Pote-Purry

Last night I stopped looking at cute cat pictures and actually wrote. Me and words: reunited, and it feels so good!

Accomplished:

– Revision of my MbM picture book. I shoe-horned in a subplot, and like Cinderella’s glass slipper, it was a perfect fit once everything settled.

– Envisioned two brief scenes and came up with awesome names for my plot bunny, to be referred to as The Killers, as the story’s genesis came from a song lyric of theirs. Some people sing in the shower. I write in my head.

– Researched names for the main character using this awesomeness: www.languageisavirus.com/

Still Pondering:

– What the writerly equivalent is to singing into a hairbrush

– How to trust my dear readers with character names and titles. I don’t want them to be stolen!

– When being cute becomes too cute.

The Doctor Will See You Now

Last year I imagined the next profession in the creative world: writing therapists. Such a qualified professional would hear your writing block woes and counsel you to overcome your neuroses so you can get back to your writerly schizophrenia (hearing voices in your head and writing them down), multiple personality disorder (they’re not imaginary friends; they’re characters), and bipolar disorder (exposing yourself to the entire gamut of human emotional responses so you cry when your character cries).

For those writers facing the dreaded writer’s block, they may at first feel like paranoid hypochondriacs. This is one writing disease the Doc should help you avoid. Patients with this disorder, like me, feel like that if they’re not creating, something is wrong with them. They latch onto a new excuse a week. How do you get over it?

By accepting that nothing is wrong with you. Or your writing.

Stephen J. Cannell said in a bonus feature for the Castle TV show Season 1 DVD: “YOu know what causes writer’s block – the desire to be perfect.” In other words, get over yourself. To me, it makes sense. The pressure to be awesome all the time, the pressure to have the words work, the pressure to be better than that 16-year-old who got on the Today show – it all compounds in your brain and blocks the impulse to get scenes out of your head and through your fingers.

So, I will sit at my laptop and start my self-prescribed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. When I write, I will tell myself: I desire to write. I desire to create. I desire to make a mess and not care. I can always clean it up later. I desire to be imperfect, because it is the “flaws and quirks that are more interesting.” (another Castle DVD quote).

How have you overcome writing blocks?

Matter of Consent

When writing mainly young adult fiction, I come to the moment in plotting where I consider giving my characters typical teenage firsts: pimple, period, um, accident, kiss, that other first. Generally the characters I write  find themselves both wanting the it-takes-two firsts. At the very least mentally, if not outwardly expressive of the desire.

Yet in fiction I’ve read, the authors have done a swell job of swaying me to root for the firsts, but have at least one character unsure, hesitant, and then ultimately find herself “forced” into the first, however subtly. What do these readings have to say about issues of consent in the real world?

One example is scene in a novel I read for a summer study while in high school. It’s not of “the canon” of YA, so I can’t remember the title or even the character, but I remember clearly feeling uncomfortable as the heroine’s new love interest came to her dorm bed at night, lay with her, and then left. And later in the book she’s still with him. The next day during discussion, the professor distinctly said “so, after what we all agree to call ‘the rape’ of…” What gives us readers the power to judge an action if the character herself doesn’t see it that way?

In a second example, from an upcoming dystopic YA, the first-person narration tells us reader she is terrified; she’s just been through a dramatic escape during a raid; she is bleeding heavily from the leg. And yet the hunky guy starts running his fingers along her face and then his mouth until they are kissing.  At first, I was swept up in the drama and heat; but later I felt disturbed. Obviously not all characters can be like one particular ex-boyfriend who literally asked  permission before kissing me, but still I found myself later thinking, wouldn’t taking advantage of the heroine and the moment be cause for concern? Why did she, a naive love neophyte surrender to someone who knew exactly what he was doing, fully conscious of the fact that she did not? Am I allowed to bring my real-world sensibilities into the reading, or should I accept the characters’ granting of permission?

At the very least, expounding on these questions will inform my conscience when writing my own firsts scenes, unless of course BoyWonder the Character gets out a broom and sweeps me up.

“Name” is an Anagram for “Mean”

This week I had the pleasure of attending BEA 2010 and reading Matched by Ally Condie. Check out the review via the “Well Read” link. The heroine of the awesome “perfect dystopia” YA novel is Cassia.

Wait a second.

The past couple of years have brought us awesome dystopia/speculative YA novel heroines. Named Katsa (Graceling) and Katniss (The Hunger Games and Catching Fire). Now we have Cassia. What’s in these names?

Maybe the hard “k” sound represents the hardiness these women need to survive in their worlds. The “ess” perhaps softens the blow or is indicative of their feminine nature. Or their sneakiness, like a snake, as they subvert their societies’ norms. Katniss, I’m aware, because Suzanne Collins told us so, comes from a fictional plant. But that name is what Katniss meant to mama Everdeen. What is Katniss supposed to mean to us? Katsa maybe comes from the character’s cat-like reflexes. Cassia reminds me of Cassiopeia, which in Greek means “she whose words excel.”  That line sums up the thematic thrust of the book.

Are writers aware of how they name characters? I believe so. In my own writing, which is realistic, I try to find “normal” names that sound right. But sometimes, a character just grows into her name and in later drafts cannot be anything else but her name. Do I purposefully select names loaded with meaning so that future generations of lit students might possibly maybe have a book of mine to analyze? Not really.  To characters, sometimes a tree is just a plant, green is just a color, and ‘A’ is just a letter. In the fictive worlds, a name is that which a person is called. The meaning is not for them. The meaning is just for us.

The Psychology of Process

Some writers set aside specific dollops of time a day to create – 2 hours, 15 minutes, 4 am until the dog begs to be let out – and after awhile, their bones and heart and mind get accustomed to the program and worlds are built. Other writers, those with lives that need living, pencil in an appointment with their couch and at said time, start living their characters’ lives for several hours in a row. They’re in the zone. Roald Dahl would get ideas and then write reminders to himself – on receipts, in a small notebook, or once, in the dust on his windshield.

I am not these people.

The last time I wrote was April 7, 2010. My skinny finger bones weren’t used to typing. My heart wasn’t used to beating for someone besides myself. My writing life had gotten to the point where I felt like scheduling time to write or obeying people’s directives to use my degree and “write!” was actually forced creativity. I eventually got to the point where I wouldn’t try anymore  because if I didn’t finish a chapter, do the two pages a day religiously, I was not “a writer.” Just a mere pretender wannabe.

But today I took twenty minutes instead of folding laundry and tried. I let my fingers reach for whatever keys they wanted. I had no plan. No direction. Initially, I thought I would introduce a new character who would be the saving grace for my heroine. Actually, my fingers think he’s a tool. In the two page-scene I constructed, I learned a new thing about my character. It even refers back to other moments of voice earlier in the manuscript.

Maybe that’s what I needed. A new way to think about the process. I do not write. And then fail. I try. And then succeed.

Chapter One

It was a dark and stormy night. So I stayed in and started a blog. Though I may travel into another dimension in my dreams.

But you, grab a sandwich, book, and kitten and get in bed. That is perfection. This blog will not be. But it will be full of wit and whimsy and wherefores about the writing world.

At 25, I am facing an epoch in my life. I can feel it. One day I will have full books under my name in your local independent book store. Until then, check out my publishing progress, thoughts on the craft and industry, pieces of my mind, and general coming of age.

I love you forever, dear reader.

P.S. Bonus points if you can name the literary allusions riddled throughout this post.