have been to create an inadequate ending (endings are important. For my thoughts on endings, click here.). What they should have done was go back to the beginning and middle and made sure that every scene was sufficiently amazing so that by the time the end came about the viewer would gladly sit for 10 or 15 minutes to finish up the emotional arcs properly.

This seems to me to indicate a lack of confidence in the caliber of their work. They didn't believe it could hold my attention.

We, as storytellers, need to believe in ourselves and our stories. We need to believe in the capability of our writing to hold the attention of readers. And if we don't think what we have is capable of doing that, we need to believe that we are capable of improving it enough to hold the readers attention.

We need to believe in our work and its ability to rock.

How's your writerly self-confidence right now? How important do you think confidence is?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Contest Kick

Nicole DuCleroir is having a contest over on her blog. You should swing by and check it out, the contest and the blog.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I am kicking over to this rant, because I think it is genius. I couldn't have said it better myself.