Thursday, May 28, 2009

Notes on Writing

I've been thinking a lot about my writing goals for this summer, so it seemed only natural to, well, write about them!

Now that graduation is over, and I have some breathing space before I start working on my MFA, it seems like a good time to tackles those WIPs.

As some of you know, I've become enamored of Twitter recently. I'm still learning how to use it most effectively, but one of the things I'm enjoying most is finding and connecting with other writers. There seem to be quite a few writers in the Twitterverse, specifically romance writers interestingly enough. Long ago I had briefly considered attempting to write romance, but despite the fact that the romance genre is the single highest selling genre of fiction, there seems to be a stigma attached to romance as trashy and not legitimate fiction.

So as a writer, you have to ask yourself, which is more important: being published and making money, or literary integrity?

I've decided to do some "research" and have started collecting a variety of romance novels by different writers to see what's going on in the genre. I'm trying to read the work of some of the writers I've found on Twitter, I think it's a professional courtesy as well as practical research. Then maybe I'll give the genre a shot and see if I have anything to contribute. I've never been an eager proponent of "literary integrity." The concept of a "canon" irks me, actually and seems pretty arrogant and presumptuous. Yes, some literature is better than others, but literature is a very fluid animal changing with the times. Personally, I think the accepted canon should be more fluid as well. But that's another blog entirely.

In the meantime, I've got a couple of WIPs I am continuing to work on over the summer. I want to set realistic goals, but having never written anything novel-length before, I'm really treading on new ground so I think I'll just take it as it comes. I've found that, at least for this first time through, my tendency is to get the bones of the story on the page first and then once I get to the end I'll loop back around and flesh it out. When I go back over it and read it now it feels so clumsy in its brevity, but I believe in the story.

One of the things that I think is most helpful to me, as a writer, is to connect in meaningful professional ways with other writers. Writing can be a lonely and doubt-ridden proposition, so talking to other writers and learning that they have the same anxieties and doubts is a liberating experience. It's nice to know that other writers don't just sit down and write a polished final draft the first time through; that they also struggle with character development, story arc, subplots, continuity, etc. I'm finding again that Twitter is an interesting place to learn these things about other writers.

However, I think it's still important to connect in person with other writers as well, so I worked this week toward establishing a local writer's group. I'm happy to say that I managed to pull together a small group of local writers and I'm very excited to start working together, sharing ideas and concerns.

For all of you writer-types, have you been or are you currently involved in a writer's group? If so, what did you find most useful or beneficial about the group? What were the most important things you took away from it as a writer?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I am not an overly patriotic person - I believe that blind devotion to anything only leads to trouble. But I certainly understand and appreciate the value of the sacrifices made by our men and women of the armed forces.

Although I may not approve of the government policies that find our soldiers in combat (either in current wars or wars past), said soldiers do not get to pick and choose which military engagements in which they will participate. If you're in the military you go where and do what you're told, no questions asked, and part of your job is to give your life if necessary.

So it is appropriate on Memorial Day to set aside our feelings for the government, good or bad, and thank the people who are willing to dedicate, and give, their lives to our defense. I certainly appreciate their willingness to give of themselves so that we will all be safe. It's not a job I would want or be capable of doing, so I'm glad there are others who will.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Picture Perfect: Redux

A couple of posts ago I talked about having our house painted. Well, it's finished and I think it looks great. The painter did a good job of getting rid of the old paint which was chipping off and blowing away in the breeze. However, I'm a little miffed that he didn't make any effort to clean up said paint chips, so now our yard looks pretty nasty. We'll have to figure out an efficient way to clean that up.
But Painter Guy primed and painted the house nicely so hopefully it's sealed against weather and the paint job will last awhile! The pix are before and after shots. I know, the snow brings back bad memories of a long winter, but it was the best before picture I had!

Monday, May 18, 2009

First Drafts: Fat or Skinny?

Today I have a question for all you writer-types out there. I'm in the process of writing the first draft of a novel, and it got me wondering about the what the writing process is like for other writers.

For instance, as you write a first draft do you tend to over-write and then go back and cut when you start the editing process? Or are you brief and then go back and flesh out the story as you start the editing process?

So far I've found that I tend to be brief but when I go back and reread segments I can see where I need to add more to make the story richer.

Which works best for you?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Picture Perfect

We are in the process of having our house painted. The people we bought it from painted it themselves 5 years ago and they did a horrific job. They did not thoroughly scrape the house before painting, and very shortly after we moved in the paint started chipping off and blowing away. Needless to say, I was mighty pissed. Especially since the woman we bought it from is a realtor. Shame on her.

So now, if we ever want to sell it ourselves, we have to spend the money to have it painted. Knowing our own limitations, we've decided to hire the job out. The guy we chose was recommended by our realtor (not the one who previously owned the house). So far, he seems maybe slightly odd, but okay. However, he has brought his 2 yapping runty dogs with him everyday. I'm tempted to deduct from the contract for every dog shit I find in my yard.

The dogs aside, he and his crew did a thorough power wash and scraping, and they've taped plastic covers over all of our windows except the back door. It's feeling extremely claustrophobic not being able to see outside. Our front door is even taped shut. I can feel myself gasping for air....

On Saturday they applied the first coat of primer. I say first coat because shortly after they finished a thunderstorm blew in and poured rain and hail, and then it rained for 24 hours straight. A lot of the primer sluiced off the house with the rain, so I suspect they're going to need a second coat of primer.

