Thursday, September 30, 2010

Real Writers

It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write.  
~Sinclair Lewis

Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting It Right

"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right."
~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

The toughest part of writing has to be making human feelings come across on bare paper (or a bare screen) without sounding trite or forced. And yet, if we know our characters well enough, they speak for themselves.

 The trick, my friends, is knowing them well enough.


When her tears had subsided, he murmured, “A’er marenken, Marenya. M’ashkenai el folmendur.” I hold you in my heart, Marenya. My heart burns forever.

“M’ashkenai el folmendur,” she replied.

A line from an ancient poem, quoted by lovers through the ages. He kissed her again, not carelessly as he had done before, but fearfully, longingly, asking for her reply and receiving it back, drawing strength from her and giving her strength in return. He had been living under the sun for forty years, and had only just been born.

As I struggle to find my voice again, these are the passages that make the characters come alive.  These are where the characters speak. 

This is where I begin.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do you look like your Main Character?

I'm just curious.

At the moment, I resemble Marenya more than I did before.  Unintentionally.

Those of you who color your own hair are familiar with that wildly unpredictable game of "hair color roulette" that we all play.  Will the color I end up with actually resemble the color on the box? Or will it turn out completely different?  Even your hairdresser doesn't know for sure.

My hair was a bleached blonde over the summer.  "Neon" would be a more appropriate term. Remember Pony Boy from "The Outsiders?"  I have a lot of natural red tones, so even the lightest color kits - those that are supposed to make you look like an albino - still come out golden yellow.  But it was summer, I was at the beach, what the hey!

My personnel photo for my new job, however, looked really tacky.  So I decided to try to go back to my natural color. In order to do this, I used a medium ash blonde over the yellow. "Ash" refers to the greyish blondes and is supposed to be good for reducing red and gold tones. 

Well, it came out "ash" all right.  Literally grey. I looked like I'd just gained twenty years.

In desperation, I went and got a golden blonde to put over the grey, thinking that the two tones would then balance out. Well, they didn't quite balance. Instead, the ash reacted with the gold and gave me... brown! 

Yes, brown. Which has since faded to a light auburn.

Like oak leaves in autumn.

Like... Marenya.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm Not Really a Writer

At least, I haven't been one for a long time.


I haven't written anything.  I've thought about writing, talked about writing, read about writing and blogged about writing.  I've read a lot of other people's writing and given feedback.  I've done a ton of editing of my work in progress, though not for several weeks.

It's been a very long time since I've actually written something new and fresh.

Does that make me a candidate for Nanowrimo?  I don't know. It's kind of tempting.

However, I think my husband would be very upset if I started something new, and he became a writing widower again. Especially before I finish the novel I'm working on.

No, I need to finish before I start something new. But I need to keep my WIP fresh as well.  It's time to get back to being a writer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's Official!

I completed my Advanced Fiction Writing Course and have a fancy certificate with my name on it. Okay, it's really just a .pdf document, but it certifies me as having completed 24 hours of training.  So am I officially a writer now?  I'm gonna say "yes."

By the way, prizes in the 100 Followers Contest were mailed Saturday.  Please let me know when they arrive, okay?

I found this photo in my files from this summer.  A friend and I were visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art one Saturday.  She was taking an online course in art appreciation, and asked me to go to the museum with her for a big project she had to do - a sort of detailed scavenger hunt for various paintings.  Since I have spent quite a bit of time there, I acted as tour guide for the day. 

We had a lovely time, and on the way back I took this photo of City Hall viewed between a pair of skyscrapers.  The way the past seemed squeezed between the two tall buildings and yet scattered brilliant reflections from its impersonal windows seems to me like a metaphor for modern American life.

We talked about metaphors in my writing class, too, and how they can be used not just to enhance the imagery in one's writing but to convey themes and symbolism.  What powerful metaphors, similes or other images can you recall reading or seeing?  Have you used any in your own work?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where's Miss Manners when you need her?

Dear Readers, I have a social dilemma.  Perhaps you can give me some advice.

My birthday is approaching soon.  I typically give a tea luncheon for my friends, not mentioning that it is my birthday.  The ones who know me well bring small gifts anyway. I made quiche, cucumber sandwiches, scones, etc. and we have a lovely visit.

This year is a milestone for me and I want to celebrate it. (For one thing, if I don't, I'm going to be mighty depressed on that day!) I want to have the tea at my favorite local tea shop.  But I feel awkward sending the invitations to celebrate my own birthday.  It's not really appropriate for DH to send them, because
a) He's not a tea-and-crumpets kind of guy
b) He won't be attending the event
c) Everyone will know the moment they see the invitations that I wrote them.

A friend offered to help DH a while ago, but she is going through a very difficult divorce, and I just don't feel I can add to her burdens by asking her to do this right now.  But then, she might be offended if I don't ask her.  But if she can't do it, she'll still say "yes" because she's that kind of person, and I don't want to ask.

What should I do? 

