03 May 2013

Read What You Write

If you ask advice about how to better yourself as a writer, most likely anyone will tell you that you have to read. You’d be hard pressed to find a writer who didn’t love to read. That’s probably what started us all on this crazy path they call being a writer. A love of words, and so, a love of books. So, of course you should read. But what?

I went through a phase (when I worked at a book store and got a decent discount) where I bought dozens of writing reference books. The how-to’s of dialogue, first pages, characters, plot, etc., etc. They accumulated in piles on my bedroom floor once the bookcase was full. And while I never read one in its entirety, I would pick them at random (or if I was having a specific issue) and skim through, searching for answers. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t find any. Sometimes advice is good, but those sorts of books aren’t going to tell you how to write your book. Only you can do that.

But that’s not to say you can’t seek out some kind of influence. When I used to write ridiculous, Gothic fantasies, my favorite writer hands down was Anne Rice. I adored The Vampire Chronicles. But it’s sort of like the chicken and the egg. Which came first? Did I write vampire stories because I loved to read them, or did I read them because I already wanted to write them?

Nowadays I struggle to name a favorite author, even a favorite book. I’ll occasionally jump on the bandwagon and read something that everyone else is reading, like The Hunger Games or the Millennium trilogy. I sometimes try to read poetry or short stories, but I crave novels more than anything. I don’t read nearly as much as I should, mostly because I’d rather be writing in my limited spare time.

But it should come as no surprise, really, that in the past couple of years I’ve been reading a lot of gay fiction. Obviously this time the writing came first. But I do find it interesting that I still crave to read the same genre as whatever it is I’m writing. I think it’s more than just being aware of how your genre works. It’s almost like wanting to be around people with whom you have things in common. If you like to write a certain genre, chances are you like to read it as well.

Of course, there’s the possibility for overkill. You want to absorb the influence of the books you read, but in the end, your work should stand on its own. There’s a chance you may get discouraged, if you start thinking that every idea has been done before. But you still have a story to tell. The most important thing I take away from reading is the drive to write. Sometimes I can’t get through a page without my thoughts drifting off into my own story. And that’s perfectly fine. That book will still be there when I close my laptop. 

29 April 2013

Unleash the Ideas

Occasionally Jordan bothers me with tales of his various sexual escapades. It’s not really a problem, because it helps me to understand and develop his character more, even if these events occur in the future beyond the scope of my novel. But the funny thing is that I rarely write them down. They’re usually just silly little fantasies.

Here’s the problem: if I don’t write something down, and think about it enough that I can really visualize it, then it never stops bothering me. No matter how much time goes by, they always come back to haunt me. But if I do write them down, then I stop thinking about them.

So I’ve put the book aside for a quick recess to write a cute little short story. There’s no purpose to it, really. It’s just about one of Jordan’s relationships about a year after the book takes place. And I’m writing half of it from his point of view, and half from his love interest’s (multiple POVs? What is this madness?!). Why am I doing this? Really, it’s just for fun.

I’m all for giving in to indulgences when it comes to writing. I have pages and pages of ideas that will probably never be used for anything, but the joy I got from writing them down makes it worth it. Usually writing these sorts of things reinvigorates my drive to write in general. Plus, if I’m distracted by some random idea, how can I get back to my actual work until that idea is out of my head?

It took me a couple months to finally make the decision to write this story down. I just couldn’t ignore it any longer. But I almost simultaneously made a decision to write down an idea I’ve had in my head for years. It’s completely insane, but I’m going to commit to it. Let me start by saying I love, love, love musicals. I would love to write one, but I don’t have a drop of musical talent in my body. And for some crazy reason, sometimes I concoct an idea for a musical based around a CD that I own. Usually it’s just a fleeting idea, but I’ve had a concept for Fall Out Boy’s Folie À Deux for a few years now (Yes, I like Fall Out Boy. Leave me alone.), and every time I listen to a song from that album, I see the ideas playing out in my head. So I figured, why not? If nothing else, I can get the ideas out of my head, and get some practice in script writing while I’m at it. It’s nuts, I know, but I just feel like it’s something I have to do. These ideas will just nag and nag at me until I do something about it.

If you let the ideas build up in your head, then it just might drive you crazy. Not everything has to be a masterpiece. It doesn’t even have to be shared with anyone else. It can be completely for you. You’re going to get something out of it, even if it’s something small. 

26 April 2013

The Most Anti-Climactic Drum-roll, Please!

Well, I thought I'd share some news with my readers. I just found out that I did not advance to the final round of the contest I had entered. I'm not thrilled, of course, but I'm not devastated, either. I spent the past two months fretting over all the things that I thought were wrong with my manuscript, so much so that I was probably over-thinking it. So I guess I'm just glad to be out of the insecurity limbo.

Plus, this was the first thing I ever tried to do with my novel, and it's not even finished yet. Of course I was going to fail! It's the harsh reality of the publishing world. But it's certainly no reason to get discouraged. I just have to keep writing until I can't find anything to nitpick anymore. Then maybe there won't be any more insecurity, only optimism.

17 April 2013

Fun Facts: I Wish...

Time for another round of ramblings! It's better than nothing, right? Tonight's edition is a list of things that I wish for, some big, some small. Some have to do with writing, others don't. But it was fun.

