Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Comma Addict

My junior high grammar teacher, Mrs. Friedrich, was the toughest teacher that I ever had and she is still one of my favorites. Maybe that is why I am so ashamed at my abusive comma use. She would be appalled if she every got her hands on my current WIP.

See, I am a comma over-user. I know there is a time and a place for commas. I know how to use them properly. However, I write like I speak and I pause a lot when I speak. So for my first draft (that is allowed to be terrible by nature of it being the first draft), I have gone comma crazy. There are commas in all the places I would pause, which is a lot of places.

I took the first chapter of my new project to my critique group and, sure enough, someone noted that many of my commas needed to go. I usually take things to my critique group that are highly polished, but this was a new idea and I wanted to see if the concept worked more than anything.

My point? When you are writing your first draft, it is okay if it is terrible. It is supposed to be terrible. Then you finish and you start editing. You remove the superfluous commas or cut your other atrocious grammar offenses. The story gets tightened up and redundancies are de-duplicated. After a lot of grueling revision sessions, your manuscript develops a beautiful rosy glow.

Maybe then, and only then, I will have something that I could show to Mrs. Friedrich.

Are you guilty of committing grammar faux-pas? Tell me about your worst first draft offenses.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Keeps You Moving Forward?

I have a procrastination problem. When I was in school, I found that I did my best work when I only had small windows of time to study. If putting it off wasn't an option, I just had to do it. Back then, I assumed that I would snap out of my last-minute tendencies when I became an adult.  Here I am, a real, live grown-up and I am still throwing things together before I run out of time.

So what do I do? Like anything else, I had to learn how to work with what I've got. I thrive on the adrenaline of meeting a difficult deadline, so I blossomed in a job where I only ever had quick deadlines. For my life outside of work, I learned to make my own deadlines.

Unfortunately for me, writing can always wait until later. There is always something else that has to be done. Unlike writing during NaNoWriMo, there is no one waiting at a finish line; no one pushing me to keep going. (Truthfully, I think my main driving force for NaNoWriMo was that someone told me I wouldn't be able to finish.)

I have set my deadlines. I am going to keep moving forward. I am going to keep writing. I am going to finish. Maybe when I do, I'll be a real, real, live grown-up.

What keeps you motivated when there are so many other things that have to be done?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

I’ve never been much for reading horror stories. Always prone to nightmares, I have always stayed away from scary movies, campfire tales and Stephen King. In fact, my first exposure to King wasn’t one of his bone-chilling thrillers, but rather his book On Writing. This was where I fell in love with the way that he writes. He isn’t overly fussy with his words. His characters have depth without being overcomplicated. They are people, real people. I dig his writing so much, that since reading On Writing I have subjected myself to quite a few sleepless nights and whacked-out dreams because I won’t put down his books even though they scare the crap out of me.
When I picked up Full Dark, No Stars, I knew I would like the writing. The book is comprised of four short stories topped off with a message from King on where he got the inspiration for each story. The tales are gruesome, vivid and just plain freaky in some places. There are graphic descriptions in some places, but the truly unnerving parts are where he let your imagination run wild. The characters in these stories are normal people in some twisted situations and he paints a picture, four actually, of what people are capable of when life takes a turn for the worst.
My favorite part of the book was King's postscript. It's not often that a writer comes right out and tells you where their inspiration originated. The knowledge of how these stories came to be helped me understand them on a deeper level and enjoy them even more.
I don’t recommend reading this late at night, but I do recommend reading it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

I am not quite sure what I was expecting when I picked up The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. It was one of those rare occasions when I had heard a lot about a book without actually hearing what it is about. Sure, I knew the very basic premise, but I didn't have a predisposed notion of what I was getting into when I delved into its pages. Even after reading it, I can't peg it into a certain genre for you.

Rose is nine years old when she develops the ability to taste people's feelings in the food that they prepare. The feelings she experiences are almost never good and eating becomes difficult. The book takes us through the twists and turns of Rose's relationships with her family and friends and what she learns of them as they cook for her.

This certainly isn't an uplifting story, although it isn't the kind of depressing that takes you down with it. I walked away from The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake feeling a little blank, but mostly wondering what Rose would taste in my food.

All in all, I thought it was a good book. I enjoyed how Bender mixed descriptions of food with the raw emotion that Rose drowned in with each bite. There are some books that get better as you let them stew in your thoughts and I think this is one of them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Just The Beginning

In the beginning, I read some of the criticism that was flying around regarding NaNoWriMo. Having participated and finished (YAY!), I have decided not to listen to any of the nay-sayers.

Writers have different reasons for pledging to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Some say that it's no big deal. Well, it was a big deal for me and who are you to minimize my achievement? I had a few reasons for chaining myself to my desk for a month. First and foremost, I needed a push to move beyond the realm of short stories. I also needed to get myself into a writing rhythm. With three small children and a job, writing every single day wasn't part of my schedule and I needed it to be. Finally, I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. It didn't hurt that I proved it to a few other people either.

Some of the writers will never look at their 50,000 words again. They will file them in a folder on their desktop and let them collect dust, so to speak. For my manuscript, NaNoWriMo was just the beginning. I have created a character that I really like and I think I owe it to her not to drop her into the abyss of my hard drive.

I am sure that on my first readthrough, I will find that I wrote a lot of crap during NaNoWriMo, but I wrote it. I plan on finishing it, editing it, revising it, polishing it and getting it to a point that someone else's eyes are ready to see it. NaNoWriMo got the ball rolling and I am going to keep it rolling, just not at the insane pace that November demanded.

The nay-sayers can keep on nay-saying. I am going to keep on writing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNoWriMo So Far

I had heard of the curse of week two, but man, it really kicked my ass!

I got off to a strong start and managed to stay on course through week one. The first weekend arrived and my children decided to share their cold germs with me. This was not your typical cold. This was a body-wrenching, head-aching, phlegm-making super germ that I am still grappling with.

Despite my best attempts, I have fallen behind in my word count goals. One night this week found me having nightmares about my word count. I woke to see my digital clock and thought that the numbers were my count. Horrified at the low number, I tossed and turned all night at my lacking performance.

But all is not lost, I have written over 14,000 words so far and my story is beginning to take form. I have some great characters, some interesting conflicts and the humorous quips and lines can be found in abundance (it helps here to know that I am writing a comedy).

Today, I am off to a write-in with the Chicago chapter of NaNoWriMo in Schaumburg. I think a good, long writing session will really put me back in the game - both in word count and confidence!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Final Hours Until NaNoWriMo Kick-Off

Less than six hours until writing for NaNoWriMo officially begins and I am still putting the final touches on my outline. I am afraid if I don't finish, I'll lose focus on what I am writing and hit a wall. If I have the main points plotted, I can jump around if I need to.

I have ten chapters plotted so far, but I honestly can't tell you what the final tally will be. I get the sense that, when I start writing, my chapter breaks won't even remotely resemble what I have planned. So, I am going to guess that my ten chapters will be more like eighteen on paper. They only look short in summary form.

I might be starting to over think this outline just a bit! That is what happens when you can't start writing when you are ready! Come on NaNoWriMo, let's get this show on the road!

Wish me luck!