Sunday, September 11, 2011

Poverty is Awesome (or A Trip to the Grocery Store)

We though once we moved in together that this blog would become a regular fixture in our schedules, that we would post often, with clever and insightful thoughts about the lives of a teen librarian and a YA author. There was just one problem...

...we weren't poor enough yet.

Follow us on this one.

After moving into our 2-bedroom apartment with our cats Mr. Darcy and Iljimae, Librarian Lauren absconded on a luxurious adventure to the American Library Association Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. After downing a couple hurricanes and meeting √Čtienne the mule (and bringing Writer Lauren back a cleverly-procured signed ARC of Maureen Johnson's "The Name of the Star"), she laughed in the face of her credit card bill and immediately booked tickets to Dragon*Con.

Meanwhile, Writer Lauren was once again enjoying employment, this time making use of her skill with L's and R's at a Japanese Travel agency. At first, she made an effort to pay down her credit-card bill, but there were walls to paint, cushions to cover, and costumes to make. And also, Dragon*Con. Additionally, with the end of revisions for her YA Fantasy novel threatening her sanity, she had no choice but to self-medicate with caffeine and chocolate at the local Cup'A'Jill's. Every day. And really, who just buys one coffee?

In light of her secure finances and well-delineated priorities, Writer Lauren quit her job.

Don't worry, she wasn't completely barking mad--she had a position lined up with a temp agency, and two weeks of down-time in which--rather than posting on this blog--she scrubbed porches, went to wine-tastings with old friends, and completely ignored her revision.

Not kidding about the HP tattoo.
Then it was the end of July, and the final installment of the Harry Potter movie arrived. As geeks of the highest rank (don't make us get out our membership cards...), we could hardly let an opportunity like this pass us by. This was history. And so costumes were made; tickets were bought; and in the case of Librarian Lauren, tickets were bought in Melbourne, Florida so that such an historic event could be celebrated properly (with old friends...and tattoos...what?). 

Did you know that, no matter how small, tattoos have a base price? Neither did the Librarian. 

So anyway. Writer Lauren was working hard at her cushy new government position, well on her way to becoming financially stable once again. 

She quit that job too. 

Then Dragon*Con. Oh, Dragon*Con. You may, at this point, be asking yourself, "Why this post? Why now?" You see, we're poor. No, really poor. That credit card bill? Not so funny anymore. Those three weeks before Writer Lauren's third new job greets her bank account? Looking pretty long. We've had to bid our sad goodbyes to fast-food lunches in favor of the (cheaper in the long run, we've been told) $200 worth of groceries currently occupying our fridge.

Ya'll have no idea. Our fridge was empty. It was in the red. No really, look. It took $200 of groceries just just to bring it back to empty. 

Can you hear the wind howl?
On the bright side: we have no money. This means no movies; no trips to Jo-Anne's; no five dollar no-fat-mocha-whip-lattes to be had. It does, however, free us in ways previously unimagined. We suddenly find ourselves faced with an interminable stretch of time with no entertainment save the open page, and this blog. 

And so, dear readers, we come to you once again, flowers in hand (cheap flowers), promising you that this time will be different. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beating the Loss of NaNoWriMomentum

We writers seem to be forever forcing ourselves to the page. Actually, I think it's more a matter of forcing the page to bend to our will and coming up bruised, bloodied, and over-caffinated. Not to mention, having only an unsatisfying draft full of stubborn sentences, dripping with adverbs, to show for it. Last week, I posted on my personal blog about how pressure and accountability help me write. What I failed to mention in is that the output of forcing myself to write is not always my best work. It's often horrible.

But that's okay.

The beauty of writing is that we always have the power to erase and pretend like that awful scene where the two MCs end up in a cave, soaking wet, and have to dry their clothes by the fire never happened. Our inner perfectionists may cringe, our inner hipster may scream that the method is inauthentic. You know what? They can get a room. They can have lots of OCD, skinny-jeans-wearing, apathetic "artist" babies who complain about authenticity (or lack thereof) and never get as far as submitting. Like sketches and mock-ups, a first draft is a place to make mistakes. Stories don't spill from our pens in well-edited prose, pre-sifted for all those little golden nuggets of perfect, poignant detail.