I wish…

  • I could eliminate 98% of my social awkwardness. I think 2% is good for being quirky and adorable, don’t you? 
  • Writing burned lots and lots of calories. 
  • I was more stylish. 
  • I had 20/20 vision. Or like, 30 pairs of glasses. Because, you know…STYLISH. 
  • I had an apartment with two rooms. 
  • I hated cheesecake. But I don’t. I really don’t. 
  • That my book will be turned into a movie and I get to write the screenplay and I get my dream cast and we all win Oscars! Totally realistic, right? 
  • I could make friends more easily. And also had a real life gay best friend. That’s probably why I created one to live in my head… 
  • I had a library like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady
  • I didn’t look horrible in every single picture of myself. I mean, every. Single. One. 
  • That I could change at least one person’s life with my writing. 

Well, that's it (for now). What sorts of things do you wish for?

15 April 2013

The Formula Playlist...oh yeah, and a title, or something...

For today's Muse Mondays post, I thought I'd share some inspiration that I'm sure most writers can relate to: music. We'd probably go insane without it. While silence is golden when you're actually trying to write, it can also drive you nuts if it goes on for too long. So what do you fill that silence with? Not something that will distract, but inspire.

I'm an absolute nut for playlists. I've been making them for my books since I was thirteen. It's a lot of fun to come across a song that you can relate to your own writing. It can help you understand what your characters are feeling. And when choosing songs for your playlist, you don't have to limit yourself to the viewpoint of just one character, even if you only write from that character's point of view. And if you get stuck, listening to the songs you've picked can help inspire you to keep going.

So I thought I'd share my playlist for my book. I was just going to list the songs, but through the magic of Spotify, you can also listen to them if you'd like.

But first! I've decided to share the title for my WIP. It's called The Formula (I'd italicize but since I haven't even finished yet, it seems a bit strange). This was just my placeholder title for the contest entry, but it's been growing on me. Sort of like an arranged marriage, I'm gradually growing to love it. I plucked it out of my fifth chapter, when my characters are trying to decide what to do with their attraction for one another: "This was a lot like a math problem--there was one precise answer that was going to make everything work. All I was missing was the formula." Hey, I can make math work symbolically, too.

Well, I hope you enjoy the playlist. Since I have to go to work now for almost twelve hours, I would absolutely love it if somebody got to.

12 April 2013

Pasta Murder, or, Cannibalism Symbolism

I had this dream once where my characters were partaking in cannibalism. So instead of deciding what sort of sexual act would be appropriate, it was more like, “Well, if I just slice off some of your leg, it won’t kill you, so let’s do that.” When I woke up, I was horrified and confused, and slightly nauseated. I mean, I love dreaming about my characters, but then it finally happens and this is what I get?

It took me a few months to realize that my subconscious was, as usual, way ahead of me. And if I’m going to be honest, I’ve had a mild fascination with cannibalism since I was little. There’s something sexual about it, even though the realistic thought of it nauseates me. So what if I think of it symbolically? If I boiled it down, my book is about food and hunger and sex and consumption. Suddenly I realized that my dream wasn’t really that off track.

I’m crazy about symbolism. But I love it even more when it’s so ridiculously subtle that most of my readers won’t even get it. I know, it’s weird, but I like that sort of ambiguity. That’s exactly what I wanted to do when I decided to use cannibalism as symbolism in my novel. Ok, bear with me. One of my characters is a cook and a repressed ephebophile (like a pedophile, but attracted to post-pubescent teenagers). And the other is basically offering himself up in exchange for getting the things that he wants. He exchanges sexual favors for food, so he puts himself on the same level as food, as something being consumed. Genius, right?! You can say crazy; it’s ok.

The hard part is figuring out how to work in this sort of symbolism. One of my favorite lines that I’ve written is, “Of course, if I got a taste, then he got one, too.” But I have to go beyond just some random little quips. Since I’m constantly writing about food, I figured I could parallel these ideas of hunger and consuming—not just how they relate to food, but to sexuality.

And so…food equals murder.

Before my characters have their first kiss, one of them is making pasta from scratch—the idea being that he is as careful and delicate with his ingredients as he eventually is with my narrator once they become intimate. But once dinner is ready, the narrator sees the vibrant red tomato sauce and thinks of blood spattered against a wall. Then as he eats, he uses words like “severed” and “stabbing” and “attacked.” To most readers, this might go unnoticed—he’s just really hungry. But to some it might seem like a violent, animalistic moment. And honestly, either way is fine with me.

I can’t help myself when I get an idea I love. I just run with it. Even if it only makes sense to me.

 My actual notes from editing the pasta scene. :)

08 April 2013

Why You Should Write Every Day

Aaaaaand we're back for another Muse Monday! I've been thinking a lot lately about the balance between inspiration, motivation, and focus. You really need all three to get anything done. But sometimes it's hard to work through the fog of limited time and self-doubt. Sometimes you lose that motivation. How can you get it back?

I have a new goal for myself, and it's a very simple one: write something every day. It's not a huge, daunting goal. I'm not setting any word counts here. Because I realized that while making progress with your work is important, it isn't always what's going to motivate you.

I think writing every day is important for two reasons: keeping the creative energy alive and having a sense of accomplishment. If you go days without fueling your creative outlet, doesn't it just drain you of something? It can leave you feeling depressed and less willing to work on your writing at all. If you're a creative person, then you have to feed that energy. How can you be yourself if you don't?

Just writing anything can help you feel more accomplished, even if it's just a little bit. You can still say that you got something done, and hopefully that will generate more motivation for the next day. How many times have you said, "oh, I'll get something done tomorrow," and when tomorrow comes, you're saying the same thing? You've got to break yourself of that cycle in order to get anything done.

Don't overexert yourself. Just--for the love of God--write! It can be a note, a scribble, a thought. Anything. Just get it down.