Letters of Note

On which Hemingway puts the beatdown on Fitzgerald in a letter.

If you are like me, then you love hearing what people have to say to each other.  Admittedly, I have on several occasions turned the music off on my headphones and listened to conversations around me.  (Really, the things people say in public are astonishing!)  I also belong to the small group that laments the downfall of good old-fashioned snail mail letter writing.

Which is probably why I fell in love immediately with Letters of Note.  From the website itself:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated as often as possible; usually each weekday.

So far there are 752 letters on the website, and I’ve yet to reach 100, I’m sure.  Several letters appear by fantastic writers including JRR Tolkien in regards to being English,  Kurt Vonnegut on being a POW at Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), and most deliciously Aldous Huxley to George Orwell on 1984(Orwell) compared to Brave New World(Huxley).

All of those are interesting reads, as well as plenty others on the site that don’t involve authors.  However, there is one letter in particular that I wish to share with fellow writers.

Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald had requested Hemingway’s opinion on his novel Tender Is the Night, and boy does Hemingway let him have it.   However it’s not all about put-downs or insults.  Hemingway gives Fitzgerald some very sound writing advice.

And if I haven’t convinced you to read this letter yet, here’s just a small excerpt:

For Christ sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.  -Ernest Hemingway

(So stop reading my blog and go read Hemingway’s letter!)

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Words Pour Like Rain

Ideas roll like thunder,
Miles deep
And full of wonder.

Inspiration strikes like lightning,
All at once
My vision’s blinding.

Words pour like rain,
Down my throat
And through my veins.

I love nature, whether it brings sunny days or raging storms.  This past weekend it has brought both to me.  On Sunday it reached 80°F (27°C).  This was rather startling considering two weeks ago it was still snowing/blizzarding. And then Sunday night there was a huge, raging thunder and lightning storm.  For at least a half hour it was averaging 10+ lightning strikes per minute.  The storm lasted several hours.

Yesterday, Monday, it was again 80°F, and again, last night brought a fantastic thunder and lightning show.  Today isn’t quite as hot, however tonight there is scheduled….you guessed it…Thunder and lightning!   And do you know what’s supposed to happen tomorrow night?  THUNDER AND LIGHTNING!

Have I mentioned how much I love this weather?

The downpour of rain always helps me feel creative.  Maybe that’s because I grew up in the rainy, drizzly, Pacific Northwest.  Or maybe it’s because my mothers name is Raeni.   Or maybe I’m just a little odd.

At any rate, the universe seems to have aligned to promote inspiration for me to write.  Who am I to argue?

What helps inspire you guys?  Is there a certain environment your writing thrives better in?

(For those of you who follow, and posted such kind words in regards to my fathers health: He’s doing much better, and is now out of the hospital and back home with my mom.  Thank you all, again, for the concern and well wishes.)

And Down Goes My Sinking Heart

As some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted much of my fiction lately, which is mostly due to me throwing myself headlong into a new novel concept. I’ve been so excited that I haven’t even talked about it to anyone!

The premise is that a daughter and her recently divorced mom move from Nebraska to Otter Rock, a small, unincorporated community on the Oregon Coast.  They buy and start to run a Bed and Breakfast there, in hopes of starting fresh.  It explores coming to terms with your past, and who you’ve become, as well as the intricacies of relationships, especially between a mother and daughter.  The oceanic setting weighs heavily within the book.  Tentatively titled “We Are The Tide”.

I was just browsing books on my kindle and came across an upcoming book that’s on pre-order called The Inn of Rose Harbor.  Here’s what the description says:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber comes a heartwarming new series based in the Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, where a charming cast of characters finds love, forgiveness, and renewal behind the doors of the cozy Rose Harbor Inn.

Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start.  Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast- the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn-ready to begin her life anew.  Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine…

There is more to the description on amazon, so I know our novels start to differ quite a bit after that. So I guess it is a bit comforting knowing that only the beginnings are similar.  Still, I had this moment of woe, and if my boyfriend wasn’t sleeping I’m sure I would have cried out, “SAY IT AIN’T SO!!!”

They’re both set in a small Pacific Northwest town on the coast, and a woman buys a B&B to try to get over her former husband, and start afresh.

I realize there are plenty of similar genre-books out there, and things like this just can’t be helped.  Characters, writing style, and the mood of the books will always be different and unique to the writer.  But it’s still so disheartening to see it for the first time when you’re completely gung-ho about the new project.

But you know what? I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.  I’m confidant in our differences, and if my gut tells me to write a story, then you can bet I’m going to damn well write that story!  I won’t even touch that other book until I finish my novel.  I would hate to see it influence me, or dissuade me from certain elements in my writing.

So tell me, have you guys ever encountered an eerily similar idea to yours?  How did you handle it, and did you end up tweaking your idea to differentiate yours?

