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.