Words and Food

Things are crazy busy for me right now. I’m wrapping up chapter eighteen of my book right now–well not literally right now, but it’s going to be done by tonight–and I’m looking at submitting an application to another MFA program. On top of that, I’ve also been submitting stories to zines, trying to keep up on this blog, writing lesson plans for a couple of workshops I’m leading at work, and finishing end-of-quarter papers for my classes.

Like I said, I’m busy.

Despite being totally swamped, things are awesome right now. This book is really coming along great. I’m cranking out at least fifteen hundred words a day which is not too shabby considering how much other stuff I have going on. What’s more, when my classes are super slow I spend time doing light revisions. Multi-tasker in the house! I’ve worked through the first chapter and a half so far and I keep catching little stuff that needs to be reworked or cut out. A lot of writers say going back and editing before the manuscript is done is a serious no-no, but I find that it can be pretty useful. Then again, I might get through this thing and find that I totally regret what I’ve done. If that happens, I’ll write a blog post about how wrong I was. I guess we’ll see.

But enough about my writing. Just this morning I finished So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (check out his blog). To be honest with you, I was not that stoked with this book. I found myself having to trudge through long sections of it. Honestly, had I not been so pleased with his other work, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

I got turned onto So Yesterday after reading The Uglies a month or so ago. I was all about that book even though there’s a whole slew of people on Goodreads who absolutely loathe the whole series. Most cite his transparent metaphors as their main gripe, which I think is a little l4m3. Just because Westerfeld didn’t write about Tally waking up one morning as a cockroach doesn’t mean that the book is bad. I mean, it’s a young adult book, people! Give the guy a break.

Anyways, I’m hungry. I need some pizza and pecan pie. Maybe I’ll get some ice cream too? Who knows. I’ve got a lot of writing to do tonight–another 600 words to hit my goal–and I’m going to need to keep my energy up.

I think I’ll get the ice cream.

Why You Should do Your Fricken Homework Before You Decide to Write

Have you ever been totally engrossed in some book or article, only to be tripped up by a word or fact that was completely wrong? I know that I have, and it’s irritating as H-E double hockey sticks.

My experience with this has mostly been while reading fiction, especially when there are portrayals of the military. Too often, authors try and include a bunch of jargon in an attempt to make the text more authentic. Then there’s the author who mentions a landmark in a way that makes it obvious to locals that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about–looking at you here, Stephanie Meyers. To these writers, I call shenanigans.

Just as often, I’ve seen people attribute pictures and quotes to the wrong sources. Perfect example is this ridiculous chain email I got the other night complaining about Occupy Wall Street protesters. The abundance of formatting lines coupled with the overuse of exclamation marks gave me the impression that the thing had likely made its way through half the Tea-Party’s mailing list before hitting my mailbox. The subject line, was was straight to the point: “OWS Protester S***s on American Flag.” Plastered right in the middle of the thing was a picture of some guy taking a poop on what looks like an American flag. There are onlookers–what sort of public defecation would it have been without people gawking?–looking surprisingly jovial given the event unfolding before them, but nothing in the pictures really lets you pin down the time or place.

My first thought when I saw the subject line of the email was that the OWS people really just screwed themselves. I mean, if your people literally crap on Old Glory then you’re probably not going to have much of a shot winning over the 99%. Same goes for those military veterans who were starting to think that you had a few good points. You can kiss them good-bye too.

Now maybe I’m alone on this but whenever I come across something so inflamatory on the Internet I put away the jump-to-conclusions mat and do some sleuthing instead. I spent a little time on the googles and found some interesting results. It turns out that the picture was not actually from an Occupy Wall Street protest, but rather from a protest against the Iraq war in 2007. I’m inclined to think that the email’s author got caught up in the excitement of finding such a damning picture and sent it off before checking the facts. Unfortunately for them, their haste might have had exactly the opposite effect for people who’d been on the fence about the whole OWS thing who may see the falsely attributed picture as an attempt to cast the protesters as a bunch of pinkos who hate America.

So check your sources. If not, you may end up rallying more people to the cause you’re trying to discredit, or just irritate some guy living in Tacoma, Washington.

To Notecard or Not to Notecard

First of all, let me say up front that I have really enjoyed working on this book. I feel like I’ve learned more in the last two months about the process of writing than in the preceding two years. That being said, I am going to take a moment to gripe about how difficult I think it is to end chapters.

People reading this might immediately assume that I’ve got it all wrong. The end of a chapter is only a few lines, they say. How tough is that? Intuitively, this might make total sense. They assume it’s the big chunk of text between the beginning and the end that’s the tough part. This, friends, is what I call, “crazy talk.”

Before I go on, let me give you a little background on the timeline for my novel project.

I spent about a month before I even began writing, hashing out the general ideas of what I wanted to say. After a bunch of Google searches on the “best” way to plot a novel, I came up with a method that seemed like it might be pretty useful to me. I bought a couple stacks of note cards and jotted out ideas for the main scenes that I knew were necessary for my story. These were serious points of conflict between my protagonist and the world I had created for her. After I got down these major bumps in the plot, I started filling the gaps between the major scenes in order to develop how the conflict plays out. For instance, I knew the my protagonist was going to have a love interest, but I also knew that at some point that there would be some conflict surrounding the relationship when she found out a few bits of info about her new beau. The issue became how to reconcile these two events in a way that would make sense to the reader and also keep the plot interesting, and that’s where the additional note cards came into play. I filled up the space between two events, making sure that Event A made sense with Event B.

But see, all that plotting seems to have bound me up. In planning things out so much I left out one key ingredient: spontaneity. In the past, whenever I started a book I ended up fizzling out somewhere around a quarter of the way through. Because I had no idea where the thing was going–just an idea to work with–at some point I lost interest. To stop this from happening I decided to plot out the entire book, and in effect killed my ability to come up with a snappy and creative ending to chapters in an on-the-fly way.

Alas, all is not lost. While I may have planned a little too much, I have learned something very important about writing a book. You see, lots of people out there say they have the best way of writing a novel, but what I have found through this experience is that I need to find out what works for me and just try and kick ass at doing it.