My writing output seems to drop in direct correlation to any increase in blog reading. That’s a problem, I know — but if I don’t take the time to read a few blogs, how can I expect anyone to read mine?
Besides, if I stopped reading, I’d miss out on gems like this one from Janice Hardy’s blog, The Other Side of the Story. She writes:
Choices that don’t cause trouble are wasted opportunity. The whole point of a book is to show someone overcoming adversity to win. If there’s nothing to overcome, there’s no point in the winning.”
What a way to put it!
It’s no secret that I struggle with conflict. (I blame it on being a Libra. Libras strive for fairness and avoid conflict.) Judges’ comments I got on my first completed MS — even after several new drafts — consistently said “not enough conflict to sustain the story.”
What? You mean a girl falling for one guy when she’s trying to “snag” another one altogether isn’t conflict?
Not according to Hardy. She writes, “A choice between two good things with no consequences for making that choice is probably not going to hold your reader’s interest.”
Well, I already knew Brad and Erin’s story needed help. I tried to remedy it in subsequent drafts by casting suspicion on him … I even hacked out their original “black moment” (such as it was. The “Battle of the Birth Control” was pretty silly when I look back at it with a more experienced eye.)
The key for me is to remember that my hero and heroine have to make choices. And those choices have to mean something. The potential for disaster should loom around every corner.
I think that is the case in my more recent stories. Bethany’s decision to talk Cody into applying for the TV show lands them in a heap of trouble. When Kenny asks Kristi to pretend to be his fiancee, things get out of hand quickly.
Hmm. All my blog reading must be teaching me something about the craft.
The hero in my WIP, Cody, has a tendency to use big words and shrink-speak when he’s upset, angry or flustered. (There’s a reason he has a T-shirt that says “I’m fluent in psychobabble.”)
It turns out Cody and I have that in common. Now that I’m writing fiction fairly regularly, I notice myself trying to flaunt my vocabulary in the articles I write for the newspaper, too.
When I was in journalism school (way back in the dark ages … the early 1990s), we learned the average reading level of the newspaper audience was eighth grade. (I think I’ve heard it’s since dropped to sixth grade, but I might be mistaken there.)
I analyzed my writing style with a computer program once (way back in those same dark ages) and it told me I wrote at a 10th-grade level. That has more than likely changed the farther I’ve gotten from college (where everyone used big words in an attempt to show off what they thought they knew) and the more deeply entrenched I’ve become in journalistic style.
We journalists are trained to use simpler words. A school bus is just plain “yellow,” not “canary” or even “that shade of mustard peculiar to school buses.” Don’t use “growled” or “yelled” when a simple “said” gets the point across without embellishment.
Sometimes I wonder if that training has affected my fiction writing. In first drafts, I often go with the most expedient word. Then I scramble to change it later on.
But now that I’m shifting my focus to making a good impression on agents and editors, I find myself choosing words with a little more razzmatazz … well, like razzmatazz. 😉
That’s not a bad thing at all — unless I’m writing a story for the newspaper. When I’m in journalist mode, I have to catch myself before I use words like “eschew.”
At least I haven’t tried to throw “bifurcated” into a sentence. I stumbled across that one while editing someone else’s story one night and spent much time complaining to whoever would listen that “bifurcated” was unnecessary when “forked” meant the same darn thing — and didn’t send readers scrambling for the nearest dictionary.
How about you? Ever catch yourself using words that make you feel like a big fish in a small pond?
I don’t often do this, but after I wrote this post for my other blog, I realized it’d be a perfect fit here, too. Here goes:
Sign me up for the Vince Vaughn fan club
Has anyone else seen “The Dilemma” yet? In it, Vince Vaughn plays a guy who discovers his best friend’s wife is cheating on him. Then he has to deal with his dilemma: To tell or not to tell.
Am I the only one who thinks Vince Vaughn is a great leading man?
“The Breakup”? Hilarious. “Wedding Crashers”? Heck, yeah. “Couples Retreat”? I could watch it over and over. “Four Christmases”? Yes, please — and I’ll take a couple more while we’re at it.
I love the fast-talking, mistake-prone, so-smart-yet-so-dumb, sweet, funny type of guy Vaughn seems to excel at portraying.
He may not be Brad-Pitt beautiful or Gerard Butler gorgeous, but he’s adorable in his own way. He’s more guy next door … the one the girl doesn’t realize she’s in love with until he’s dating someone else. Then she kicks herself ten ways to Sunday and embarks on a campaign to steal him away from the other woman who is, of course, clearly wrong for him.
Hmm … did I just come up with a story idea? I can work with that.
You never know … maybe I can talk Vaughn into playing the hero in one of my novels someday.
You’re nothing without your dreams, right? 😉
(Speaking of Gerard Butler, the movie trivia playing before the film started said he had a law degree. I did not know that … but I bet Kristan Higgins did. She’s always posting “Gerard Butler Grammar Quizzes” on the RWA newsletter editors’ loop.)
The January 2011 issue of RWA’s Romance Writers Report included an article titled “The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective (Has-Been) Authors.” Although I can’t quite be a has-been when I’m still a never-was, it got me thinking about my own bad habits.
In the article, Diane Farr asks: “What bad author habits are holding you back?” The habits she deems ineffective are:
I’ve definitely been guilty of laziness, waiting for inspiration to strike. Why, I’ve gone entire years without writing because I wasn’t “inspired.” I started “Blind Date Bride” well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and didn’t finish it until December 2009.
But that was the old me. Nowadays, I much more in tune with writing. In 2010, I completed a half-finished MS, expanded and edited two mostly finished MSs to the proper category length and wrote a 53,000-word novel during NaNo. And I did it all while putting together six issues of NARWA’s newsletter.
Yes, I still waste plenty of time online, playing on Twitter and Facebook … hanging out with my friends on their weight-loss blogs (or my writer friends on their blogs). But I no longer let that keep me from doing something writing-related.) There really are enough hours in the day, if I limit my time with Bejeweled.
As for the rest of the seven habits?
I certainly hope I’m not rude, although I haven’t attended a conference yet. I don’t know enough to be blabbing inside information.
I’m so reliable and set in my routines that you can almost set your watch by me. If I’m in town, I’ll be at Barnes & Noble on Sunday before work; I hit the Starbucks before work a couple of times a week; I stay up late when I get off work to write, blog, what have you.
Pride? Well, I am proud of the fact that I finaled in the Beacon Contest. (Still haven’t heard about final placement, though.) And if I final in the GH, I’ll be tweeting, Facebooking and blogging about the high for weeks, I’m sure.
But I don’t think my writing is the best thing since sliced bread. I know it needs work. In editing my NaNo novel, I’m finding a lot of room for improvement.
I hope I’m not guilty of ingratitude, either. I love the boost I get from my NARWA sisters and the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood (whom I wouldn’t know if our president, Anne Marie Becker, wasn’t one of them). Writing friends I’ve met through NaNo, like Mallory Snow, have been invaluable, too. (Mallory helped me sprint through my 50K in November.)
If I haven’t said it lately, thanks. You all inspire me, teach me and support me every day.