Monthly Archives: September 2012

40

It was my birthday this week. Guess what I got?

Rejections!

Sigh. That just feels obnoxiously scripted y’know?

They did hit me a bit harder than usual though. Not because they came on my birthday– well, not exactly. See, when I started writing around seven years ago, I had this vague goal of having a book out by forty. And, well, no book as yet.

Thing is, goals like that are stupid. Since I’m not self-publishing, I don’t have enough control over the process for that goal to be useful. A better one would have been something like– write ten books by 4o.  That’s an achievable, useful goal that isn’t tied to a lot of things outside of my control. Instead of the one I chose when I had no idea how complicated this whole writing thing was.

Anyway, I recovered fairly quickly. I have to say, I’m just not very good at wallowing in my angst. Whenever I try I end up getting bored and wandering off into plot ideas. So instead, I guess I’ll try to figure out a goal for fifty.

Ten books?

Screw it, why not thirty? After a decade, I’ll probably be up for another wallow.

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If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while …

A portion of my writing head space is occupied with where I am on the career spectrum. Just how big a portion has changed over the years. In the beginning that slice of head space pie was huge. Ginormous. Because I didn’t have a career to speak of yet. As a newbie writer all I wanted was a writing credit and I was completely obsessed with the fact that I didn’t. On one hand that obsession was a good thing–it pushed me to learn about the genres, learn about the business, and spend inordinate amounts of time writing not-so-great prose. On the other hand, it fed a lot of jealousy and turmoil that I shouldn’t have been focusing on. Spending too much time worrying about not having a career basically ensures that you won’t have the career you want.

The opposite is true, too. Worrying about your place in the career spectrum less gives you more time to, you know, work on your career. This hit me in the nose yesterday as I took care of some writing business. I hardly think about where I am in my career track. Sure, I’d like to be further along–I’d love to have a few books on the shelf now–but for the most part I’m too busy writing to notice. I have three short stories to write for anthologies I’ve been invited to. I’ve got a book I’m rewriting that I hope to have done by November. I’m heading up the Origins Library next year and I’ve started laying the groundwork for that. At some point, without my noticing it, I got a writing career.

I just had to stay out of my own way enough to keep writing and make it happen.

 

 

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Monologing Characters

When I was in fourth grade, my mom signed me up for a summer theater class. Me, the kid who was scared to answer roll call each morning because people might look at me. They gave me the part with the most lines because I could memorize them. I wanted to be the umpire, who didn’t have any lines. Instead I had to open the whole play by walking on stage singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

I remember nothing about this experience, which is probably a good thing. Never had any desire to take another theater class.

However.

In Toastmasters, I’m working through the Interpretive Reading manual, which includes reading a short story (I’ve done this one three times, since it’s what I joined Toastmasters for), reading a poem, read a famous speech and a play (haven’t done either of those), and read a monologue, which I did last week.

And that was an interesting experience.

I was dreading it–the play, too–because of the whole acting thing. I’ve barely gotten over my fear of speaking to the group, now you want me to act out a role?

It turned out kind of fun, trying to figure out how to pretend to be someone else. And now I have an idea for a really interesting writing exercise.

The point of the monologue is to portray a character. Basically it’s one character from a play spouting off to another character. You’re trying to use your voice and gestures to show what the character is feeling.

Cue the writing exercise. I’ve occasionally found it useful, when feeling my way into a new project, to write a few paragraphs of the characters blathering about their problems. Now I want to do that for my next (or current) project, and then turn it into a monologue to do for Toastmasters. I think it’d really help me figure out how character x expresses emotion y.

My poor club. I don’t think most of them read much speculative fiction. Now they’re going to have to watch me be a mad king or a power hungry sorcerer.

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My first typewriter

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I started taking the stories I’d crammed into notebooks and typing them out.  I can remember hunting and pecking on my mother’s typewriter, and that heavy clack clack clack sound that got faster and louder as I got better at finding the keys.  I loved that sound.  But it was at least junior high before I learned how to type and got a machine of my own.

