Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I don't feel like I am, but I guess in comparison to average I am? I can read a whole, typical novel, in a day if there's nothing else going on; usually I take about three days to read a novel. Back in the day, I'd read them all together, but now that I'm adult and have things to do, I'm usually reading one or two books a week, with space between reading sessions.
37: Are you a slow reader?
I don't feel slow. I feel slower than I used to be (about 30 books a year slower!). And slower than I want to be. When I was in elementary school, though, I started reading on my own because the books we were reading together were taking forever to go nowhere, and I was so bored.
38: Where is your favorite place to read?
Wherever there's a book (or ebook), somewhere comfy to sit, and good light. I'm not picky about places, I'll read anywhere, much like how I'll sleep anywhere. If I'm choosing an ideal day / situation to hunker down and read, though, I'd say it's that classic / cliched rainy day + tea + cat + comfy chair by a bay window overlooking a garden or the woods. Incidentally, that's also a good day for napping, so I'd probably alternate. I love napping almost as much as I love reading.
39: Is it hard for you to concentrate while you read?
Nope. It's harder to concentrate when I'm not reading, most days. Real life is frequently stupid and lacks plot development. I can block out most things, but I hate when someone is sitting next to me making dumb, meaningless noises when I'm trying to read.
40: Do you need a room to be silent while you read?
These questions overlap a whole lot.
Silence is not required for almost anything I do. It's nice if there's not a TV yammering, or kids making silly noises, or elephant-neighbors bowling again like they always are, but if I waited until there was a perfectly silent room, I'd never get to read.
I'm having one of those months. I'm doing what I can, but stress is high, health is wobbly, weather is wonky, and things just don't ever seem to be geling or taking off the way they should. So I thought I'd talk a little about the whole living-as-a-writer thing. First:
It surely is. Well, putting words on paper isn't that hard, but keeping to a plot, making sure things make sense and the book is cohesive, then editing and revising and selling it afterward? That's definitely hard. Probably almost anyone could just write stuff and hide it away and never let anyone else see it, ever, but actually trying to get it out there, in the hands of readers, in places that will pay you enough to make a living off it? That's hard. It's like throwing yourself at a wall, sometimes.
So when the rest of your life gets complicated, or exhausting, or stressful, and something's got to give, it's often writing that gives. We live in a society that seems to like breeding up kids that value jobs everyone hates over creative endeavors we love to do; it especially likes to breed up girls to have this ingrained and hard-to-beat attitude that their own creative work is less important than taking care of every single other thing from someone else, first.
It makes writing harder.
And it means that there's lots of talented writers that never get published, or that show up and then fade out, and I'm just like:
I don't want to be a flash in the pan. One well-published story is better than none, but fifty is better than one. The problem is all the work that goes into actually writing and selling the story to be well-published, and how much stress can affect me and just steal my power-through.
Writing as a career is different than writing for fun. When no one was going to read it, it didn't matter how I wrote, what I wrote, or whether I finished it. Now, it does, and that can get intimidating. I think, to be a writer, you have to have this strange split where you honestly believe that what you have to say is worth saying, but you also have to have a "fuck it" attitude, because once it's out of your hand, you can't control it. And that attitude also applies to even just getting it out of your own hands and into theirs. And it applies to knowing when you've shopped it enough and need to rework it, file it, or publish it yourself.
And maintaining that spit it also hard.
Right now, I'm feeling how hard it is. I know that I need to push though, but the pushing isn't helping and I'm starting to feel like maybe I need to rest. I know that I need to maintain balance and consistency, but I also know that I'm too tired, too stressed and too unstable to keep worrying about something that isn't a very basic need--remembering to eat, and to eat the things I should be eating to fix my health; making sure we can pay the power bill or the water bill, or buy food; making sure I have the strength of body to support the strength of mind I need.
I think it's okay to pull back once in a while. I also feel bad when I do, like I'm cheating my creations. I also feel that forcing something that isn't coming is doing a disservice to my creations, myself, and my ability to even finish the thing. I also think that stuff needs to feed into a brain to get stuff out--stuff like enough sleep, the right food, good books and TV and movies, experiences other than worrying. Because worrying shrinks the world and makes everything else too hard.