And if yours does, get the hell out of my webspace.

The point is, I need to write those bad scenes, because I need something to get me to the good ones. You know how NBC used to air "Friends" and then some other show, and then "Seinfeld"? Those awful scenes are my "some other show" between the good ones--the scenes that are going to need a lot more attention and work before they're able to stand on their own. The scenes that might just never work at all.

But it's hard to get through something when you know it sucks more than Mega Maid.


You might notice another post I linked in a later entry, where an author on the Writer on Fire blog discussed writing without inspiration. His post was a well-written and succinct explanation of the practices necessary to keep ourselves going during inspiration's bleak winter season. There was a point, however, where I thought a little expansion would have been helpful, and that was where he spoke about "Momentum".

"While inspiration is strong, the experienced writer gets to work creating outline or summary. Once you have all of the main points down on 'paper' you can complete the work whether you're inspired or not."

As any first-year physics student knows, momentum is mass*velocity. In writing terms, that roughly equates to idea*wordcount. Basically, it's our ability to get words on the page at a certain rate. Sometimes, we've got to push to get a scene started, but that push gives us the start we need to carry on until the scene catches, and we're golden. Sometimes that's because it's a day of inspiration and creative clarity. Other days, it's sheer momentum. Those days when creative clarity and writing momentum work in tandem are the double-rainbow of writing, as glorious as they are rare. Those are the 7,000-word days, the days when writing makes me forget to eat or sleep.

But building momentum is something that I think must be learned for someone to be successful as a writer. It's why a lot of authors have daily word-count goals. Sometimes, it's the starting that's hard. It's slogging through a desert, heading for that next little oasis of a plot-point shimmering in the distance. I tend to hit my stride somewhere between 300 and 500 words, before the scene takes hold.


NaNoWriMo offers the pressure necessary to get to the 50,000 word goal. One thing I've noticed, however, is that a lot of people get to the 50,000 word goal and lose momentum almost immediately after that goal is reached. The pressure, competition, and companionship of NaNoWriMo are invigorating, because you can see the thousands of people racing through the sands along with you, and they make it fun. They make it fierce. They egg you on. --->

Then, on December 1st, they all disappear.

Some of them have accomplished what they set out to do--finished their own personal races. If you, however, are one of those people who is 50,000ish words through a more-than-likely-130,000-word manuscript, that desert can get to looking pretty lonely and intimidating. Fast.

Especially when the 50,000 word-point tends to be where plotting gets tricky, where you have to start juggling geese and playing with fire while singing the alphabet backwards to get everything to that shining ending (which you may not even have planned yet).

It was like that for me. I'd spent November in a topsy-turvy writing state, and as soon as December 1st hit, I closed my laptop and gave myself a well-deserved break. I watched Korean Dramas all week and didn't even open the word document. Which is fine. Everyone needs a break once in a while, to give their brains time to cool off. But then there were the holidays; time spent with family; then all the shopping, cleaning, and loosing all that weight after the holidays. Then a wedding...

It's was so easy to get distracted by the mirage of busyness, to knowingly let it trick me away from the page, once that NaNoWriMomentum was gone.

It's February 9th, and I'm one of the lucky ones. I didn't stop writing entirely. I'm at 80,000 words (I was at 60,000 by the end of NaNoWriMo). My speed has diminished to a sixth of what it was when I had that NaNoWriMomentum, but maybe that's okay too. I know the point of NaNoWriMo is to get as many words on the page as possible, even if they're not amazing. Even if they're tangential. Even if they suck.

So how do you get that momentum back?

