Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday's Children-- Writing: Inspired by Friendship

A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them. Join us!

This week I decided to put my Thursday’s Children post on my group blog because there isn’t a more appropriate place to talk about how my writing is inspired by friendship. 

Way back in the Dark Ages, all the members of this blog took writing classes from the same teacher. Back then, watching everyone’s writing evolve was an inspiration. Over time, I’ve found continuing inspiration from their successes and struggles--and even failures. I often recall things they’ve gone through and find inspiration for fixing a story issue, or avoiding one, or simply the motivation to keep striving to improve my skills as they have. 
I’ve branched out since we first met and have other writing friends and critique partners. When I’m on the pity pot or feel like I can’t write or am groaning because revision is too tough or the process is taking TOO long, all I have to do is think about my friends and what they’ve overcome, and I’m inspired to take a deep breath and keep writing.

I’m inspired not only by what they have been through, but by their advice and critiques, tough love and kindnesses as well. 

And it’s not just my writing friends who inspire me. There have been times when I needed a lift of inspiration and one of my friends who aren’t writers tell me how glad they are that I’ve stuck with it and that they are behind me and excited for me.

Friends. There are so many ways they’ve inspired my writing--sometimes they even end up in my stories as heroes.

So how about you, in what ways do your friends inspire your writing? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Run or Not to Run from the Rewrites

I have arthritis, so two potentially very painful things for me are running and typing. What that says about the fact that I've recently taken up running and as a writer am constantly typing...well, we'll leave that to the shrinks.  And then I'll remind them to keep their answer to themselves! lol

What I have learned is that some kinds of pain can be ignored.  Other kinds need to be listened to. The same is true of the inner niggling doubts we feel as we write and rewrite, so I thought a comparison might be useful, or at least entertaining.

First a picture to get your mind thinking in the rhythm of running, with the sense of freedom in the open trail and the beauty of the seasons around you.

Isn't that nice?  But of course we know what the picture doesn't show--that mosquitos buzz and bite, the hills make us huff and puff, roots and rocks can send you sprawling, and muscles burn.  Those can all be ignored.  I've learned that I can also ignore the pain in my right knee, the the ouch of my toenail cutting into its neighbor toe in the perpetual warfare they've declared on one another.

For other pain, it depends.  I've got a problem with my left hip, so when it's hurting I can only ignore it if it's warm, well-stretched, and moving freely.  If it's a pinchy pain I need to stop and deal with it.  I also have to change things up or drop to a walk if I get shin splints, or if my lungs start to burn, because an asthma attack isn't on the agenda.

Additional things I can ignore are spider webs (if I can manage it), people who's dogs are leashed, and a burst of rain.  Dogs that are off leash, weird old men who ask odd questions and ticks warrant my full and undivided attention!

So, what are the equivalant things to ignore or focus on in a rewrite?  Well, that's going to depend partly on what level of rewrite I'm doing.  If it's a big picture change with deep plot adjustments I'll try to put out of my mind any irritation with word choices and stylistic quirks.  Those are the whine of a buzzing mosquito, and taking the time to smack them will only distract me.  Plus possibly leave me with a bloody spot on my forehead.  When I'm doing a line-by-line rewrite, though, the insignificant quirks have morphed into nasty ticks and will get flicked into the hinterlands.

A queasy sense of something being off in the novel is most like the pinching pain in my left hip, and can't be ignored without ruining the whole draft.  That's also true of dragging info dumps or scenes that make me yawn and reach for my chocolate stash.  Those are like shin splints.  They may not seem like a big deal at first, but they drag down the quality of the rewrite (or the run) til they make it impossible to go on.  Worse, they can scrap a training routine for weeks, just as the info dumps can derail a rewrite.

My rewrite equivalant of the cutting toe nails and aching knees are the voices in my head that say my book is stinky cheese with sour catsup on top.  These voices aren't responding to any specific clue or lodging a legitimate complaint, they just don't think this book will ever be good simply because it's got my name on it.  Listening to them will quite literally stop a rewrite or a run in its tracks.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember in a rewrite is where you're going, or what kind of run you want.  Because maybe you're not running through the woods listening to the distant sound of a stream and watching for the flit of birds' wings.  Maybe you're running on the beach with the sand slipping under your feet and the waves spilling over your toes.

Whatever your run or rewrite, make sure you lift yourself above the sweat and sticky parts to enjoy the beautiful moments and savor the end goal.  Because that's the reason we keep going.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rhyming Picture Books--Commencement Addresses into Musicals

If you want to be a picture book writer, then you've most likely thought once or twice about writing in rhyme. I know I have.

Why, may I ask, do we do this to ourselves? It's like taking something already difficult, like giving a commencement address, and then attempting to write it in the form of a song as if you were living your life in a musical. Fantastic (maybe) if you pull it off, but most likely doomed to embarrassing failure.

The thing is, well done rhyming picture books are fun to read, entertaining, and memorable. Something we all want our picture books to be, so I occasionally strive to reach that pinnacle of picture book perfection. I haven't made it yet.

But now I'm armed with this: by Lane Fredrickson.

I can't say it will turn my embarrassing failures into bestsellers, but after going through this entire easy and fun to read site, I know a great deal more than I did before.

Counting syllables? Pointless. Soft rhyme? Don't do it. Meter? At least I know what it is now, even though I thought I already did--and not just meter's definition, but why it works, how it works, and how to fudge with it when necessary.

I now know why certain lines of rhyming picture books don't sound right to me, and how to avoid those same problems. But hey, those books got published. Maybe someday, now, mine will too.

If there are other websites that teach how to write a great rhyming picture book, I'd love you to post them for me.

And, by the way, I actually did give a commencement address in the form of a poem. Yes, it was very embarrassing. At least I didn't sing it.