It rained yesterday and Painter Guy didn't show up or call. Hubby called him and left a message, but he didn't answer. I'm hoping that since it seems to have cleared up today he will show up and continue working. I really want the plastic off the windows.

I'm also significantly concerned about how he plans to clean up all the paint chips he powerwashed off the house. He promised me that the contract includes cleanup, but I'm at a loss to figure out how he plans to pick the billions of paint chips out of the lawn.

After the house is done I'll post a before and after picture. I'm hoping that once it's all done it looks awesome. Everybody cross your fingers....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Did I or Didn't I?

Yesterday I participated in a Twitter cruise give-away contest and I actually won a Jamaican cruise! I so can't believe it, because I never win anything!

So with typical me luck, there is now question about whether or not the cruise is legit. Something about a pyramid scheme. I'm still trying to find the appropriate people and information to verify it.

I'm really hoping it's legit because it would be awesomely fun to go on a Jamaican cruise, right? I mean seriously, I really never win anything, and I've certainly never been on such a luxurious vacation. My vacations consist of maybe camping, or a driving trip back to Oregon to visit relatives. *Yawn.* I've never been anywhere fun or romantic with just my husband - even our honeymoon was camping.

So wish me luck everyone. I sure need your luck because I rarely have any of my own!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I woke up this morning and looked outside only to see SNOW.

Okay, so it was more like a slushy layer with tiny white flakes falling from the sky, but it was still frozen precipitation. Here we are in May, oh hallowed weather and season gods, please make the snow go away. It is time for sunshine. I don't think my psyche can take anymore of the other stuff. We had snow on the ground from November until April; so much so that I forgot what the ground looked like.

Now I just want to plant my veggie garden and enjoy spring.

I just realized, there's a "rain, rain, go away" song...I guess it's time to make up a "snow, snow, go away" song.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Twitter: Revisited

Okay, so once I finally figured out how to actually use Twitter, I've discovered it's kinda fun. And addictive. Uh oh. I think I'm in trouble.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Upcoming Spousal Writing Collaboration

Have any of you writer-types ever done a writing collaboration with a spouse or significant other?

The reason I ask is, I am trying to plan ahead and line up the writing projects I want to work on this summer after I graduate next week, and one of the projects on deck is a full length musical stage play collaboration with my husband.

Why is this such potentially hazardous territory, you ask? Well, on paper, it shouldn't be. Although Hubby is a physical education/coaching student, he is a hobby writer and often has brilliantly inspired ideas (I'm actually jealous of his muse, who seems to love him more than mine loves me). This play project is based on one of his ideas. He's pretty good at dialogue, but sometimes is a clumsy writer and is the worst speller on planet Earth. He also "doesn't do" formatting.

I, on the other hand, am building a professional writing career. I am a pretty fair writer in general, write good, solid dialogue, and I'm good at keeping story on track. I spell very well and I've got formatting down pat.

So again, on paper it should work well. However, we've tried collaborating before on shorter projects and it often deteriorates into chaos. We have a rock solid marriage - been together for 23 years and counting. But for some reason when we write together it's very volatile. We bicker and argue, heave giant sighs of disgust and roll our eyes as if the other person is just the dumbest lout in the world.

We are further hindered in this project by the fact that neither of us has written a full length play or a musical. Hubby can barely read music, but writes inspired lyrics; I can read music but can't write it, and I write fair lyrics (we do have someone to write the music, though, thankfully).

But this idea is so good it's begging to be written and I know we can do it if we can get through the creative friction and focus on the nitty gritty.

So, what do you think or chances of success are? I've posted a poll so you can vote on whether you think we're destined for success or doomed to failure. Cast your vote now!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Big Push - and - Twitter Fizzle

First, my foray into the Twitter world fizzled fast. I must be the world's biggest wallflower - I know NOBODY, and without followers Twitter is nothing but a complete waste of time (which I anticipated from the get go, actually). If I were a popular teen, or a hollywood celeb, maybe it would be worth my while. But since I'm not either, I think I'll call it a mildly interesting but unsuccessful social experiment.

Secondly, today begins the "Big Push" to finish all the remaining crap I have to complete in order to graduate on the 15th. I'll admit, I've been a shameless slacker this semester. I only took 2 classes, and because I've had to work full time all semester, I rarely showed up for either of them. I have, however, managed to keep up on all the assignments, papers, tests, etc., though it took significant effort on my part.

Unfortunately, I still have to finish writing a paper for one of the classes and because I've dilly-dallied away the semester it's getting down to crunch time, and because I have senioritis I just don't give a damn about it, so it's not going to be my best work. I also have to do 2 take home tests on the most painfully dull subjects, so it's going to be a challenge to force myself to focus and complete them. As I write this post - this very moment - I'm taking a break from the tedious chore of filling out the study guide for my art history final. I can think of a bazillion other things I'd rather be doing and forcing myself to stay seated here at the computer is causing me to fidget and wiggle uncomfortably in my seat.

I've already gone through the bargaining stage of the last quarter of the semester where I try to calculate just how many points I need to scrape by with an A (because I just can't stand the thought of getting anything less). Can I get away with not filling out this study guide? (not really, I need it to study for the final, darn).

I know in the big picture, it's really not that much more to do, but I JUST WANT TO BE DONE!!!!!! (I feel like a 3-year-old throwing a tantrum).

Hence, the Big Push. If I forge ahead and push through it all - then I will be done. So, I'm going to stop goofing off here, and go back to the painfully laborious tasks at hand. *sigh*