I'm still coming to the page almost every day and getting words down. Not every day, and I don't always write a lot of words. Since the end of January, I've been doing it a lot better. I wrote over 55,000 words last week, and I hope to write at least 50,000 more this week.

How? I don't pretend to have the definitive answer to that, but I can at least tell you what I've done.

I've made sure that other people know what my goals are. If you don't keep your goals private, I believe the likelihood that you will reach them increases. Speaking your desires out loud brings results, whether it's because it helps you visualize them clearly, because it helps your inner competitor to know that people are watching (or at least aware of) your goals, or because you believe that if you ask, you shall receive.

Another good way to bring freshness to a work you're probably convinced is falling apart is to revise your outline. This is why I love the notecarding method Holly Lisle teaches on her blog, because it allows my outline flexibility. By the time I get to 70,000 words, I've usually figure out what the hell I'm writing about. I've usually planned some revisions for earlier parts of the story. I usually stare at my outline, thinking--this isn't going to work how I thought it would. With notecards, revising is easy. I needed to take out a perspective and make what I had a lot shorter. (The pace of the story doesn't lend itself to 120,000 words) So I took out a perspective and ended up combining most of the scenes with other ones to give me a tighter story focusing on my heroine. I also, suddenly, got some insight on the main character's love interest. He finally opened up to me, reticent as he is, and spilled his guts and rather sad--though isn't everybody's, from some angle--backstory.

The next important step for me was not to go back and revise yet. I know all the new info on Lover Boy is going to change the depth of his character, the meaning behind some of his actions, and how he feels about them. I need to go back and change the perspective of all the scenes that aren't from my heroine's POV. But I need to wait until the draft is finished. If I start going back now, I could get caught in the quicksand of the endless revise.

So there you have it. Advice, from someone who knows only what works for me.

1. Tell other people your goals, so they can hold you accountable.

2. Revise your outline to incorporate all the things you know, now that you know what you're writing about.

3. DO NOT start revising the beginning. Keep going forward. You can revise later, when you will probably have thought of several more things you'll need to change anyway.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Warning: Contents Under Pressure

So for those of you who do not subscribe to Bitch Magazine (insert witty comment here), here's a quick catch up on what happened when they posted a list of YA books every feminist should read, and then removed three books from that list:

I've been following this story since the list was first posted, and I've read the comments as they come in. It was (as you can tell by the wonderful summation above) a quick spiral into insanity.

I would like to point out that, first of all, this is not an issue of censorship. As the magazine correctly points out, they haven't removed these books from their shelves, or even told readers not to read them; they simply did not feel they were right for this list. Of course, I also agree completely with the commenter who stated:

Is what you did censorship? No. It's editorialization. That's fair, and really, I wish people would learn the difference.

Is it cowardly? Oh, yeah.

I think that those complaining of censorship need to find a dictionary. However, I was horrified when I realized these three stunningly good books had been removed. LIVING DEAD GIRL was one of the most uncomfortable books I have ever read (right up there with LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL...obviously I have a thing for dead girls...), but I wouldn't unread it for the world. The main protagonist of the novel has been kidnapped by a sex offender and abused for years, and now that she is outgrowing her child-like features, her abuser is using her to find her own replacement. The story shows her numbness about everything that has happened to her, and the vicious cycle of abuse; it also shows how horrified she is about condemning another young girl to this life, but also how elated she is that this is almost over for her. It's a terrible story that is wonderfully written, and while I would be very careful about which hands I put this book in, in the right hands it will change their life.

This book was removed because it supports and perpetuates rape culture. I- have no witty comment. Words fail me. It has rape in it; but perpetuates? Encourages? What book are you reading? As one commenter does point out, LIVING DEAD GIRL was removed, but SOLD (a book about being sold into prostitution) is left on. There is no reason given, though another reader does complain that they feel the main character doesn't try hard enough to escape. I'm just going to let that comment go because I don't want to resort to CAPS LOCK OF DOOOOOOOM. But please, feel free to ponder that one. She didn't try hard enough, so obviously she's fine with it. Again, no comment because- just no comment.

