Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing ~ Doubt and Dogma

writingHow much does your mood affect what happens on the page? Will your readers be able to tell? Will your characters?

In the same vein, if you doubt what you’re doing, will it show?

If you approach your writing like you’ve already succeeded, will that confidence carry through to the reader, inspiring their confidence in the words you’ve committed to the page?

writing1Do ‘good’ people write better books than ‘bad’ people. If your intent is to uplift and inspire, does that make your work better than a writer whose goal is to entertain?

Am I pushing the realm of reality too far? Am I not pushing far enough? Is the story too unbelievable, too mundane, too wild, too boring, too emotional, not emotional enough? And who decides all this?

I’m taking my power back as a writer, casting off the fear and doubt, and ridding myself of inhibitions. What’s the worst that can happen?

They (the ‘professionals’ who dole out writerly advice) say you have to know the rules before you break them. They say to write what you know. This is spouted so universally, that it’s pretty much dogma. (dog·ma  noun  ~ A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.) I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve heard/read/been taught this. writing 2

But if that’s so, if this is really true, then are sci-fi writers aliens? Are historical fiction writers time travelers? Are thriller writers spies and mystery writers murderers?

Everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. There is no universal truth in any form of art. We each need to decide what works for us. In essence, we need to make our own rules. Then, if we want, we can decide to break them. We need to be courageous and and maybe a little crazy and have some fun.

eecummingsHave you ever seen a poem by e.e. cummings with perfect punctuation and grammar? But it worked for him, right? He’s still remembered for it today. And, as a very cool side note, which I just discovered while writing this, he died at the hospital in the town I currently live in. I never would have known if I hadn’t decided to shirk convention and create my own rules, which led to me googling the first name that popped to mind as an example of a successful professional who did the same, which I choose to interpret as kismet. I must me on the right write track!

Alice in Wonderland Collection by Lewis Carroll ~ #BookReview

29906577With as many books as I’ve read, especially growing up, it seems a bit odd that I’ve never read about Alice and her adventures. But somewhere between seeing Spot run and and three guys who were Musketeers, (and yes, a great deal of time spent in Sweet Valley), I seemed to have missed a few steps, er, books.

I might have enjoyed the books more as a kid. Or I might have hated them. It’s too late to know for sure now, but I will say that even as an adult there is much to be appreciated on the pages. As a writer, there’s also much to be learned from Lewis Carroll’s sometimes silly, awfully wonderful prose. If you haven’t read it before, keep an open mind (and a glass of wine in hand) and give it a try. 4 stars.

Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing ~ Classes, Conferences and Critiques, Oh My!

Image result for writing classMost of us have done it. We’re encouraged to do it. But when weighing the benefits against the costs (time as well as money), I can’t help but wonder – is it worth it?

I’ve taken more than my fair share of creative writing courses. There was a time when I would pour over the catalogue of whatever community college I lived near at the time, fingers crossed that there’d be some writing classes that I could audit. Then, the classes somehow devolved into a hot mess of Image result for angry writersomething stinky that I felt the need to distance myself from, the seats no longer filled with aspiring writers, but students looking for an easy A and a place to show off, each piece they submitted an attempt to one-up the other students by being sillier, grosser, more absurd.

I briefly researched MFAs in Creative Writing, then settled on taking classes at UC Berkeley’s Writing Extension. Yet, at semester’s end, I really didn’t feel like I was gaining much for the time I spent doing what felt a lot like busy work.

Image result for writer critique memeI started a writer’s group. Except for a couple of egos, I found this to be much more beneficial than anything I had previously tried. Sitting around a table, discussing each other’s work, getting an actual critique and helpful suggestions, I feel like my writing gained depth and insight. Then I moved.

I considered starting another writing group, but the first took so much time and effort to get off the ground, that I held off. I concentrated on finding beta readers for my novel, instead. That resulted in some ego building, but other than a discussion over the proper way to type an em dash, very little constructive criticism.

