Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writers Rules to Live By? Or just a go-by?

I recently was sent a great link to great advice for writers by a good friend.
Thought you all might appreciate it as well.

The advice is by many different authors. Some interesting. Some thought-provoking. Some like this -

Roddy Doyle
1 Do not place a photograph of your ¬favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

Just very good to know. Right?

I admit I did not recognize some of the names but that didn’t keep me from finding things to think about or appreciate in their list. Even if I didn’t know them to respect them as this one advised –

Jeanette Winterson
2 Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.
6 Take no notice of anyone you don't respect.

I thought her 2-advice was very good even if I didn’t know her to follow her #6 one.
I have tried to do what she has suggested even before I saw her advice.

I liked a lot of insight here…. That description is hard, and to remember that all description is an opinion about the world. I’ll have to mull over that but it seems pretty profound. But maybe that has something to do with the late hour and lack of sleep?
The rest of her advice was …interesting as well. Or maybe it had something to do with the whiskey reference. Although I don’t whiskey and rarely even drink a glass of wine. So maybe it is the late hour. So moving along now….

Anne Enright
2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.
3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good.
4 Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.
5 Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn't matter how "real" your story is, or how "made up": what matters is its necessity.
6 Try to be accurate about stuff.
7 Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ¬finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.
8 You can also do all that with whiskey.
9 Have fun.
10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ¬counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Okay, so what about PD James – there’s a name I know. Have read a lot of her books. Not necessarily my favs. but obviously are of a lot of people. Including a dear friend. But there is some good advice here I think.
I especially thought #2 was interesting. Although I’m not sure what I think about it. I often learn more from books I don’t like than ones I do since it’s easy to get caught up in a good book and miss the ‘mechanisms’ behind it. But bad writing? I don’t know. How is that determined? From what I can tell it’s all just a matter of opinion of whether a book is good or bad. And even sitting a table with a bunch of I’m sure very good writers, they all had very different opinions on good and bad books, and were very often talking about the same book.

PD James
1 Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ¬effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.
2 Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.
3 Don't just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.
4 Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.
5 Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other ¬people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.

I do follow this advice – at least #1 and #2. And will keep #3 in mind.
Diana Athill
1 Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear).
2 Cut (perhaps that should be CUT): only by having no ¬inessential words can every essential word be made to count.
3 You don't always have to go so far as to murder your darlings – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye. Almost always it turns out that they'd be better dead. (Not every little twinge of satisfaction is suspect – it's the ones which amount to a sort of smug glee you must watch out for.)

I’m not sure I know who this is either but he sure has some good advice. Especially #8. I was talking with a writer friend and mentioned that I think that’s one reason I for some unfathomable reason feel absolutely compelled to complete the long-drawn struggle of a story I’ve been working on. It’s been teaching me to face my fears. She nodded as I was speaking so I asked her if it ever got any better. With many books under her belt, she would have confidence if anyone would. She looked at me and laughing said, no, it’s that way every time, like an actor and stage fright, but you get on with it and you’re okay. Until the next time.

AL Kennedy
1 Have humility. Older/more ¬experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ¬Consider what they say. However, don't automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.
2 Have more humility. Remember you don't know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.
3 Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact.
4 Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn't matter that much.
5 Defend yourself. Find out what keeps you happy, motivated and creative.
6 Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.
7 Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ¬irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won't need to take notes.
8 Be without fear. This is impossible, but let the small fears drive your rewriting and set aside the large ones ¬until they behave – then use them, maybe even write them. Too much fear and all you'll get is silence.
9 Remember you love writing. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.
10 Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

So to follow his #10 advice. Since I can’t do #9. I don’t love writing. I come to it kicking, screaming and flailing. Yeah, it’s too loud sometimes, huh. And I have no idea why I’m compelled to continually try to put the perfect words on paper to translate what is playing out in my head out of there into a different form to play around in other people’s heads. Yeah, rather annoying sometimes, huh. But it is what it is. And to get to his 10 advice, writing is a tool and good writing can take you out of where you are and who you are. It can give you the world. Maybe this is a way to give back.

