Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sit. Write.

There's no writing advice I've ever received that was better than this:

Sit your butt in a chair and do it.

I'd heard it before. Oh, had I HEARD those words before. But they never sank in. Faster than a Who on his way to get some Roast Beast, they went in one ear and out the other.


Because I didn't want to hear them.

I wanted it to be EASIER than that. I wanted to tap into the great MUSE and have the words magically flow from some mysterious and exciting PLACE OF INSPIRATION. I thought somehow that I would be the one to find it, like Ponce de Leon or Captain Jack Sparrow hunting down the Fountain of Youth.

Pfft. Yeah.

The only way to finish any piece of writing is to:

Sit. Write.

For a brief and glorious time at the University of Tennessee *GO VOLS!*, I had the privilege of knowing Elizabeth Gilbert. Uh, yup. THAT Elizabeth Gilbert. The one who's best friends with OPRAH. Auntie Liz (She told me to call her that. No, really.) mentioned once that she'd rather sort clothes, wash them, fold them, put them all away, and then take them all back out again and repeat the process than sit down and write. And she hates doing laundry as much as I do.

If only that great and mysterious PLACE OF INSPIRATION would come to us more often. If only it would knock us over the head with a sledgehammer and beat us into that chair, chain us down, and force our fingers to the keyboard to write, WRITE, WRITE!

It really would make our lives easier, wouldn't it?

Every now and then, however, we don't need to be dragged to that chair. We're struck with that sudden genius idea, the strong urge to take a flying leap at the keyboard and get to business.

Why does that moment so often come at the worst, most inconvenient times? Why does that spark happen in the middle of the grocery store check out lane when the Super Coupon Savings Superstar in front of you KNOWS she put that coupon for five cents off Funions right there in her file-o-fax somewhere. If only she could find it so you could check out, run to the car, speed home and catch that moment of grand INSPIRATION before it flits away.

Except when you get home, you've got to put the milk away so it doesn't spoil. And when you open the fridge to put the milk away, oh, what IS that SMELL? You have to clean out the fridge. But you need to WRITE. But it STINKS! After you throw the science experiment in the trash, you come back in and realize the milk is STILL sitting on the counter and then your MOM calls...

You see where I'm going with this?

Seriously, there IS no perfect time to tap into the PLACE OF INSPIRATION. The only time I ever found myself truly inspired was after getting out my laptop and staring at that terrifying blank page for awhile. After tentatively writing a bunch of seriously awful sentences. After focusing on my story long enough that the characters woke up and came alive inside my brain.

There are SO many reasons to sit down at your computer and open Twitter or Facebook or Hulu, or in my case all three, instead of bring forth that vast blank canvas and put words on it. Most of the times when I'm writing these days, I'd really rather be snuggled up on the couch, elbow deep in a bag of potato chips watching the latest episode of REVENGE

But that's not going to get my next book finished. Or the one after that.

The truth is, as frustrating as it can be sometimes, writing is a love/hate relationship. When it's hard, it's damn hard. But when that feeling hits, when we find our PLACE OF INSPIRATION, and the words flow, it really IS like magic. But the only way we're ever going to get to that place, is to...

Sit. Write.

What is your PLACE OF INSPIRATION? How do you get your butt in that chair and write? Once you start writing more often, do you find it easier to get back to your PLACE OF INSPIRATION the next time you sit down to write?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lighting the Fire

I promised myself I was going to stay out of this. I promised myself I wasn't even going to dignify the issue by acknowledging it at all. I thought I'd simply pretend that it doesn't even exist.

I'm talking about Twilight.

I can't even tell you how many seconds I sat here just now, not wanting to type that word. I really, really, really do not like the books. Add about a hundred more reallys and that's how much I abhor the movies. Full disclosure: I read the first book. I TRIED to read the second book and couldn't get past the first chapter. I saw the first movie, and I even saw the second movie AT MIDNIGHT. I seriously TRIED to like this series. I don't.

I'm not going to reiterate all the extensive discussions. I'm sure you've already read them. Some people think the books are worth reading. Some think they should be avoided like the plague. And there's a myriad different reasons people hate on the series or like the series and are justified in their feelings either way. Whatever.

I'm going to discuss what nobody else has seemed to mention. Why I simultaneously want to bang my head against the wall and also throw a parade for Stephenie Meyer.

The simple fact is: She created characters and a world that people are talking about. Whether it's the characters, the reality they live in, the sparkle factor, zombie vampire babies, or the effect the books might have on young girls and their outlook on life and relationships: people are having extensive and heated discussions about what she wrote.

Good or bad, whatever you think of these books, the point is, you're THINKING about them. Whatever "team" you're on, it doesn't matter. People care enough CHOOSE a team.

Stephenie Meyer (whether she intended to or not) has written books that have lit fires in the hearts of readers everywhere. Fires of romantic passion or fires of passionate fury, it really doesn't matter. They're lit, and they're going to be smoldering for awhile.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Chicken Theory

I had a writing professor in college who told us a story about his own college writing days and how he and his friends came up with a theory. A theory that holds true, but one you really have to pay attention closely to make note of. It is this:

Every successful piece of writing (novel, memoir, short story, film, television show, play, etc.) somewhere, at some point, always has a chicken or a chicken reference in it.

Seriously, think about it. How often do you see a chicken in a movie or TV show, whether live or in the background as a set decoration? How often do characters eat eggs? How often is the word 'chicken' or 'egg' referred to in poetry, or novels, or any other pieces of writing? Chances are, at least once.

Ever since this idea was introduced to me, I've always kept an eye out for the Chicken Theory to hold true. As a quiet nod to my professor, I made sure to include a mention of eggs in my novel. If I ever manage to get it published, keep an eye out for it.

Speaking of eggs and getting published...

A couple of weeks ago, an agent held a contest of sorts to try and gain some new clients. The idea was that for one hour only, she would accept any and all queries, and reply to them all with her honest opinion. I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for getting some feedback on my query letter, so that it would be the best it could be.

So, on Tuesday, November 1, I sent my first ever (and only) query.

That Friday, I was making breakfast with the eggs I get from my local farmer's co-op, that come from free range, organic, happy hens. All of these eggs come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, which is one of the things I enjoy about them. Nature makes things different, and I don't think eggs should all be stark white and exactly the same size. It's weird. It's unnatural.

Anyway. One of my eggs was a little more oblong than the others, so I chose that one because it was so unique. I cracked it in the pan and TWO yolks came out! I've never in my life cracked open an egg with two yolks inside. At first, I was a little terrified, and then I was really excited. I didn't think much of it, other than it was so unique and special, until I told my friend later. She said it was a sign of good luck. According to the Encyclopedia of Superstitions, she was right. I thought it was neat. We can all use a little good luck in life, right?

On Saturday morning, I woke up and checked my e-mail right away on my phone (something I'd done every day that week, anxiously awaiting my query reply). The reply was there...

...and the agent requested my FULL MANUSCRIPT!!!

I was so excited I started jumping up and down on the bed, much to the chagrin of my sleeping Hubby. Then I remembered the double yolked egg.

I definitely don't believe that a double yolked egg made the agent want to read my book. Nothing but the three years of sitting my butt down in a chair and typing 63,000 words (more like 120,000+ if you count my scrap file), agonizing over the tough decisions my characters had to face, and then researching how to write a query, what makes a query successful, and writing no fewer than six drafts of my own query before I got it just right could have made that agent want to say, "It sounds awesome. I'm interested."

But I most certainly believe that cracking open that egg and seeing those two, beautiful, perfect golden yolks was a sign that good things are about to happen in my life.