Month: November 2014

Four Rejections That Should Motivate You To Keep Pushing

As writers, we’re told to gear up for rejection. We await the return of manuscripts, the curt emails, or the phone calls from our weary agent (if we’re lucky enough to have one).

And for authors entering genres with rules and tropes to live up to—like science fiction or horror, for instance—the entry gates can be especially difficult to get through.

For whatever reason, it seems that some of the greatest literary talents—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudyard Kipling, Ursula Le Guin, Sylvia Plath, J.K. Rowling, and many, many more—have had their work rejected (and sometimes a lot) before finding an editor and publishing house willing to give them a chance. But when each of them were given one, they went on to sell millions of books, win countless awards, and inspire thousands of readers.

Below are just a few writers whose rejections may inspire you to keep pushing, even if it means getting your manuscript a little dirty (see below).

H.G. Wells
(Image via)

Where to Shop for the Bookworm or Writer in Your Life, or, Skip Black Friday for Me

I’ve been told by more than one person that I’m not easy to shop for. I’m not a capitalist. I’m not a huge consumer. I won’t wait in line today on Black Friday. I won’t push and shove to get a gaming console or a huge discount on a pallet of makeup. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t care about fashion. I could give a shit about the latest pop culture trend. But I am a bookworm and a writer.

And so are other writers within this blog. Melanie, co-creator of The Poetics Project, started Literature Paraphernalia section of our blog. In this section are a lot of great lists of bookish items for the bookworm and/or writer in your life. If you’re looking for some great gift-giving ideas, these post are a really good place to start. Even picky people like me find things to fall in love with.

To bag or not to bag. I think that’s the quote.

This bag, from JumpingJackalope on Etsy.com, is a bag I actually own. Melanie featured it in one of our blogs and I bought it for myself for school. It’s been a good book bag and has held up at school, but I did travel with it and it got a little beat up on the plane ride. I love the bag so much, though, that I’d be glad to own another and JumpkingJackalope is constantly updating her shop and adding more awesome bags.

Throwback Thursday: Me Between the Lines, Part 1

John Keats, famous English romantic poet of the 18th century, once wrote, “Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced.” Donald M. Murray, author of “All Writing is Autobiography” and professor emeritus of English at the University of New Hampshire, writes in his article that “We become what we write” (71) or, as I’d like to put it, what we write becomes our experience which then becomes us.

When I reflect upon my own life and my own writing, I can see the link between my life experience and what words I put down on the page. Murray further explains what he means by autobiography in that he has his “own peculiar way of looking at the world and [his] own way of using language to communicate what [he] see[s]” (67). In this I see a statement that mirrors what I like to think of as a writer’s presence within the work. Every piece of poetry I produce has imprints of me and those imprints are reflective of my past or become part of my present through the experience of writing.

Should You Take Writing Breaks During NaNoWriMo?

No.

That’s the end of my post.

Oh, I have to write more? Alright. I guess I can expand upon this answer.

Yes and no.

It’s dangerous to take breaks once you’ve established a set, habitual writing time. But you don’t always have to write the main part of your novel during your set-aside NaNoWriMo writing time. If you feel stuck on your story, or just don’t feel like writing, or are suffering from that (fictional?) pest writer’s block, don’t give up the time you’d usually spend working on your project and play video games or go to the movies or something. Instead, do other writing-related projects with your novel when you get stuck.

1. Further develop your characters

There’s a lot of background and planning that can go into a novel that a reader never sees. Having an entire biography for a character, along with a personal profile, is one such aspect of a novel readers aren’t often privy to. If you haven’t already developed a ton of information on your characters, this can also help you get to know your characters better and understand their motivation more within the story. I’m talking minor characters or supporting characters as well. Even if the character is featured in one character of the book, having an entire life history worked up for him or her can make them one of the most compelling characters of your novel. So pretend like you’re character is making a profile on a dating cite like OkCupid and have at it!

Literary Dishes for the Holidays

I love food, and I love books. Because of that, the holidays are a special time. Not only is it the perfect reading weather, with afternoons spent snuggled up under the blankets, listening to the radiator click as you lose hours with your nose buried in a novel. It’s also the season for food.

Not for exotic, culinary delights, but for mouth-watering (hopefully) comfort food. For roasted turkey and glazed ham. Cranberry sauce and stuffing. Pumpkin pie and hot chocolate.

Yet, even though I spent countless hours in the kitchen as a child, watching my mother turn scraps and leftovers into some delicious meals, I’ve never been blessed with cooking genes.

“How much garlic does it need?” I’d ask my mother.

“How much do you think it needs?” she’d reply. “There are no recipes in this kitchen.”

Unlike my mother, I, however, need a recipe. When something goes wrong, I want a map I can use to retrace my steps. I want to know that someone out there has chopped and mixed and baked and sautéed their way through the dish at least once before.

Authors, it turns out, are more than just “wordsmiths,” if you will. Many find cooking to be an inspiration to their work. It shows up in their writing, or, as with Emily Dickinson or Sylvia Plath, the act of cooking is an act of meditation, allowing each writer’s mind to wander, for ideas to flow.

Waiting for Part Two

Harry Potter was the book that ignited our imaginations as children and opened us up to a world of magic, friendship, and hope.

It did something different for Hollywood, however. In Hollywood, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two movies. Following this example, Twilight‘s final chapter was also split into two movies. The Hobbit, a single children’s book, has been split into three movies. And, now, The Hunger Games final installment, Mockingjay, has also been split into two movies.

