Today is technically a travel day, but I don’t fly until after midnight so I’m enjoying my last day in a pretty apartment in a fun neighborhood. I love it when there’s a vegetable market on the way to the train station!
Travel Tip: Be tight with your money at the beginning of the trip, when you’re still high-energy and making discoveries about what you like. At the end of the trip, spend a little more on comfort as you’re getting tired. I’ve taken more taxis (actual cars with windows that keep out the dust and exhaust) in the last three days than I have all trip, and eaten some nicer meals, and I’m grateful I’m able to without blowing my budget.
I taught two writing workshops back-to-back yesterday, three hours each with a Hare Krishna temple visit in between, as one does.
One class was for Writers’ Wing, a group of hobbyists and budding professionals who have been meeting once a month for almost ten years now! They loved the eight-point structure exercise (see below) and felt like I influenced them to read aloud more confidently. I also suggested reading each other’s pieces instead of their own, to combat shyness. The second group was four novelists who had just completed NaNoWriMo and wanted to know more about the publication process and how to edit and refine their work. We also did a fun writing exercise, envisioning a day in our Perfect Writer’s Life—and all of us would get up earlier! (Which, you know, is within our power to do now.)
By the end of the day, I felt like my brain was broken from so much thinking, but it was awesome to teach again, and to really think about how to convey information clearly in a way that could benefit writers of all levels. I suspect I’ll write up some of it as articles, too.
Definitely Not The Opera again passed on my weekly pitch. It’s like playing the lottery! Also, only one rejection this week means I need to be submitting more work.
I’ve felt like my YA novel work is slowing down. Thanks to drwex’s suggestion to think about what’s worked for me in the past, I realized, schoolwork. Yep. Good old-fashioned exercises and homework! My problem was structure, so I googled that sucker and found a nice article on the eight-point dramatic arc (There are other versions of this concept, Hero’s Journey, etc., but this one was easy to follow and it worked for me).
For homework, I picked three books/movies I like (The Secret History, Skyfall and The Hunger Games) and whose plots were online in enough detail to make up for not having the books with me. I went through each plot and wrote what events fit the eight-point structure. I could tell it was working when I got all excited midway through Skyfall and scribbled on my page, “I CAN DO THIS!!!!”
Analyzing my own manuscript, I realized that I have three plotlines and I need to make notes on how to develop each one and interlock them. Now that I know what dramatic purpose the as-yet-unwritten scenes will serve, it’s a lot easier to start brainstorming about what will happen in those scenes. Instead of “oh, shit, what’s next,” I’m working from, “the storyline about Aurora and Trevor needs a surprising event here that bumps their relationship to the next level.” SO MUCH EASIER.
I gave myself an A-minus, and the note, Legibility, please. Handwriting, you are still my nemesis.
OPPORTUNITY OF THE WEEK
Punchnel’s, a fledging online literary magazine based in Indianapolis, is taking submissions for regular columns or blogs (as well as articles, fiction, etc). Check them out, and send in your ideas here.
ME ME ME ME ME: THIS WEEK’S SUBMISSION(S)
The Writer’s Workshop Review, an online literary magazine based in Seattle.
I read about them in The Review Review and checked out their site. The work seemed quality, and they pay.
Email submission with a cover letter and attachment, as per their guidelines.
“How To Tell If Your Writing Sucks,” a craft essay I wrote originally as an LJ Idol entry. It’s about learning how to gauge the quality of your own work, and how much selfishness one needs in order to develop a writing practice. I was especially motivated to send this piece out after teaching workshops yesterday. The Indian writers were all women, and it was interesting to talk to them about their priorities, and see how family-oriented they are. They still burn with passion for their writing, but family care can be very time-consuming.
And then I hit ‘send’. WHICH IS LIKE AVOIDING A BEGGAR BY WALKING RIGHT INTO TRAFFIC AND ASSUMING THE MOTORCYCLES, AUTO-RICKSHAWS, AND TAXIS WILL DODGE YOU BECAUSE THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME. CONSTANT PACE. KEEP A CONSTANT PACE.
LINK OF THE WEEK
Lee Child, writer of airport thrillers (by which I mean, “paperbacks sold in every airport,” rather than “fast-paced action novels with aviation themes”) has written a terrific, easy-to-implement article about creating suspense. He points out that it’s not just about creating a “whodunit” or “who’s about to bomb it?” mood, but for all genres, setting up a narrative engine that keeps the reader turning pages.
"…[Writers are] told they should create attractive, sympathetic characters, so that readers will care about them deeply, and then to plunge those characters into situations of continuing peril, the descent into which is the mixing and stirring, and the duration and horrors of which are the timing and temperature.
But it’s really much simpler than that."
Read the whole thing here.
More postcards coming tomorrow!