SISTER'S RED does contain the passage quoted in the article:

The Dragonflies [pretty girls] laugh, sweet, and bubbly, and I groan in exasperation. They toss their hair, stretch their legs, sway their hips, bat their eyes at the club’s bouncer, everything about them luring the Fenris. Inviting danger like some baby animal bleating its fool head off. Look at me, see how I dance, did you notice my hair, look again, desire me, I am perfect. Stupid, stupid Dragonflies. Here I am, saving your lives, bitten and scarred and wounded for you, and you don’t even know it. I should let the Fenris have one of you.

Out of context, I can see how some people might see this as "they deserve what they get for the way they are dressed." And certainly agree with other cementers who defend her thoughts as jealousy or frustration. But I think we're missing the big picture here; the one you'll only see if you (novel concept ahead) read the book: despite these thoughts, she devotes her entire life to protecting these girls and (more importantly) protecting their ignorance/innocence. If she honestly felt they deserved what they got, she would lay down her weapons and go find her own happiness. With this context, how can you begrudge her these thoughts towards the girls who walk through the shadows with not a care in the world while she has given up everything for them, and they don't even know it. I feel that, without these thoughts, the character becomes flat and selfless. It would not have been as true a novel without these moments of doubt and resentment.

I'm not going to comment on TENDER MORSELS, though I would encourage those who are curious to read it; it was quite good, but like the other two books, it's intense. I will say that, once again, I am convinced that I must be reading the unabridged version, or a different book entirely, because I cannot fathom how anyone can read this book and come away with the impression that it promotes rape. Contains rape? Sure. Shows an ugly side of humanity? Absolutely. Promotes?

I'll let you decide.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hilarious Name Round-Up

So in my current post as a temporary assistant at a housing authority, one of my responsibilities is to make address labels. Tedious, yes, but it's not that bad--I turn on my iPhone and listen to A Fine Frenzy as I transcribe names and addresses from a printout to the ready-made label document in Microsoft Word. (Why, you ask, did they not give me the electronic document so I could just cut and paste? When I asked, the answer was that they had no electronic copy of the list, despite that the printout had to come from somewhere.)

I don't mind doing address labels. One of my favorite things about it is the access to all the names. Many of the people on this list are seniors, which means I've been inundated with names like "Dorset," "Gladys," "Eugenia," and, yes, "Bertha." Today's round-up topped all of them.

Among the list of interesting first-names:







Let's talk about "Virgilnette". Is it just me, or does that sound like either A) the name of a website where one might discuss translations of the Aeneid, or B) a chastity belt? Nutricia sounds like the parent was looking at a Geriatric Supplement Shake for inspiration, and Zetilda sounds like Roald Dahl had a soft spot for the original Nintendo.

I don't even know what to do with Rachicka.

On to the full names! How would you like to be "Bobby Berry Jr.?" I'm envisioning a kids-size blueberry shake. Also, steer clear of "Wiley Person"--he's got a shifty look about him. "Crystal Vines" was lucky enough to get a name with lots of imagery, and probably ended up with a much nicer apartment than "Destiny Hooker".

Destiny Hooker.


I'm at a loss for words. You know the child's father had to have been laughed at enough in his life for the last name "Hooker", that he would be pretty cautious about what to name his kid. You know the girl's mother had to have thought long and hard about that ring, turned it over in her hands, softly whispering "Hooker?". With these two parents in mind, why--WHY--would they choose a name like Destiny? Didn't anyone try to stop them? Wasn't there some crazy mother-in-law somewhere who said, "Y'all ain't naming my grand baby 'Destiny Hooker'! Sounds like some trashy super-hero who ain't got no Virgilnette! Hush yo' fuss!"

I mean, seriously. I wouldn't even name a character that, let alone inflict it on an actual human being. But I do like having a record of ridiculous names, just in case I need a character with a little extra *snarfle* to their name.