For Christmas one year my parents bought me a Canon Starwriter, and let me tell you, for young writer me, it was the coolest thing ever.  Three lines of text at a time on a three-inch black and white screen.  There was no clack clack clacking going on, but it had a built-in spellchecker.  A spellchecker, I tell you!  If someone had handed me a ray gun, I would not have been more impressed.  I had that machine for a long time, typed most of my high school English papers and a lot of short stories on it.

It was a huge step up when I got my first desktop computer, but a little part of me misses that Starwriter.  I wish I’d kept it.  Using it made me feel like a professional for the first time.

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Kicking butt

My exercise of choice right now is martial arts. It has been since 95, when I joined Kuk Sool Won, a korean martial art that my girlfriend’s roommate was doing. I did it pretty much on a whim, now I’ve been practicing for seventeen years and I’m a third degree black belt, teaching at the club that I joined so long ago.

I think exercise is critical for writing. Why? Well, what’s the most important thing about writing? Butt-in-chair.

Which is great for writing, but bad for your butt.

I need to move, otherwise I feel like crap. And when I feel like crap, the writing, not so much. It also just gives me a break, a time away from worrying about whatever plot points or characters are being difficult at the moment. And those breaks are when my subconscious can go after that difficulty and usually solve it.

Doing martial arts as exercise has an additional advantage for writing. I know have a lot better idea about how hand-to-hand fighting works. And swords. And spears. And bows, and knife throwing and… it goes on.

Mostly though, it keeps me from turning into a giant lump. Which as I tell my students is really the most important thing. Being attacked by ninjas? Uncommon. Being attacked by cheetos? Very common, and just as dangerous.

Also, messier.

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The well-exercised writer

Yay! We’re talking about exercise!

So I’ll start off with a confession. I used to weigh a whole lot more than I do now. This is a writing blog and not a self-image blog, so I’m not going to get into it. If you’re really curious you could search one of my old blogs and read all about it. Suffice it to say I lost 50 pounds, and I did it through portion control and exercising. A lot. I even did the local mini-triathlon several years in a row; at the height of my training I worked out two hours a day.

This was much easier when I worked evenings and so my days were completely mine. Oh, and when I wasn’t spending two hours a day reading about writing, learning about the business of writing, and, well, writing. I switched from evenings to days not long after I started writing seriously. I swore I wouldn’t let myself gain back all my weight, and I didn’t.

I only gained back twenty.

Even though I don’t exercise enough–let alone exercise as much as I used to–I do get up and move around occasionally. Go for walks. Sometimes yoga. Sometimes frisbee in the park. I should really get some high-octane stuff in like swimming or running or biking because it makes me feel so damn good, but enough of my guilt. The point is, exercise is essential for everyone, sure, but it’s super-duper essential for the writer. It clears your head and gives you time to think about story or plot or concepts or characters. It strengthens your body so you can sit and write more comfortably. It gives you more energy that you can spread around to the rest of your life.

Butt-in-chair time is important, but so is feet-on-treadmill time. Be sure you get your quota.

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Swimming

Jaleigh’s post yesterday about the importance of exercise for writers reminded me of one of my recent trips to the swimming pool.

First, let me say that I love walking and jogging. I put music on, look at yards or prairie, let my mind drift, and see what story ideas pop into my head. Swimming, when I first started it after a running injury, was a lot less interesting. Not only is there no scenery (unless black lines are your thing), there’s no music (underwater mp3 players are expensive). Also, it took me a long time to be able to swim for half an hour or so without stopping, and stopping broke the semi-trance.

But once I got my swimming stamina, I was able to think less about swimming and more about…whatever. Often it’s stories, sometimes it’s my plans for the day. One trip recently gave me the entire first scene of a short story that doubles as a chunk of my 2013 novel. Not bad for 20 minutes.

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