Try try again


So, I sat down ten days ago and started typing and managed to produce a first draft of my newest novel.

It was amazing, I was on a word high and for ten glorious days I was writing between 5000 and 10,000 words a day. When I was done my arms were sore, but I was elated because the thing just flowed.

Sounds lovely and magical doesn’t it? Well it’s not…really. 

Because before I started this book, I spent a long and frustrating chunk of time hacking away at another book, nearly hitting the 40,000 word mark before I wanted to violently hurl it out the window because I hated it so much. It just wasn’t working. I loved the concept so much I was trying to make it work, but it just ended up horrible, so horrible in fact that I had to step away from it completely and not think about it for months lest it make me insane.

So a couple months later I took a look at the concept at the core of the book again because I kept coming back to it, I was drawn to it and I didn’t want to let it go. Then Ben and I went on one of our epic creative beach walks and discussed and I whined about how in love I was with the concept and he finally said ‘so just write a different story’.

The original novel was about a 20-something girl with no friends or family and I was feeling in the mood for a younger voice to I decided to write from the perspective of a twelve year old with a family and a bunch of friends instead. Then I took a step back from my core concept (a mental affliction) and instead of giving it to the protagonist I gave it to her mother and blammo, I was in business!

After months of struggle with a concept I loved too much to walk away from I had finally hit the mark and I wrote like the wind for all the time I’d wasted fretting over a book that was falling flat.

So the moral of this story is that if you have something you love you don’t always have to let it go. If your book kicks you down, sit on your ass for awhile then get up and try try again. Don’t get locked into a single story, because a single concept has the potential to become a million different versions of itself, so if one isn’t working don’t be afraid to toss it in the trash and start fresh.

I sometimes struggle with learning this lesson because of the fear that once I have an idea I’ll never, ever have another one again. But that has never been true, not even once, so I think it’s time for me to get over it and learn that just because a story isn’t working, it doesn’t mean the concept is a flop.


Writing & Reading Animal Cruelty


I was at a reading for a feminist writing series a couple weeks ago where a writer was reading from her book about a female matador.  In the Q&A period that followed the writers were asked about their worst reactions to their books.  The woman who had written the matador book said an editor refused to read/work on her book because of the animal cruelty.  It was at that point that the whole room gasped in shock.  They were appalled!  They rolled their eyes!  How could that editor be so silly? was the general question that hung in the air.  It’s an editor’s job to read books, so it shouldn’t matter what’s in it…should it?

I was taken aback.  I frankly expected more from a bunch of feminists.  If feminists expect people to respect their cause and concerns, shouldn’t they respect the causes and concerns of others?

I wanted to put my hand up and say I understood the editor’s perspective and shame on them for being so rude about someone’s preferences, but I didn’t.  It’s not that I have a problem piping up, it’s just that it’s a complex topic and I didn’t want to derail the conversation and take the spotlight off the writers.  So instead of speaking up then, I’m doing it now.

I’m a vegetarian.  I was a vegetarian for about ten years before I started eating meat again around the age of twenty-five or six, now I’m happily back to my vegetarian ways.  Every time I ate meat for the six or seven years I was back at it, I felt guilty.  I really hated it because I really love (and respect) animals and because I love animals so much I tend to get easily turned off when someone is abusing them.

But in a fictional story does it really matter?  To me it does.

Once when I wanted to write a horrible character, like a really horrible character, I made her kill a dog.  When I finished writing the scene I was horrified, but to me it drove home the impact of her horribleness.  Sure the character was manipulative and a rapist and was responsible for a couple of human deaths too, but to me none of that compared to the evil that was killing an animal.  After all is said and done I still have a residual feeling of guilt for using violence against animals to enhance the negativity of a character.  Why?  Treating animals well is just something I feel strongly about, even in my fiction.  So whenever I see a character in any circumstance be mindless or cruel to animals, I automatically hate them and hold it against them…usually forever.

Overall I believe animal cruelty does have a place in fiction, but if it’s sustained and pointless I tend to shy away from it because it’s just not fun for me to read something that makes me feel horrible for whatever animal is being harmed.

I think in some cases animal cruelty can have a point though.  For example I just wrote a story about an aquarium (which I think are disgusting, cruel prisons for fish) where the main character learned to feel empathy for the fish and ultimately sad about their enslavement.  But a lot of the time I feel that animal cruelty is either used because it’s an easy emotional trigger (like the way I used it to make my character evil) or it goes unaddressed as a problem.  People eat animals all the time, so why should hurting them be a problem?

Ultimately I wouldn’t want to read a book about a matador because the violence against animals isn’t being addressed (as far as I know), it’s just a backdrop for the story of the main character and I don’t find that interesting enough to endure animals being tortured.  Clearly the editor who was being mocked at the event felt the same way as me and I’m here to say I agree with her.  I feel what she’s feeling.  Everyone has their sensitive issues, or things they don’t want to see/read because it bothers them and I don’t think anyone should be put down for that.

For me, I deal with animal cruelty in fiction very selectively and frankly I think that’s perfectly okay.