(Insert Mockingjay whistle here.)
You know you heard that.

This is both a blessing and a curse for book lovers and moviegoers everywhere. One major complaint I think most book lovers have about movies based on books is the sheer amount of details and important plot points that get cut from the book to make it fit into a movie format. With the last book in a series being cut into two movies, that means more details and more plot points can make it from the book into the movie.

Of course, the downside is the sheer amount of time we have to wait for the second movie to come out. The average span between split movies is a year.

A year.

So what can you do in a year while you wait for Part 2 of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay to come out? I have a few ideas.

Building a Mind Palace

Why do all of my very best writing ideas come in the shower? Or, you know, when I’m driving? For some reason, being distracted and unable to jot down any sort of notes is the exact moment when my mind is popping off with wonderful ideas, for academic research as well as for creative writing (heck, even for blog posts!).

Are you like me? I think this is a human thing, not just a weird Amanda thing, so I’m here to offer up some solutions.

First, you can drag your significant other, child, friend, roommate, or paid note taker around with you everywhere you go. Taking a shower? Have them wait outside of the door with a pen and paper in hand to jot down everything you shout out while taking a shower. Driving home? That’s not a problem, because they’re in your passenger seat, with that pen and pad of paper ready to go.

That’s probably not a very viable solution, I admit to that. A tape recorder would probably be a little better, or now of days, a digital voice recorder, but even then you’d have to listen to your own voice on tape (who likes doing that? I don’t) and it’s still not a very viable solution for the shower.

No, what I think writers all need to develop and strengthen is their mind palace. And yes, if you watch Sherlock, I am talking about that kind of mind palace.

I’m only listening because you’re Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Ten Commandments for Editors

I’ve come a long way from copy editing my college newspaper for coffee money, when my main rule was don’t let another “recieve” go to print (yeah, that happened). I possess more technique now, thank God, and editing copy from novels to law books to financial articles feels like home. In many ways, I’m finally living my dream: I make my entire living by editing and writing, and no, I don’t need to wear orange hats on the weekends. When people ask how to be a successful editor, I recite this creed.

Thou shalt slow down. It’s easy to read and read quickly, but that’s not editing. Look at every word and element and question the hell out of them.

Thou shalt cut. All—and I mean all—writing is better with a few casualties. Tighten up copy by killing deadwood and being concise. Using the most direct presentation is the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.

Thou shalt love Merriam-Webster. “Jackanapes” isn’t spelled how you’d expect, “efficacy” is a noun, and you can learn a lot about hyphens by using the dictionary.

Literary Paraphernalia: Belligerent T-Shirts for the Timid Bookworm

There aren’t many things that I hate in the world. Sometimes, I’d like to think of myself as a peaceful, serene, all-loving, and tree-hugging kind of person. However, the reality is that there are numerous things that will set me off into mini-Hulk mode. One being:

I absolutely hate being interrupted while reading.

It isn’t often that I am abruptly stopped in the middle of a reading experience. For the most part, I don’t mind being interrupted if it’s an obligatory, academic reading that I’m already dragging myself through in the first place. But if I’m entirely enraptured in reading a leisure book with my brow scrunched, possibly laughing to myself, or showing signs of water-brimmed eyes—clearly enthralled by my good read—then a person should, by all means, leave me be.

The few times I have been interrupted usually fall under the following circumstances: 1) Someone had a legitimate question that needed to be answered promptly 2) Someone has tried to sell me something  3) Someone thought it was a good time to talk to me about God 4) Someone just wanted to talk because they had nothing else to do.

Here’s the thing though: I’m what some people might call “timid.” I’m not nearly as vocal as I should be when it comes to speaking out against intrusive irritants. So, if one were to interrupt me during my leisurely reading hour(s), then it is no surprise that I react by using body language. Most of the time, I put down the book and shoot daggers with my eyes while attempting to transmit telepathic signals that equate to “Fuck. Off.”

In any case, if you similarly hate disruptive people with nothing better to do than shatter literary climatic moments for readers, then here are a few t-shirts from Look Human and SKREENED that can help address the problem:

To Junk Food or Not To Junk Food: The NaNoWriMo Question

Time is a precious commodity for all of us, but when NaNoWriMo rolls around, those of us participating are faced with a time budgeting issue. This time issue can affect us in many ways, and one of the most profound I find, at least as a gal living on my own, really challenges me at dinner time.

I work and I go to school on top of participating in NaNoWriMo, so I don’t get substantial meals throughout the day. Breakfast usually consists of a smoothie or a scrambled egg on my way out the door. Lunch can range from a bag of chips and a soda (terrible, I know) to some tofu eggplant from Panda Express. Dinner is really the main meal of the day where I get a substantial amount of my daily nutrients. But developing a good, hearty, healthy meal takes time.

Time becomes an issue when I have homework and a NaNoWriMo project, and I bet I’m not the only one with this problem. It’s easy to order a pizza or microwave some sodium-rich hungry-person type meal, and I’m here to stop you from doing that. Love yourself while you write and take care of your body. It will not only keep your mind sharper when it comes time to write, but it’ll also give you more energy from a healthy source that’ll keep you going longer than those sugary, heart-unhealthy energy drinks.

Please step away from the pizza and read the rest of this blog post.