Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Clubs: A Good Thing

I need to start keeping a list of ideas for blog posts. During the week, I find myself thinking "Oh, I should write a blog post about that!" all the time, but then when Saturday rolls around (nominally the day that I blog), I can't think of anything to write about.

Case in point, I saved the above as a draft last Sunday and have several times since then thought about what I should write about, but when I sat down to finish it this morning, I still had no clue what I was going to write about! As someone who is a pretty meticulous writer in my fiction, perhaps I just need to adopt a similar planning style for blogging.

Anyway, last night I went to a book club meeting for one of the two book clubs I belong to. Both of these book clubs are based from Meet Up and I have been a member of both for years. Yet I didn't actually start going to any of the meet ups until the past couple months.

Partly this was a logistics issue, because it's hard for me to know my schedule very far in advance with duty and underways and such. Probably the lion's share of it was that I am very introverted and getting me to leave my apartment can be like pulling teeth. Seriously.

Now that I've started to go, I'm kicking myself for not going sooner. For one thing, it gets me to read things outside my comfort zone. 99% of the books I read are SFF and that is also what I write. Sometimes I get so immersed in the world of genre fiction that I forget there are a million other fantastic books out there. Case in point, I have had my Kindle for over 3 years. Currently I have 42 books under Sci Fi, 71 under Fantasy, and only 4 under Fiction and 3 Non-Fiction. (Plus 9 Sherlock Holmes and 8 Anne of Green Gables and 15 Classics). Actually, that breakdown is interesting and I'm going to go ahead and stick a pin in it for a later post. So one of my book clubs is SFF and one is not, which helps me widen my horizons.

I also find it helpful for me as a writer. Being able to see how a wide variety of people respond to a book, the things that stick with them, both good and bad, helps me identify weaknesses in my own writing. For example, last night we were discussing Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job. Everyone liked it overall, and found his writing to be funny, but many of us mentioned the abrupt ending as off-putting. The falling action was minuscule and the resolution mostly delegated to an epilogue. His racist caricatures were mostly distasteful rather than funny. His main character was whiny and hard to relate to at times. His writing was hard to stop reading, his tone was delightful.

So. I'm glad that I came out of my shell a little and started to actually attend book events of these book clubs. Good for me as a reader and a writer and a person, so really, it's a shame I can't attend next month because of an underway. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hit Submit!

It is such a scary moment to hit "submit" on anything, but when it is writing-related that anxiousness just gets ratcheted up a notch or two (hundred). At least for me! I think because it has been a goal in my life for so long that it has way more import than it probably ought to.

Anyway, that said, I did go ahead and hit submit on my Clarion application! I know that with only 18 accepted entrants, my chances of acceptance are slim. But the timing really works out for me, as I am searching for a job to start in June right now and I could just push my search back to August if I am accepted. Plus, I feel like my writing is really at the point where I could use some sort of push to get to that next level.

I thought about writing new short stories just for my application, but I didn't want to divert so much attention from my current editing project. (Writing and editing are totally different mindsets for me.) So I submitted two short stories I've written in the past couple years. I think they are both solid stories and representative of my current writing ability, although only one is genre. Short stories are the only time I ever write non-genre, funny enough. Not that I write short stories all that often, which is another reason I would love to do Clarion. I work so much on novel writing that it would be good to get another skill to add to my repertoire.

So. Now I get to sit and wait. Luckily since I procrastinated so much on my application (the deadline is March 1), I won't have to wait quite so long! Plus, I have a lot of editing to keep my mind off things.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Writing is Rewriting...

...or so the saying goes.

I think that the consensus among writers is that editing sucks. Rewriting sucks. Polishing sucks. While there are certainly some frustrating aspects to it, I actually rather enjoy it. Covering clean printed pages with scribbles of brightly colored ink is almost cathartic. I can look at the edited pages and feel like I'm really doing something. Not to mention that it isn't nearly as long of a process. It took me about 13 months to write the first draft of novel 6! Two months of editing is right now looking completely doable. I'm still sticking with my end of April goal.

Of course, I'm still in the early sections of my manuscript. I know that it probably needs a lot more work towards the end, as some of the structural and plot difficulties come to a head. But for now, I'm still in the beginning, falling in love with my characters and my story all over again. Right now, I feel like this could be the real thing for me.

A typical page from my editing.

And maybe that's optimistic. Maybe I said that about my last one too (hint: I did). But that's okay! There's nothing wrong with believing in myself, and I'm going to keep on doing what I do.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Midnight in Paris

While watching Diane Keaton accept Woody Allen's award at the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I had never seen a single Woody Allen movie. I knew who he was, with the thick glasses and the marriage to his sorta step-daughter, but as the clips of all his most famous works played, none seemed familiar. I checked his filmography and, sure enough, I had never seen a single one.

A little while after this, as the whole media furor began to build, I mentioned the fact to my boyfriend. He is more of a movie buff than I am, and he has seen a couple, so he recommended Midnight in Paris as one I might enjoy. Turns out my boyfriend must know me pretty well!

Maybe it's the writer in me, but how can you not just gasp when you realize that is the Zelda Fitzgerald? Watching Gill discover his literary idols in all their glory and vanity and humanity was amazing. Gertrude Stein as a beta reader?? Where do I sign up?!

Not to mention that Inez was one of the most delightfully horrid characters I've met.

It made me think a lot about my writing. Hemingway on having another writer beta your work: "If it's bad, I'll hate it. If it's good, then I'll be envious and hate it even more. You don't want the opinion of another writer." Do I think that's 100% true? No. But it is something to keep in mind. We should want the opinion of readers, not other writers. At least, that is why I write. Not to impress other writers or to hobnob around in Paris bars trying to steal lovers from Pablo Picasso, but to make people feel when they read my work. To be astounded and grieved and amused and every possible thing in between. I want people to hate my Inezs and to shake their heads at my Gills and to laugh at my Dalis.

Anyway. The movie in itself was nothing all that special, but for me as a writer, it was nothing short of magical.

[Also, I've been learning French for the past year, and I am dying to go to Paris! Maybe it can rejuvenate my writing. (Said every writer ever, it seems like!)]