Afraid to Speak

ImageI am currently writing a book that is a mix of both fiction and non-fiction.  In the book both Ben and I discuss gender and sexuality and offer our opinions on defining men and women and our own sexuality.

This scares me.

  Everywhere you look there are writers getting in deep shit for writing something contentious, for writing their true feelings or even for tweeting the ‘wrong thing’.  It’s a big bad world out there full of millions of people ready to leap on you for the smallest ‘misstep’.

This clearly isn’t new.  Before the legions of internet trolls and angry groups of activists there were people with pitchforks and torches and before that there were beheadings and scallopings and all manner of painful torment for people who just wanted to express themselves.

I certainly wouldn’t go so far to compare myself with great philosophers who have been murdered for speaking up, but I do know some of my opinions and feelings will be contentious and that worries me.

I’m not one to stay quiet, I never have been.  It’s caused me no shortage of stress of course and on many occasions I’ve been verbally assaulted for my views.  But I just can’t shut up.  I feel the need to say how I feel, say it loud and write it in books and try to get them published so everyone can read them.  It’s kind of a little self destructive I guess.  I mean I could pick something nice and safe to write about, couldn’t I?  But no.  I have to be interested in the things people get riled up about.  I choose to write about sex, gender, abuse, psychopathy, drugs, death.  I choose to write about topics that scare me or make me uncomfortable.

When I’ve really piped up and shared my feelings and thoughts I’ve been called many horrible names and had people go off on me, cease listening and just overwhelm me with their anger.  I’ve even been called a murderer because of some of my views.  But still I go back for more.

I don’t want to be afraid to speak but I am sometimes.  I’m only human, I care about what other people think of me and I don’t want to offend.  But I also want to be true to myself, I want to be honest in my writing and I don’t want to shut up just because the trolls might come banging on my door.

So what’s a girl to do?

Write.  Just keep saying what I want to say.  Because what other choice do I have?  I clearly want to venture onto contentious ground and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be me.

So here are my rules for self expression for those who want to speak up and are afraid to do so:

1) It’s alright to express yourself no matter what.
2) It’s alright to change your mind.  The things you have said in the past might not apply in the future.
3) Feelings are subjective and oftentimes neither right or wrong.
4) Try not to fret over people who refuse to listen or understand your perspective and feelings.
5) Philosophy and practicality are two different things.  It’s alright to discuss things from a top down view.
6) Just say it.
7) If you’ve changed your mind don’t be afraid to admit it.
8) Write, write, write!

How do you get past the barriers of being afraid to speak?


Love is Great!


A couple months ago I was hanging out at my Mother-in-law’s place and we were talking about a wedding video Ben and I were going to make for Ben’s cousin and my Mother-in-law looks at me all serious-like and says ‘do you even care about romance?’.  She really thought I wasn’t a romantic and it made me laugh.  I’m not really into super white weddings and traditional (boring) stuff like that, but I love love.  I really do.

Ben and I met in a forest, in the dead of the night, foam swords clutched tightly in our hands. We were at a Live Action Role Playing game and I had gone there to find love.  When I was searching for Ben I worked my ass off to find love.  I went on on a million dates (and rejected all of them) and I refused to settle for anything less than true love.  Ben tells me when he first saw my bleach blonde hair that night in the forest it was like a beacon, drawing him home.  I still get shivers thinking about it.  At the end of the weekend in good heroic knightly fashion Ben ‘gave me his sword’.  Two weeks later he moved in and we haven’t been apart ever since.  Love is fucking awesome.

I love love so much in fact that stories without it don’t really do it for me.  The love story doesn’t have to be a main storyline or anything, but if it’s not there I get kind of bored and my attention wanders.

Hell I love love so much I even wrote a Harlequin once.  It was the story of a woman named Kara.  Kara’s husband cheated on her (and hit her) and she had to take off to England to escape (because why not?).  She met some guy there and they fell in love but she didn’t know his secret and unfortunately neither did I (I think he might have been a prince or something), which was the reason I stopped writing 25,000 words in.  I didn’t know the plot and I also didn’t know what to do after they had sex.  It was a failed effort and I tried it when I like 20 years old or something, but it was fun because it was love.

I’ve heard people say that love isn’t important in a story and that makes me laugh.  I think people have a perception that love isn’t serious enough sometimes, or that it’s somehow frivolous.  Love is anything but frivolous though.  It’s about as serious as it gets because for most people I’ve ever met it is something they either strive to find or lament that they don’t have.  It’s a chemical preoccupation, an emotional drug, an absolute wonder.  The world loves love even if they don’t want to admit it.

We can scoff at romance novels and romantic comedies all we want, but who among us doesn’t smile (even just a little) when there’s a love twist thrown into the plot?  Who doesn’t cheer for the kiss that finally happens, or the hot sex we all saw coming from the beginning?

So I take this Valentine’s Day to say loud and proud that I love love and there is nothing better in the world than a sweet and wonderful love story.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, I hope the cupid’s arrow finds you whoever and wherever you are!

Bonus: The word of the day on dictionary.com is ‘Schatzi’ which means darling or sweetheart!


Other People’s Words

ImageI just read The Fault in our Stars by John Green.