So I've decided to cut my daily wordcounts. I usually aim for about 1000 wds / 4 pages a day; for the nonce, while I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed and scattered, I'm going to aim for 1.5 pages, about 350 words. That should be as close to easy as anything will be when I'm like this. So I can keep going without feeling the pressure of haveing to keep going.
What do you do when you're overwhelmed?
Thursday, August 21, 2014
I love so many of this woman's books. They're infused into my psyche, and I clamor for more whenever she says one's coming out. And I love her blog. She doesn't talk about writing much, but she talks about all these little absurdities and wonderful moments in a writer's life--and about crazy dogs, and roses, and weather, and singing, and ringing churchbells, and the oddities of living in old English towns. She's just so neat. And her blog is why mine is full of itallics and footnotes.
Neil Gaiman (also on Tumblr here)
Another one who's books often chart at the top of my favorites lists. And sort of a rockstar among writers, which means there's always something good going on either on his blog or his tumblr. And he's always really open with his readers, answering questions and giving advice, which is something that I'd love to encourage among my readers!
I got to meet this man for one blushing minute while he signed a book for me, and I still love him.
John Green (also on YouTube here)
This is a weird thing, because I've actually read not much of this wonderful man's work. I liked what I have read, and I have more sitting on my Kindle waiting, but I haven't gotten to it yet (sorry!). But I've been following his tumblr and his (and his brother's) YouTube exploits in a sort of haphazard watch-a-lot-of-it-all-at-once way, and he's brilliant. He's funny, charming, smart, subversive, he gets points across without being didactic, he's really invested in making the world better and making people less dumb, and it's like he plugs right into my ideal view of the world. So worth a read.
Also, he's super-quotable, which I always like in a writer.
More books that I just love. As long as they're good, I hope she writes a million of them, and in the meantime, I like her blog. She has a really close relationship with her fans, she answers questions, she defends writing, and when she gets into fights, she's clever, articulate and reasonable in a way I don't think I could be, so I'll let her say it all.
More wonderful books! These are harder to find because they're published by several different people and in different editions (which bugs me, because it means my set doesn't match, but I'm happy they're still around!), and I've found only a few people who have read them, but they're so good. On her blog, which is miraculously still active on LJ, she talks books, writing, being a writer, but mostly she talks fish and horses and worldbuilding and other things about her life. I like a blog that does that. Maybe I'll merge this one with my lifeblog one day...
So that's the main group! There's other blogs I flit to and from, but these are the ones I come back to a lot. Who do you read? Share in the comments, because we're always looking for new writers to read, aren't we?
Monday, August 18, 2014
*File under "actual thoughts I've had about this actual book".
**It's ALWAYS a mess when you go back to revise.
Friday, August 15, 2014
Checking out my Amazon page to be sure it's still all good, and here's the latest list of writers like me!
JP is a good guy, I've worked with him, and I know at least two of these names went to the same school as me, so a pretty good list, I think!
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Definitely magazines. News with a filter by topic, and more indepth and less slanty--and totally lacking the local your-whole-everything-is-corrupt-and-will-kill-you aspect.
32: Do you read while in bed?
Yes. And at the table, and on buses / planes / boats / cars, in the kitchen, while babysitting, while standing in line...
33: Do you read while on the toilet?
Yes, though not as much as I did when I was a kid and I'd lock myself in the bathroom just to have some space to myself. I used to frequently do my homework in the bathroom, at home and at school, because no one bothers you when they think you're indisposed.
34: Do you read while in the car?
On long tips, yes. In the back seat, where I can hunker down and don't see the stuff moving outside in the corner of my eye. Not in the front seat, and there's not usually time on short trips.
35: Do you read while in the bath?