 

What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?

Recently I’ve been running into this advice more and more often.   You ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen to your character?  And then you make that happen.

People love this!  They use this advice at every turn possible.  While not terrible advice, I don’t really agree with it.

I blame the snarky little girl in me that wants to retort with “Well…an asteroid could hit the planet and annihilate all life, and since this isn’t a sci-fi story, then there would be nothing else to tell.”   Really though, that’s a little much.

I know they don’t mean to completely destroy your character, making them plunge deeper into darkness without having any positive things.  Even if your character spirals into an abyss and dies there, you at least need to give them hope for something better.

But no, my problem with this age-old advice, is that it’s too expected.  As a reader (and perhaps this is magnified by also being a writer), I often think about what will happen next to the characters I’m reading about.  I’ll sit there and ponder, “how terrible would it be if this happened !”  And then, of course, it does happen, and it is the terrible!  Yet, it’s still predictable.

I will admit, sometimes it is best to throw the worst at your characters, but I think it’s vital to mix up the formula.  If your story needs some extra malevolence, try throwing in a twist for your characters.  They got the promotion and raise so they can afford the rent (finally)?  That’s great!  But what if their workplace nemesis did too, and now they have to work together?   Or maybe it isn’t one big thing that goes wrong, but a lot of little things that add up.

While it’s definitely good to put your characters through tough trials, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ruthlessly torture them with the worst that life has to throw at them.  Switch things up!  And try to do what best fits the story you want to tell.  It’s our job to tell the story in its entirety, relating both the ups and downs.

Happy writing!

Riding the Crazy Train to Breakdown Town

…And How to Make it a Productive Trip.

See this girl? Her name is Aly and she is full of crazy.

Yesterday I was in a mood.  I was in a eat-the-entire-box-of-Girl-Scout-cookies, cry-over-old-pictures, listen-to-Matchbox-20-on-repeat, and bury-my-face-in-tissues-while-watching-Pride&Prejudice kind of mood.  Let me clarify that girls are indeed crazy.  We can’t help it.

And while we’re on that topic, writers and creatives in general, also suffer from a crazy streak or two.  Known for suffering from a multitude of illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disease, alcoholism and drug addiction, we’re not the most stable of groups.  Philip K. Dick, Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, anyone? Of course, some of us are more sane, grounded, and normal than others.

However, as people, we all have our ups and downs.  And as writers, it’s our job to capture those moments.

We write about the state of society, the intricacies of relationships, and about the past, present, and future. We write about our world or others, with happy endings or sad.  Through our writing, no matter the genre, we examine what connects us, what does, or doesn’t, make us human.

And perhaps that is what makes us crazy.  With every new experience and emotion, we remember it, save it.  We relive our anger, embarrassment, and disappointment every time our characters do.

At least, that’s how I am.  When I’m in a less than chipper mood, I sit down and write.  I write what I’m thinking and how I feel.  It doesn’t even have to be part of a story or for a character, but it’s something I can reference and go back to when I do need to write about a darker theme.  After all, even if we all act out differently, we still feel the same emotions.  Although my characters react differently than I would, their actions are still based on familiar emotions.

So, if you’re in a dark place, or in a mood, as I say, use it.  Maybe writing is the only thing you want to do, or maybe it’s the last.  But at least try.  Not only does it act as a release, but you can use it as a starting point for remembering and feeling what your characters should be feeling.

This also applies to happier of times, or hell, even average ones.  What’s important is that our characters have feelings too.  They’re living beings, if only from a two-dimensional world.  And it’s our job to breathe life and feeling into them.

So how do you guys deal with emotional swings, especially if they get in the way of writing?  Have you ever dealt with a character experiencing emotions you’ve never felt?  How did you write about that?

On Choosing a Narration Mode

As I’ve only written short stories and flash fictions in the past, choosing a mode of narration hasn’t been a problem for me.  Generally I use limited third person, only delving into the mind of a single character.  This works well for short stories, and I find it the easiest, least confusing way for me to write.

Limited third person is also how I started writing my novel about Paige.  I really enjoyed the opening piece I wrote for it (you can read the rough draft of it here), and I thought it was a great way to incorporate themes and elements I wanted to explore in the novel.

However, the further I get in writing the story, the more I question the narration mode.  There are scenes that I’m thinking of including, where Paige is not present. I’m starting to realize that I want to include more of Alex.  As far as the story goes, I think it could be stronger if I focused on writing more about the pair of them instead of only Paige.

So my thoughts are that I should start exploring writing in an omniscient narrative, which I don’t have much practice with.  I think it’d be a great challenge to have to balance the viewpoints of the characters.  As daunting a task as that is, perhaps I should explore that in shorter works first before completely ruining it in a novel length work!