So don’t give up on who you are. Or on what you want to do. No matter what it is. Don’t let your dream die, whatever it is. Or dry up. Cause maybe a something in you dries up at the same time.

Read the ‘rules’ here and take away what means something to you.

And come back and talk to me about it, okay?
After all, you’re supposed to be encouraging and pass it on as well. So…I’m waiting. Here. Now. Okay, so I need to take a break and get some sleep. But I’ll be back to check.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Books are better

Of course I know they are. But every so often you just don’t have the energy to turn the pages. Come on, I Know there’s got to be Someone out there that has let themselves get to that point at times. I try not to let myself get to that point. Or get like that anymore. But sometimes….

Sometimes there’s just not any more energy than to lift a cup of hot tea. When there’s been energy to make it, or even reheat it in the microwave cause you took too long to lift it when it was hot. Where even clicking buttons on the remote is just all too much effort so you just lie there swaddled in a warm throw or blanket glazed-ly staring at nothing. And sorry and all, but there really isn’t a whole lot to watch on tv that’s really all that interesting, is there? Okay so when you’re in that state of almost catatonic-tired there’s probably not anything really all that interesting. So you need fluff and stuff like that to relax with. When I have the energy to flip pages and just want to be entertained with grinning silliness I often turn to a Janet Evanovich ‘Stephanie Plum’ book. Stephanie Plum is surrounded with crazy funny characters - I'll just say, Lula - oh and not talk about Stephanie's funeral-going-casket-peeking grandma - and is always bound to end up in something funny. And a laugh is Always good for what ails you, right? Or I'll pick up a Donna Andrews humor logged 'Meg Langslow' mystery - pssst, #6 the Penguin one is still my favorite! Just go to Donna's website and read the first paragraph. My Favorite paragraph of just about all time I think! And lest anyone get offended - Please don't! I read LOTS of books, believe me. My house and shelves overflow. Really. Ask my husband. No, Please don't ask him. It'll just remind him how many books 'we' have around here. And how many more I need to read.

But for some reason, I was talking with some writer friends some time ago about movies. Don’t remember how we got on the subject of movies, we’re writers so obviously the talk is mostly about books. But being writers our conversations jump and stray around as our minds do trying to corral characters, plots, and story lines. So anyway we somehow ended up talking movies – we probably ended up there talking about story and plots and things like that, now that I come to think of it. And I remembered a very old movie that was fun at the time. Not sure it would stand a look now but it had its moments ‘back then.’ Mainly because it was sort of vaguely about writers. A woman winning a contest with her writing, and getting away from her over-bearing husband to accept the prize, and along the way she accidently gets knocked out and wakes up thinking she’s her favorite detective in her favorite books. I’m not doing a very good job talking about it so if it sounds vaguely interesting just google it. It was called ‘American Dreamer’ and had JoBeth Williams? And Tom Conti in it. Don’t think it has very good reviews. And like I said it Has been a long time since I saw it.
Another movie that was cute at one time but not sure stands up a lot anymore is ‘Foul Play’ with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase? Oh and Dudley Moore…etc….

But a more recent movie that has a vague reference to writing – of sorts – is ‘The Holiday’ with Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black. Cute movie. Some great memorable thought mulling lines in it also. And I must not be the only one liking it since it was on tv not only at Christmas/holiday time a couple / few times, it was on Valentine’s day or the day before. And technically it takes place during Christmas / New Years – thus the title ‘The Holiday.’ Altho’ maybe someone just saw the title and thought it would do for Any holiday. But it is a good movie no matter when you see it. So much so that I bought the DVD. And we so rarely bother to watch the movies we have we don’t often buy any more.