If I take baths, I'll take a magazine. My current bath doesn't hold water because the plug-thing is broken, and so I take showers--and it's much harder to read in the shower...though I did joke the other day that I was going to take my tea and my book into the shower with me because I wanted to take one, but didn't want to stop reading my book.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
So look at this adorable man taking about really smart things:
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
This kind of makes me want to
-be all my files make it through all the new iterations of computing
-maintain a lot of handwritten material
-go back to school for archiving
I love it, when they're done well. Movies get people to read the books, and that's always a good thing. But there are caveats:
- Movies are not books, so sometimes things have to be changed. The Harry Potter movies were better, as movies, when they were less bound to the books--the first one is practically a read-along, and that makes for a less interesting film.
- Changing it too much makes people mad--those who read and loved the book will rebel against the movie, and those who love the movie and then go to the book will hate the book. Last of the Mohecans, one of my fav movies, is not at all like the book and it makes me so sad.
27: Which book was ruined by its movie adaptation?
...I can't really think of one that was ruined; mostly, they're just different entities. The above-mentioned Last of the Mohecans ruins the book--I think it's better. Definitely more romantic. City of Bones was apparently confusing to my brother, who hadn't read the books, so I think maybe the books ruined that movie, though I loved it.
More often, comic books get ruined--like Elektra. That's less of a problem now, I think, since the bar has been raised.
28: Which movie has done a book justice?
Truthfully, the best book-to-screen adaptation I can think of is Game of Thrones. An ongoing high-budget TV show has so much more space to do the book justice.
If I'm being confined to movies, though, I think there's a good swathe of Jane Austin adaptations (I like the one with Kiera Knightley a lot), and the Ralph Finnes / Juilette Binoche Wuthering Heights is the only one I've seen that covers both half of the story, and does it well. Short stories make better movies than books though-- Brokeback Mountain, Bicentennial Man*, AI were all shorts, and Bladerunner was what would be called a novella these days. They're all different than the source material though.
29: Do you read newspapers?
Not normally, for the same reason I don't watch the news: it's always always always hugely depressing to hear only about death and mayhem in my area. I get my big news from Daily Show and Colbert Report and other filters that cut out the horrible local stuff that threatens my sanity.
30: Do you read magazines?
I love magazines. I subscribe to National Geographic, and have on and off since I was 18, and in the past, when I had more money, I've subscribed to Discover, Anthropology, Astronomy, Smithsonian, Archaeology, FOOD, Food & Wine, CRAFT, Jane, Green Living... and I'm sure there's other ones. Digitally, SF&F, Azimov's, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Poets & Writers, Writer, and a few small niche ones I can't remember off the top of my head just now. I want my magazines back!
*I really liked Bicentennial Man, but it's so beige. The further into the future it goes, the more bland everything gets.
Monday, July 28, 2014
There was one book I read for review that was a collection of short stories. Each one I read just ticked me off, and each one did it differently. It felt like it was meant to do it--but not for any purpose, just because whoever wrote it wanted to make me mad, like a thirteen year old yelling insults at the crowd. I wouldn't have finished it if I didn't have to.
But that's rare; more likely, I'll just hit a book where I can't get into it because of language or tone or subject matter, or I'll not like the way a story is constructed--too linear, not linear enough, too cliched, too confused. A particular pet peeve is when someone writes with a snotty, condescending tone--like, if you don't think the characters are worth caring about, why should I? There's a million other books I could be reading, dude.
I don't like to talk about books I don't like. On the one hand because I don't want to be a source of traffic for bad books, and on the other hand because I don't want to bash writers just because I, personally, didn't like the book; I'm sure there were plenty of people who did to get it published, and plenty of other people who will after it's in print. I'm just not one of them.
How about you guys?
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Monday, July 21, 2014
Well, I AM a book critic, sooo... Basically, I trust my own opinion because I know what I'm talking about.
If I read reviews or whatever, I usually read them after I read a book, to get an idea of the talking points people are using; not really to get an opinion on the book. Sometimes, if I haven't read a book yet, I'll look at reviews to get an idea of what the book is actually even about, because back-cover blurbs are doing less and less to answer that question.
