Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When do you write?

Remember the song, I Wear My Sunglasses at Night?

When people ask me when I write, I play around with that title a bit and answer, "I wear my laptop at night."

While that's not the complete response (I write whenever the muse hits me, which is often.), I tend to find creativity more apparent after midnight.

When do you write?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Five items or less?

Ah the perils of the nitpicking editor and the careless writer whose fingers trip across the keyboard faster than his brain can correct.
Kudos to Stephen Fry’s Kinetic Typography - Language video.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ray Bradbury on writing

I came across this short video by Ray Bradbury and thought I'd share it.

It's a bit blunt. It's totally interesting. And for anybody who thinks they'd love to write, it's inspirational.

Click here if you've never been privileged enough to read Ray Bradbury

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So you want to be a writer

People always ask me what I do, I know they aren’t interested in my laundry (I don’t like to but I “do” laundry.) or what I love to do. They want to know what I do for work, for money. Officially, I’m retired but what I do – both for work and for love, what earns me money for things like a washing machine, is write.

That answer usually gets interesting responses but the one that comes bouncing back like an incessant echo is, “Oh, I’d love to be a writer.” Often, that’s accompanied by, “I have a great idea for a book.”

I’ve finally come up with a comeback.

Anybody can write.

Now, before you throw up your hands in disgust over that statement, let me qualify it.

I don’t say anybody can write well, pen a bestseller, come up with a blockbuster that gets optioned for movie rights or anything close.

You can write a memoir, a family history, keep diary or a journal. You can write little stories for your children or grandchildren. You can come up with a set of directions about how to do something. You can review a book you read. You can write letters to the editor of your newspaper. You could even write a blog!

In my youth, among a favorite uncle told me it was acceptable to enjoy rock and roll but he taught me to appreciate classical music. He was one of the first adults to talk to me like an adult. When he was hospitalized years later, I wrote him a letter thanking him for being such a positive influence on me. He died a short time later, and when I spoke to his wife, she told me that when he read that letter, he cried, and that he told her how wonderful it was to know he’d made a lasting impression.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person he impacted and that’s not the point.

Anybody can write.

You don’t have to write for fame and fortune but you can write for your own satisfaction, for friends or family.

So do it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Genre jumping

I’ve always been bothered by the word genre, not by the word itself but by the expanded definition that meant a writer had to fit his or her words into a singularly defined category.

My mind doesn’t work like that. The people who live in my head come from outer space, from little towns, from all over the world. They’re romantics, killers, demons, maniacs, ancient ones.

But agents and publishers and even booksellers don’t want that. They want writers who can stick to be creative within a formula – or at least that’s how I understand the world of publishing.

That kind of thinking makes me wonder. 
What would it be like if Stephen King wrote a titillating romance book? Could Jonathan Kellerman pen a hard-hitting western? Would Danielle Steel like to write an edgy science fiction tome? Could Mehmet Oz pen an epic poem?

Would they even try?

I think not.

I think they’ve written themselves into a genre corner and can’t get out because someone (and not the invisible “they” and definitely not their fans) would not accept it.

I’m thinking this whole requirement that a manuscript fit into a genre before it fits on the printed page could come crumbling down now that ebooks are appearing everywhere. I’m betting King could write that historical romance, Kellerman could do the western, Steele could venture into science fiction – and their fans would gobble them up. (I’m reserving judgment on the Dr. Oz question.)

I believe good writers can cover a wide spectrum of plots and scenarios and would do so if not for skeptical handlers and unwritten but strictly followed definitions. I believe we might even see some genre jumping by noted authors some time in the near future.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When did a pronoun become a noun?

Super Bowl weekend wasn’t about football for me. It was about getting away from the laptop, the plots and characters in my head, and the chilly high desert weather.

Southern California beckoned.

I answered.

I won’t go into the details of the trip except where it concerns the writer side of me … and that side was totally confused.

I was staying with friends, a lovely couple raising three grandchildren. Grandma volunteers at the elementary school once a week. On an uncharacteristically rainy day, she sat with the teacher to discuss an in-class assignment.

Students had been given a paragraph and asked to find ten nouns. Grandma read the paragraph but could find a mere seven … and she’s well-versed in the English language. So she asked the teacher what she was missing.

To her surprise, the teacher pointed to two words – we and I.

“Those are pronouns!” she exclaimed.

The reply? “Yes, but we teach them as nouns.”

A heated discussion produced no results. As far as the teacher was concerned, we and I are nouns!

With no little frustration, Grandma relinquished that part of the argument and asked about the tenth noun.

“Bike,” the teacher pointed out in a sentence that read, “We bike to the park.”

“But in this sentence bike is a verb.”

“Yes,” came the explanation, “but the children recognize bike as a noun.”

This is an accurate account of the event that makes me wonder … a lot.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A character, a plot, a story – where do they come from?

Driving today. Stopped at traffic signal. Black vehicle eased up behind me then slid to the left and drew alongside.

This car wasn’t spiffed up and pimped out to look like hot wheels from the hood. It was stripped bare of all identification. No model, no make, no dealer identification. Even the hubcaps had been bared of a manufacturer’s imprint.

“Now there’s a creative fellow,” I said to myself. I was assuming the driver was male because this was definitely a masculine vehicle.

And that’s how an entire conversation began in my head … one that is now the outline for a novel.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, the entire story evolved.

It’s a cliché, I know, but the owner of this car certainly was thinking outside the box when he customized his vehicle. And that’s how characters, plots, and stories begin for me. It’s not likely I’ll ever see this car again on the streets of Las Vegas but I’ll be seeing it quite a bit in my head as I put the words in print.

I’m no longer surprised by the fact that any everyday occurrence can turn into a piece of fiction.