For a different type of movie, going for a lot more ‘non-serious’ fun, ‘Undercover Blues’ with Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid is a good one to watch. ‘Don’t miss the gators’...chomp, chomp. ;)

A movie a bit more wacky ;) was ‘Vibes’ with Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum. And Peter Falk. Fun. At least last time I saw it was. Course then again, that was rather long time ago.

As I said we don’t usually really watch – we read. Even when ‘watching’ I’m usually ‘reading’/sorting thro’ mail/papers/etc…. That still counts as ‘reading’ doesn’t it? Sort of? Altho’ my favorite thing to do is still to read a good book. even a so-so book, but I like good books better. ;) What can I say, I’m a writer. I’m always looking to see how I can write better, and how someone else handles their ‘job.’ And see if I can pick up tips on how to do mine better. So if you have any good books to suggest I’m always looking and putting lists together of books I should look at. And to add more 'insulation' to the house. ;)

And now to get this done before I get to that catatonic-tired state, since obviously you see I’ve drifted past coherent into rambling. But I’ll be checking back looking for good book recommendations.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Travel weary Cold Worn

First a Big thanks to all of you writing and expressing concern about my where-abouts, and lack of ‘public activity’ here. THANKS - hey I did say a Big thanks, right.

I am indeed very blessed to have such good friends – and good Sherpas …ok, Sherpa-people for the red-line-happy-Word that doesn’t like that. See previous blog entries for those of you new here. Uh, believe me, there’s not that many to go through. This year anyway. Yet. Who am I kidding, I’m not sure there’s that many in the blog at all really. I Have really good intentions though! Really. But sometimes it sure seems rather echo-y here. Especially in the wee hours that I’m usually writing this stuff. The empty trying hours between busyness and the tussle of sleep. Even though sleep was in short supply last few weeks between cancelled flights, and horrendous lingering cold – both of head/chest variety and the weather type. All bookended and covered with snow, and more snow. And even more snow. That might still be around in mountainous form in June you know. Wantta bet? Have you Seen those gi-nourmous mountain ranges of snow in parking lots all over???

I’m sure I’m not the only one cold weary. Weather wise and health wise. Am finally getting over the dreadful one that has dogged me for ever-so-long now. Talking about stuffy-head coughing type of cold but I guess it’s applying to the snow and weather type cold as well.

To bring those that would like to know up-to-date in the shortest form possible I bring you the following ditty. In its quick-and-dirty-rough form. It’s much too late for any other brilliant wit on my part. I did tell you I was getting over a cold, remember. Not to mention as well all kinds of traumas and sagas and all kinds of stuff too dreary to mention.

Sagas upon Sagas

Sagas before the holidays

Sagas after the holidays

Bookending craziness of said holidays

Became more trying than even past years

[I won’t even mention all the tears]

Unprecedented thought of getaway break

Delirious plans of a vacation to take

Pushed to rush by cancelled flights and impending snow

Everything seemed to finally work out and be okay, how were we to know

The worst was yet to come.

All the well-worked plans to come undone

Leaving stranded in Atlanta, all those trying to get home.

Everyone rushing to phone

A hotel for the night.

Leave to the next day the fight for a flight.

Whew, got that hurdle, got a place to stay.

Stagger to the room, without luggage, what’s there to say

Not so happy, not so gay

Especially when on a handle there’s biggest roach I’ve ever seen

Ick Ick Ick. Husband trolls room to keep it clean.

Convincing that it’s just a short stay

since it’s really almost day

Rush back to airport as soon as can

Beg and plead, that’s the plan.

No problem we have a flight

Just can’t get out until later that night.

Oh, well, we’ll take it

So we sit and sit.

Run out of Zicam, nothing to keep cold in check

Sitting and sitting, wondering what the heck

are we going find when we do make it back

how much snow are we going to have to hack

late at night to make it home

when we finally get to make it to home sweet home.

With cold and hacking that came along

Here’s hoping it will all soon be gone, gone, gone.