* Put DH's return address labels on the invites and pretend I don't know everyone will see through the charade?
* Ask the friend who's getting divorced to send the invites for me, even though I'll feel horribly guilty about it? 
* Just send them in my name and hope everyone doesn't think I'm conceited? 
* Ignore the birthday and just send invitations to tea? 
* Ignore the birthday, and do all the work at home again this year?


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thank Goodness It's Saturday (and some background on "Gryphon")

Dear friends,

Oooh, am I glad it's Saturday!  I'm home alone today.  All Day. Woo-hoo! 

Not to say that I don't have a ton of housework and laundry to do, but I'm planning to fit in a little writing, too.  And a run.

I've started running.  If you can call it that.  Let's call it "Interval Jogging," since I'm walking and running at intervals, working up to a goal of actually running the whole time.  Hey, we've all got to start somewhere, right?

I'm also working through the blogfest entries. I am totally impressed with the quality of the writing in your posts.  You guys and gals are amazing!  I'm blown away.

Several people have asked about my WIP, so I thought that I'd explain a bit for those of you who don't know the whole story behind "The Golden Gryphon."

I wrote all the time as a child and in high school. When I got to college, my coursework started to get overwhelming. I took a Fiction Writing course as an elective and did horribly in it. I was so discouraged that I gave up writing completely.  Looking back, I think the instructor wasn't very good.

Now fast forward twelve years or so.  I'm a stay at home mother, desperate for mental activity and adult interaction.  A flier arrives from our local regional high school, advertising their adult education classes. I see one on writing and decide to take it.  The instructor, a lovely woman named Esther Hughes, was so encouraging that I decided to try writing again.

I started a romance novel, a scene from which I posted for the Beach Scene Blogfest. 
I submitted the proposal to a publisher for whom I had tailored it and it was rejected, so I laid it aside and stopped writing again.  (Since it was a Christian romance, tailored specifically for their criteria, I didn't think I could sell it to anyone else.)

But the creative muse had been re-awakened. I tried to ignore her, but couldn't. At the same time, I was so terrified of writing garbage and being rejected again, that I felt like hiding in a corner and never coming out.  But I knew I had to write something, just for the sake of writing.  So I started a story in which my best friend and I were the starring characters.  It was meant to be a Tolkein-like adventure in which we - two elf maidens - were the heroines.  Silly, I know! I had no plan. I just began writing whatever came into my head.

It didn't take long for me to decide that I didn't want to write fan fiction.  So I started over, creating a whole new world and even a language.  At first the characters were human, then I decided to make them only kind of human.  They are like hobbits in the sense that hobbits could be described loosely as a cross between men and dwarves.  (They would certainly object to this description themselves, but it fits.)  My people are a cross between men and elves.  I'm not sure if I humanized the elves or majifyed the humans, but the idea was to take those distant, elevated creatures of Middle-Earth and make them more approachable and understandable.

I soon realized that the hero was a two-dimensional sword-wielder (kind of like the prince in Snow White) and I needed to flesh him out. To my surprise, Faldur became more and more real to me,  and in the course of events became pivotal to the story.  So he and Marenya must share the narrative now.   They still argue sometimes, over at Come in Character, whom the book is really about.  CIC, by the way, has been instrumental for me in developing my characters. It really is a fabulous tool for those who have time to play around in character.

Only just when this happened, I started working again.  So for the past three and half years, I have been tortured by my "persistent novel."  I keep trying to put it away, and it keeps insisting on being written.  I have nearly 100,000 words of material (probably more like a million words if you include all the revisions).  But it's not complete, and keeps getting more complex all the time.

I've also been immersed in the Internet, meeting other writers and learning as much as I possibly can about the craft and the business.  I can't believe how supportive the writing community is, or the wealth of information out there.  I didn't start using the Internet until a few years ago. I had no access at my previous job, for confidentialty reasons, and no reason to use it or anyone to teach me at home.  I went to college when computers were too expensive for average people to afford, and my master's thesis was programmed in FORTRAN, if you can believe that.  Does anyone use FORTRAN any more?

So all this stuff is new for me.  I don't think I would have gotten this far without my blogging friends, especially the incredibly sweet and inspiring Michelle Gregory.  Never let anyone say that you don't make "real" friends on the Internet!

My original plan this year was to have it finished by the end of July.  That deadline is long gone, so I'm hoping for the end of December.  But with my new job and all, that may not be doable either.

I don't want to just write it and be done. I want it to be good. And even if I have time to write, I don't always have the focus or mental energy to put words together.  So... it's going slow.  But I'm greatly encouraged by all of your positive responses to the snippets I've posted here and there and I promise you: One Day, There will be a book!  Even if I have to publish it myself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Apologies

I am so sorry that I have only read a couple of blogfest entries so far.  This whole "working full time thing" has really put a damper on my blogging.  The weekend also turned out to be quite busy, in terms of food shopping, laundry, and just spending time with the family.

I promise to keep going through them when I can, and appreciate your patience. How do all you working moms do it?