Saturday, July 07, 2007

Putting Down and Picking Up

"The best style is the style you don't notice."

~Somerset Maugham

Today, of course, is the very interesting date 07/07/07. Significant? Perhaps, if you read this article.


Well, for the first time in recent memory, I put down a book without finishing it. Now, I occasionally won't read past a first chapter in a novel. If it doesn't grab me, then I'm OK with deciding not to invest any more time in it. But this novel, Jodi Picoult's Perfect Match, I struggled with for almost 2 weeks. I got about 2/3 of the way through, although it lost my interest after the first 1/2, and finally I decided to ditch it. Problem? I didn't care what happened to any of the characters. Nor did I really like or feel any attachment to them.

Have you ever decided not to finish a book, after you were 1/2 way through? Or are you one of those who soldiers on to the very end? This time, I just couldn't do it.

But I have discovered (I think) part of the problem with the WIP I've been struggling with. I let it lie for a few days, and mulled things over, and I have renewed energy and interests and ideas for the middle. So this afternoon I plan on picking up and hopefully working through the tough spots. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Under Constuction

"My whole heart for my whole life."
~French saying used on poesy rings

You might remember that a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was having my website redesigned. That includes the blog, so while the designer plays around with things, it might look a little different around here.

Since today is my 6th wedding anniversary, I'm off to celebrate with an out-of-town rendezvous. Hope everything has a wonderful Friday...I'll see you tomorrow!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sagging Middles

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

~George Orwell

OK, let's talk about sagging middles today, shall we? And I don't mean the kind that seem to set in sometime after 30 no matter how many sit-ups one does. (That's another post altogether, especially since hubby and I are off on a beach vacation in less than 3 weeks which requires me to wear a bathing suit and lounge by the pool/on the sand for 5 straight days. But I digress...)

I mean the sagging middles that sneak up on you when you're writing. You're zooming along, pretty happy with the start of your story, pleased that your characters are taking on lives of their own, and then all of a sudden, there it is! That terrible screeching halt when the words stop coming and the plot falters and everything, everything, seems stupid and boring.

That's where I am right now in my latest WIP, One Night in Memphis. This is a novel I started 2+ years ago, my first attempt at the "24-hour novel." I abandoned it for One Night in Boston (which has since found a home with Samhain) and now I'm desperately trying to revive it. But it's not working. I revamped the beginning and added some conflict, which seemed to help. Now, about 1/3 of the way in, though, I'm stuck. My H/H are sort of meandering around, not doing anything interesting. The conflict takes off again in about 6 chapters, and from there to the end I think it's pretty solid, but I am frustrated to no end with the section I'm facing right now.

I've been avoiding even dealing with it for the last 3 days, though I know I should just sit down and write through it.

But I'm looking for advice. Fellow writers, what do you do when you're stuck in the middle of your story? How do you pick up the pace, increase the conflict (in a believable way), make the reader want to keep turning pages? I really need some help here...please...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Ben Solah

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today we're chatting with Australian writer Ben Solah...

1. Hi Ben! Can you tell us a little about your background?
I've grown up basically all my life in a working class suburb in south-west Sydney. My father works in a factory and his family were all wharfies. I went to a number of schools in the area including one in a 'ghetto-like' area, where unemployment, poverty and police harassment is rife. I guess my family has never had a lot of money and writing would have to be a factor in escaping that.

2. When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?
I was a real reader in Primary school and hung out in the library a lot. I was also a crafty sort of kid who liked to make things, I drew a lot and created a world of cartoon characters. I guess I was writing a bit then, though it wasn't much. When I was like 11, I remember attempting a novel about martians from Mars coming to ancient Egypt. It was about 10 or 20 pages long, and I thought that was pretty epic.But in High School all this kind of stopped until Year 11 when my English teacher suggested we all read more to improve our vocabulary so could write better essays. I started reading King and Koontz and it did build my vocabulary, to the point where I was bursting with renewed enthusiasm to write. I was having petty teen issues at that time too and found my escape in some of my writing (and poetry) for a period.

3. Tell us about the stories you write.
Initially, it was just straight horror, with a focus on gore. I guess a lot of it was trying to do what King and Koontz did but mimicking never did a writer any good. At the same time, I was developing political ideas, reading political books, going to protests and throwing myself into debates with friends, family and online through blogs and forums. These political ideas couldn't just sit separate from my writing and now it's very much apart of my stories. I write Marxist horror. Which is horror stories about living under a capitalist society and fighting against it. This includes war, racism, poverty, labor exploitation. These things are truly horrifying and get my blood boiling. With my roots in horror fiction, I hope to draw out the horrible things about capitalism and make people fear and get angry at the way the world is, and perhaps to the point where they want to change it.

4. How do you go about developing your characters?
My characters come from real life, as most writers would say. And also, most writers would say that there's always a part of themselves in their characters. Certainly that's true for me. It's my own experiences of living under capitalism and reading stories of others that become part of the characters in my stories. I meet people on the street as part of my political organizations weekly stalls and you get to hear their experiences.When a story comes to me, it usually comes with its character, complete with little bits and pieces of myself, people I meet, and lives I read about. But these traits are not static and don't come out of nowhere. My characters have histories and with each trait, must come some reason why they came to this and my characters develop further as we go through the experiences of their story and how that shapes them further.