Image result for proud mama klump hercules clapWhich brings me to where I am now. My mom, who I consider to be a very talented writer, reads my work before I submit it, but she’s my mom – she has only positive things to say. I fear my skin is growing thin. I need someone who isn’t afraid to use their paring knife on my work. Yet, at the same time, I’d rather avoid the critics who hate everything other than spreading misery.

Image result for floggingI’ve been looking at the half dozen writing conference and critique emails that I receive every day. “Get your query critiqued by an agent.” “Learn what agents look for.” “Get an impartial critique of your work (for a price).”

My question is, does any of this work? Surely a well-known platform such as Writer’s Digest provides reputable services. But is it what I’m looking for? What am I looking for? I only know half the time, and even then, I’m not quite sure.

So, I pose the question to you, my fellow writers. Who has tried what, and how did you feel about the experience? What did you find beneficial, and what made you want to give someone a fatal papercut with your manuscript? Has anyone paid for critique services? Attended conferences? Tried to use your paper copy as a ninja star?

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne ~ #Mystery #BookReview

34330645Please let me like the next book in this series as much as I liked this one! That’s probably a little scarce to suffice as a review . . .

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the main character, a socially awkward science tech nerd who’s a bit bumbling and a bit stupid for such a smart guy. And the mystery? Well, is there truly a mystery, or just some connections one man wants to see? (Spoiler – There’s a mystery.) But as to that mystery, who’s the logical suspect?

I really couldn’t put this book down. I also couldn’t quite put my thumb on exactly what was going on. Is logically unlogical a term? This review may be a bit more vague than most of my reviews, which are all vague because I HATE reading a spoiler. (If you want to know what a book is about, read the back cover. If you want to know about one reader’s perception of the story and her journey through the pages, read my reviews.) This book was a thoroughly enjoyable journey. I was sad when it ended, and am anxiously awaiting the release of the second book in the series. (Please, sir, may I have some more?) 5 stars!

Thursday’s Thoughts on #Writing ~ Whatcha #Reading?

Image result for reading memeI write mysteries. I enjoy reading mysteries. Therefore, logic would seem to dictate that I should read more mysteries to make my mystery writing better. Or should I?

Immersing yourself in your genre is a good thing. Except when it isn’t. It’s market research, it’s keeping up with the competition, it’s enjoyable. But maybe that isn’t always such a good thing.

Confused yet? Good. So am I.

See, I have this funny little issue. Call it a hang up, a theory, a sneaking suspicion, call it whatever you will, but it’s so deeply ingrained in my brain that I can’t seem to get around it. I believe that what you read influences what you write. Not necessarily a bad thing, except when it is. Image result for reading meme

You see, sometimes I read books with incredible plots, but less than stellar writing. Less often I read incredibly beautiful prose that seems to go nowhere in terms of plot. Just one beautifully worded sentence after another slowly circling the drain. I wouldn’t want my writing influenced too much by either of these examples, but I’m convinced that, unconsciously, it will. What you’re reading is reflected in your writing, and the last thing I want is for someone to read my work and tell me, “Hey, this is a lot like — fill in name of book I read while writing said work –.”

Image result for reading memeSo, while I’m actively writing a mystery novel, I do not read mystery novels. I’ll read non-fiction or classics or ‘modern literature’. From time to time I’ll even dip my toe in the pool of horror. And for a real treat, (because I tend to get itchy if reading starts to feel like work), I’ll read mystery short stories.

Short stories are fantastic for influencing different aspects of your story’s structure. Few full length books can keep up the suspense of a short story. They’re also Image result for reading memewritten ‘tighter’ – there’s not as much room for superfluous information. Short stories are also less likely to keep you (me) busy reading during writing time, and I personally  find the frequent payoffs (endings, climaxes, culminations, solutions), to be great confidence boosters. The only thing is that, occasionally, you’ll encounter a short story that is so strange, so weird, so disturbing, so innovative, that for whatever reason, it haunts you. Which is sometimes a wonderful thing. (I’m weird, I know.)

Then, it’s time to edit, and I go back to reading whatever I want!!!

How much thought do you put into what you’re reading while you write? Are you more careful about what you read when you’re writing, or editing?