I think there's degrees of believability on the whole reviewer spectrum. Reviews done by professionals, on pro sites, who try to be honest and balanced are the most useful; pro reviewers with obvious agendas, or who are so jaded they hate everything are less so. Non-pro reviewers on blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, whatever, are only personal opinion unless they're well informed, literate, and balanced, too. I've read some very good non-pro reviews on those sites, every bit as useful (or moreso) than the pro ones. And I've also read some just absolutely ridiculous ones that made me question people's sanity. Those are only useful to people who are similarly insane, or for internet-skeweing shows like @Midnight which is brilliant).
July 28: Is there any books that made you angry? If yes, why?
Friday, July 18, 2014
Writing takes time. I think beginning writers don't really realize that, and that they think that you can just crank something out and it will be perfect. I did, and I hit a wall because of it.
Before I went to school for writing, I wrote for years, almost every day, but I wrote whatever I wanted to write, jumping from idea to idea, starting dozens of stories and finishing a grand total of about six. And it didn't matter, because no one was reading it but me.
And then when I did decide to take it seriously and write and work on the art and the craft of the thing, I found that I didn't know how to get past those weird middle parts where your original idea has played out and now you have to start setting up the conclusion.
The answer I found was to write every day.
I set my expectations low, because writing four pages a day is almost automatic, and because it always happens faster than I expect, and doesn't use up all the ideas before I get to the next day's work. I also allow myself days off--four pages a day, four days a week, counts as every day--and since I usually do more than that, it's all bonus, a lovely surprise and much more fun than a requirement. The days when I'm not creating new pages, I take notes, figure out plot points, or, sometimes, I edit a chunk that's been bothering me before I go on. Writing every day.
And I end each day's writing with a quick note about what I had intended to do next, usually just two or three little bullet points, so that I start the next day knowing what I want to do, even if I don't do any of those things I noted.
If you only worry about each day's pages, you don't have to worry about the middle of a story--it happens because you're filling it with written pages, and when you get to the end and shift into editing and revision gear, you can make it make sense, because then you'll have an idea of what the whole story is about and what it even means. Knowledge you didn't have when your momentum from the beginning started bogging down, but that you just found you don't even really need. You just need your four pages a day.
Habit forming is hard. It takes at least a month, and sometimes up to maybe three months before something is so ingrained that you don't think about it, you just do it. And there'll be a part where you feel like it's ingrained and you stop worrying about it, and then you find you slacked off (or, at least, I did), and then you have to get back up and back on that dragon's back.
But you can do it.
And you'll write so much more each month and each year than you ever thought you could. Look:
- 4 pgs = roughly 1000 wds, assuming 250 per page
- 4 days = 4000 a week
- 4 weeks = 16000 words in a month
- A novel is defined as 50000 words with a beginning, middle and end
- That's a full (short) novel in 3.125 months! And if you write more than the bare minimum of four pages a day, four days a week, you'll hit that point sooner and / or make a longer book!
- Have a side project that you can only work on when you've finished your pages. It'll force you through the rough parts, and you'll get two projects done at once.
- Remind yourself that any writing counts--you can always tear out or delete those four pages later, and pretend they never existed. Just don't do it tomorrow. Tomorrow, keep going. Bet ya anything, at the end of the project, the parts you thought were awful will work a lot better than you ever thought.
- Reward yourself--if you finish these pages, you can have cake, or go to that place, or watch the new episode of that show.
- Do it anyway--even if you hate it in the moment. It's like feeding the cat or taking out the trash some days: you'd rather not do it, but you kind of have to to keep things moving.
- Don't try to make up pages if you miss a day (unless you're on deadline)--sometimes you'll be sick, or out of town, or someone gets hurt and you spend a whole day in the ER, or something important breaks and you just can't even. And that's fine. That's life. And then the next calm day, write your four pages.
- Find the writing space, style and time that works best for you. I write best before everyone has woken up or after they're all asleep, longhand on actual paper, usually not at a desk but sometimes at a table. Find your writing-zone, and go there in that way when you need to get those pages done.