BUT- Then again, I could always take an “easier” route, and write from an objective point of view.  I say easier, because I won’t have to work on balancing  out the characters, but it would be tough not being able to delve into the characters minds.  I do falter on this idea though, because there is a lot I would have to change and compromise about my writing, which I’m not sure I want to do.  However, I must say the consistency of this form does appeal to me.

Ultimately I think, for the time being, I’m going to stick with writing in limited third person, and then perhaps write a few scenes on the side in the omniscient and see how they turn out.  And if you have any tips, exercises or great articles on this topic, I am all ears, and I’m sure some other readers are as well!

Oi! There are so many more elements to writing a novel than I had thought out.  This isn’t what I bargained for, Muse!

So how do you guys decide on which narration best fits your work?  Have you ever written a piece, then decided to re-write it another form?  Also, any recommendations for books with fantastic limited third person, omniscient, or objective points of view that I should read?

(A tad off topic, but I’m thinking of turning this into a Sunday Vs. Topic in the future, although not this Sunday.  So any response is greatly appreciated!)

Git-R-Done

This two part-blog post will consist of first, an anecdote from high school, and secondly, a lesson I’ve been learning while writing.  As it’s been established in this blog, I am quite wordy. So if you aren’t in the mood for one of my high school stories, go ahead and scroll down and start reading the third paragraph after the picture.  

The year was 2008, I was a senior in high school, and very unhappy about it.  My high school had this program called Running Start which allowed juniors and seniors to take classes at a college down in Vancouver, Wa to get both college and high school credit.  As soon as I was a junior I kissed my high school good-bye and never stepped on campus again until I was forced to return for a single class the last semester of senior year.

In order to feel less foolish about going to the high school for only one class, I enrolled in three: Current World Issues(formerly Current World Problems, but our school decided the world didn’t have Problems, it had Issues.  Also, my required class),  Advanced Drawing and Painting, and Home Economics?  I can’t remember the last one because I dropped it two weeks in, it was some sort of homemaking/baking/cooking class though.

Ironically, that’s the class I wish to talk about.  You see, I lived in a very small, very conservative, very, for lack of a better word, hick town.  People wore cowboy hats and cowboy boots, they drove monstrous trucks that I probably am not tall enough to even get in, and they talked in a southern accent, obviously confused about geography because we lived in SouthWest Washington State.  They also participated in rodeos, and went huntin’ and muddin’ and cow tippin’, because only weird people pronounced ‘ing’.

But-back to my Home Ec class.  I had no friends in that class, which was unfortunate because the teacher was my friends mom, and she was really cool. However, that didn’t make up for being stuck with two hicks as my partners.  I don’t want to sound mean, these two guys were actually nice to me, but we just didn’t have anything in common, and it was clear neither of us felt like we’d make great friends.  So it was neutral, they talked to each other and I was just there.  Story of my life.

About the second week in, we were learning how to make pies.  Surprisingly the guys wanted to make it, so I just sat there and read directions as they crafted the masterpiece.  It wasn’t until I saw the pie come out of the oven, and someone took a picture, that I realized I had just helped in the making of a Git-R-Done pie.  As in, the slogan was right there, ON the pie.

It even made the yearbook. (Sorry for the bad quality, but if you look hard you'll see it!)

Of course, at that time Larry the Cable Guy was pretty much the new Shakespeare as far as half of my high school peers were concerned.  So “Git-R-Done” might as well have been our high school motto.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure they didn’t change it the year after I left.

Regardless, my snooty high school self (I’m not going to lie, I was a tad supercilious in my high school days) was so over being in that class at that point, so I dropped it, and never looked back.

 

Which brings me to the present.  Despite having the shiny new writing program I talked about in my last post, and fresh determination, I haven’t been making as much headway in my novel as I had hoped.   And I think I’ve finally pinpointed what the problem is.

It’s a vague case of not being able to turn off my inner editor as I write.  Up until now, I’ve only written short pieces.  I’ve been able to do minor edits as I progress through a story, without that holding me back from continuing on in my writing.  It’s like giving out little sweets to my inner editor.  However, with this novel, if I so much as stop to feed the inner editor, then my writing falls to shambles and it feels so much more difficult to get back on the writing horse.  I get paranoid about showing vs. telling, then I have to completely rewrite sections.  And I know this is what is going to happen anyways, multiple times, guaranteed.

However, completely re-writing and editing isn’t what I need right now.  What I need, is to just sit down, duct tape the mouth of my inner editor, and get my story onto the page, no matter how juvenile a form it takes.

I’m hoping this blog post will help writers just starting out, like myself, or at least serve as a reminder to everyone more advanced in their writing careers than me.  Edits and re-writes are there for a reason, but as I’ve said before, you can’t edit what isn’t on the page.

So, I’m going back to my not-so-country roots to remind you all to:

GIT-R-DONE

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