5. What advice would you give to other writers, or to people who are thinking about taking up writing?
I suppose reading again did me a lot of good, so I'd suggest doing that, but not just fiction but non-fiction as well. Read the news, blogs and on subjects that interest you. That gives you the ammo you need to write your stories. And you must write, try to write regularly, just ignore the inner editor and let it flow.

6. What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
Of course, I like horror and I like political leaning books. King and Koontz certainly rank among my favourites, as well as John Steinbeck and George Orwell. Though, in terms of left-leaning horror, there isn't a lot about. Though, I think whether they're trying to or not, politics comes out in all forms of writing, just not so overtly. And of course, Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath really can be seen as a horror story. King's The Green Mile is a really excellent book.

7. What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?
I go through stages of problems with my writing. Sometimes it's the ideas that aren't coming and at other times, I can't seem to articulate my overflowing ideas and characters. At the moment, I'm having trouble turning my images and ideas into fully-fledged plots and actual stories.I think the point at the end of each stage, the draft, the edit, the submission is so rewarding. It's the thrill of completing something you've put a massive amount of emotional effort into. I really enjoy the feeling when words are pouring out of you, full of action and ideas and you're barely trying.

8. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
I don't. I was unemployed for about one and a half years after I left school, which doesn't do a lot of for your inspiration. I started working full-time last August and now I'm struggling with all these images and ideas and not enough time to develop a routine to do stuff with them. I tend to write mostly on weekends and sometimes of a night if I'm just itching to write.

9. Can you tell us about your next writing project?
I'm working on short stories this year. I really have found flash fiction a savior recently with my troubles in developing plot because within those 250 or so words you can have a complete story. You don't have to spell the whole thing out for the reader, but in the background it's there, people know there's more to it and there's a history in the actions and the characters. In those short paragraphs, you can reveal the story for yourself. And on the subject of flash fiction, I used run a horror flash fiction carnival, that has recently lay dormant - Tastes of the Darkness - so maybe so readers here would be interested in getting it going again.

Want to know more about Ben? Stop by his website. And make sure to leave a comment on this blog so we know you were here!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scattered Tuesday Thoughts

"Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better."
~Albert Camus

First, a Happy Birthday shout-out to my MIL, who for the last month hasn't even been home but down in FL helping my husband's great-aunt ready to move north. She deserves a big, shiny gold medal for this...

Second, an early Happy Birthday shout-out to the USA, who's been a little battered these last few years but still deserves a rousing celebration tomorrow for Independence Day.

Finally, a reminder that tomorrow is Writers' Wednesday, and I'll be featuring an interview with author Ben Solah. Make sure to stop back and check it out!

Monday, July 02, 2007

It's Time for Summer Television

I think my new favorite TV show is "The Office"(the American spin-off of the BBC original). I never really tuned in before, but I caught a couple of reruns this summer, and I have to say, it's pretty funny. Characters are clever and well-acted, and a little simmering office romance never hurts any plotline, in my opinion. As a matter of fact, I rented the first 2 seasons on DVD just so I could watch it in full. Anyone else a fan?

I'm also thrilled that "Rescue Me" is back for another season. I can't really explain my fascination with this show, as it's *so* male-oriented, but it's really hilarious. I guess Denis Leary has been doing comedy for so long, he knows what works and what doesn't. It's probably not for everyone, but I'm addicted.

This "Rescue Me" Link is R-rated but Also Worth a Look - Very Funny

Anyone watch "Jericho" this past year? I didn't, but hubby did, and apparently it's back for a 2nd season in the fall thanks to the fans, who rescued it from cancellation. Great story about the power of the people.

What about you? What are your favorite TV shows? Have you discovered anything through reruns or a friend's recommndation?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's a Meme, Meme, Meme, Meme Weekend (Part 2)

And today's meme is borrowed from Marianne:

Fifteen Things for which I am Truly Grateful

(Appearing in no particular order)

1. My family - my parents, my sister, my husband. My niece and nephew. Everyone who shows me what unconditional love is.
2. My health - physical, mental, and emotional. I love that my legs and lungs are strong enough to run 6 miles without stopping, and I love that my brain can lie to my body and tell me I can keep going when I'm tired.
3. My job - I teach, and it's the best career in the world. Really.
4. My house - it's beautiful and safe and I'm grateful everyday I turn into my driveway that it belongs to me.
5. My financial stability - and that I earned it through sheer hard work.
6. My intelligence - just lucked out on this one.
7. My creativity - same as above.
8. My pets - let's really talk about unconditional love, shall we?
9. My friends - for being supportive and loving and crazy and forever there for me.
10. My appreciation for music - it keeps me sane and stills me.
11. My history - all the mistakes I've made that have turned into learning experiences that made me who I am.
12. My ability to balance a hectic life with inner peace.
13. My freedom and independence. There are very few other countries in which I'd want to live, as a woman today.
14. My contracts with Samhain and TWRP.
15. My online community - a whole other world of friends and colleagues I've discovered!