Now this isn’t a book review—as I haven’t quite decided whether I want to do any of those on this blog—but there was something about the book that got me thinking.

In the book Mr. Green uses many poems and quotes from many different authors of all stripes and there is some stunning poetry sprinkled throughout the story that often made me take pause.  But after the pause of awe at the words in these poems by other people I felt kind of cheated.  These were not the author’s words.

It’s been done before of course, people often reference history and past literature in their works of fiction.  And although I can understand doing it a little bit, once in awhile, in The Fault in our Stars I felt I was saturated with other people’s words to the point of distraction.

In retrospect I have seen this happen before, where people try to inject a certain level of gravitas into their work by throwing in a little Shakespeare or quoting someone else’s poem.  But overall I’m not sure I love it.  I’ve done it before myself of course—little bits and pieces, a line here or there—but I think I would feel like I was cheating if I started throwing in whole stanzas of another writer’s poetry or prose.  It just wouldn’t feel right to me as a writer, just as it didn’t feel right to me as a reader.

As a writer I feel it both a privilege and an obligation to arrange words in new combinations on the page and so I think we should try to do that as much as possible.

This isn’t to say that the poems and quotes in Mr. Green’s book weren’t well chosen and placed—they were.  They evoked exactly the right feeling at the right time.  It’s just that in the end I felt cheated out of the full experience of the author’s words.  I understand that the characters are smart and exceedingly literate teenagers, I understand that they reference works of poetry and literature because it’s only natural given their personalities.  But those particular arrangements of words were the stuff of another voice, so in essence I got less of Mr. Green and more of other people’s words.

I am fully willing to admit that my position here isn’t rock solid and that I am reacting out of more of a feeling than a logically formed thought, so I would love to hear other people’s ideas on the subject.
What are your thoughts on using other people’s words in a work of fiction?

Do you do it yourself?

Do you like it when you see other people doing it?

You can also check out this cleverly titled response to my post written by my friend Elmowrites!


The Finished Book Itch


Finishing a book makes me itchy, restless, ready for the next thing.

It was just the first draft (of my third book) and it was just yesterday I completed it, but today I’m going a bit nuts.  I want to edit, but I want to take a break.  I want to write something new, but I want to finish the old one first.  Also I don’t want to start anything brand new because I’m launching into NaNoWriMo in a couple of weeks and although I write fast, I don’t think I write that fast.

It’s all very distracting, but the thing is it’s not actually distracting me from anything.  I had a list of things I needed to do once I’d finished the book.  I did them all in two hours.

I ate lunch, took a Bugs Bunny selfie (see above), then I was so impatient to write something, I decided on this blog post.

I feel as though I’ve been neglecting the blog, which is a shame, but in the past couple months that I’ve been neglecting the blog I’ve written two books, so it’s not all bad!

So the itch.  It’s kind of like a tingling in my fingers.  A searching feeling in my brain like I’m scanning for something I’m not quite sure of.  A couple short story ideas are floating to the surface, ideas I tucked away for later, but everything feels very absent, and itchy.

Here’s what happens when I get the itch:

– I tweet more…pictures of my lunch anyone?

– I blog more, in a more spontaneous way…this blog post is a perfect example, it’s what I’m thinking and feeling.  Right. Now.

– I bug Ben more…taps, pokes, kisses, repeating his name over and over…and over.

– I get comment-y…I have a deep desire to comment on everyone’s Facebook posts.

– I get the deep urge to clean things (and throw things out)…cleaning’s kind of my default, cleaning or working out.

– I crave more exercise…what’s better for the restless itch I ask you?

– I try to find things to organize…which is hard when everything’s already organized.

Damn the itch!

Honestly, after a moment’s reflection, I think it might have something to do with my desire to be doing something useful at all times.  I don’t want to ‘waste time’.  It makes it difficult for me to relax in general and maybe that’s a bad thing.  It’s certainly good when there’s writing to do, because I will get that shit done, but the part I really suck at is taking a break to relax.  I guess I could try to change my personality.  You know, try to chill out a bit and not be so frantic to move on to the next thing, but it’s just who I am.  So in the meantime…more blog posts and twitter pics for everyone!

Do you get the itch?  What do you do to alleviate it?


Being married is like writing a book


Being married is like writing a book.

And I absolutely love it.

It’s an incredible rush, a careful negotiation, a perfect balance of creativity and rational thinking, a massive dedication. It’s the reason I want to get up in the morning, a leap of faith, the thing that keeps you company, an occasional frustration that has you banging your head against a wall until you sit down and use your words in the best possible way.  It’s a story to be told, a lusty encounter, a conversation partner that never leaves your side.  It’s an unbelievable adventure, a joyful process, a structure for your otherwise chaotic mind.  It’s that wonderful feeling of knowing you’ve accomplished something, the nerve-wracking thrill of putting one foot in front of another.  It’s a promise kept, an oath maintained, a deep desire to get it right and create the most meaningful moments imaginable.

Being married is like writing a book.

It’s awesome, scary, lovely, sweet, hard and completely worth every last word.

I absolutely love it.

Happy anniversary Ben, you are the best husband ever.