Monday, October 31, 2011

just a thought on patience

It's important to be patient when you know something's ahead and it's just a matter of time. But what about with those uncertain things? I think they may test patience in an entirely different way because we don't always know what we're even being patient for. A rejection? A setback? A necessary restart?

Think about it: you send a query or an invitation of any kind. You feel it work through the wires of cyberspace as it lodges itself into the home of another. But what control is there beyond that? You know where you're sending it but do you really know where it'll go?

Sometimes it's a blessing to hand over control, to know when to surrender and relish your limits. Sometimes the universe is demanding that you exchange the fear of uncertainty with the strength of patience.

If there's one thing my early twenties has shown me so far, it's that I often have trouble exhibiting certain virtues when they are the most necessary.

Monday, October 24, 2011

questions that helped during revisions

Revisions are the equivalent of a long run for me. The difficult part is doing it. The results afterward? So worth it! Then comes the itch; you know, the one that keeps it on your mind, convinces you that there's always improvement to make. It's an addictive tug of endorphins, a back and forth pendulum for the perfectionist.

I decided to look at other novels in depth to help my own revisions. (I studied three books out of my genre and three within.) Here are some of the things that I jotted down:

1. We've read that each chapter should contribute to the plot but from what I read, that isn't enough. And how about those books where we have skipped through the sagging middles just so they end already?
The main questions I asked (and answered yes to, when reading good books) was:
If I skip this chapter, will I miss an event that happened to the character? Will I be confused later on in the book because something crucial occurred here and only here? Can I write in a single sentence what this event was in each chapter?

2. Laura, my amazing critique partner, helped me understand the importance of tension. I had to do a lot of reading and revising to understand what that truly meant. These questions have helped me so far:

The character has choices to make. What will she lose if she goes for A over B? In other words, what is at stake for her?
Are there hints to secrets or unexplained plots that make me want to keep going?
Does the reader feel pressure and conflict pushing the character in a certain direction? Is there a push and pull (even if it's all internal)?

3. Last is the crucial element of change. Even if the world of the character stays the same, there has to be something that changed. Otherwise, what's the point of the novel?
For this, I looked at the first two and last two chapters of the books.
Are the characters in the same relationships?
Did the change come as a steady progression throughout the novel or did the ending seemed rushed and eager to tie up any loose knots?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

just to share...

"I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls"
-Audrey Hepburn

Also for your viewing pleasure,

-An article about how some writers got their starts and the role New York played:

-"Art is making truth out of lies":
a video using digital magic to make a lovely point

Monday, October 10, 2011

Using a love for books and words as decoration

In my new apartment, I wanted to incorporate my love for words, books, writing, etc. in a way that added to the decoration without being overwhelming.

Typewriter keys in a picture frame (until I get a real one someday!)

Gah, sorry for the glare! The New Yorker magazine has some gorgeous and meaningful covers (check out this one in memory of Steve Jobs). I found a Jane Austen cover that matched the rest of my apartment and blew it up to 8 X 10.

I found these gorgeous candles at Target and paired them with black candlesticks from Michaels. The picture is from my last plane ride leaving New York City. I tinted it pink to match the other splashes of color in my living room (my color scheme is black, white, and pink).

Blurry picture but hopefully you can see that I used a thin stack as a support for a photo. It looks wonderful if you happen to have books that are in the same color palette!

During my next break, I hope to sew a quote on a pillow cover or two and frame a Sylvia Plath poem.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

what's in your workspace?

I love learning about what keeps people motivated. Over the years, one correlation I've picked up is that between the clutter in my desk and mind. That happens a lot in writing: a bleeding between life and the product. In a matter of seconds, my motivation can go from steadfast to paper thin, able to disappear with a strong enough gust of wind.
Here are some things that keep it intact:

Chocolate-no explanation necessay
Post Its- for list fanatics everywhere
Sharpie pens-they won't bleed through! they write well!
Note cards- I love using different colors to jot down details about characters, scenes, etc.

Starbucks coaster- Two years ago, I saw a man making these in the West Village. The weather had an impending coldness to it, as though it was telling me things were about to change.
I picked the coaster up as a promise to finish every writing endeavor I started. It's more a symbol than anything else. Of course, it's faithfully endured the weight of many cups of coffee!

What helps you get to work?

P.S. That fat book in the back is Jeff Herman's Guide to Publishing. It has listings of agents and publishers. I highly recommend it to anyone in the query stage!

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Sometimes when I listen to certain songs, I get pangs of nostalgia for someone I never was. Their free spirited, no-nonsense nature compels me to be guided by my own desires, instead of the ones that were taught to me.

I'll remember that I loved some plans because they gave me an ending. Not a happy one. Not even a so-so one. Just an ending. So I clutched them with a committed grip, not understanding that their appeal was transient.

I'll forget that happiness and sadness often flow through the same pore. By closing off the door to one, I do that to the other.

Then the songs will end and I'm reminded that I'll never fully understand. Ever.
And that may just be the point after all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

we need each other

This past week, I read a wonderful article by Atul Gawande about the importance of coaching. When we do anything for a long time, we become zoomed in, unable to view it objectively. His main question: who says that years of doing something means that we can't receive external criticism? In my med school, we receive feedback every three weeks on how well we contribute and synthesize knowledge, work with others, interact with patients, etc.

This concept applies to writing as well. Of course there are those writers who disappear for months from society, to an exotic beach, and prefer to remain isolated. But how easy is it to become so absorbed in your work--in anything--- that you can no longer see its flaws? One of the many reasons I'm anticipating feedback on my novel is because I'll finally see (and be able to correct) the gaps it has.

Connecting with others also teaches me how much I have to learn. For example, Laura helped me realize that I didn't even know the different between Young Adult (typically ages 13-18) and Middle Grade (8-12)! It was embarrassing, considering how much time I spend in the world of fiction. But I'm glad I could refresh myself on all the genres (children's, middle grade, young adult, upmarket, adult, etc.).

So, yes, I wouldn't get far with my writing if it wasn't for the connections I've established with other people. Isn't that one of the many benefits of blogging? Making that bond with other people who share the same goals, struggles, and victories?

On a final--and overdue-- note, Laura, my fabulous critique partner, had an interview on Open Beast magazine. She talks about her writing inspirations, cute love story, and more! Congratulations, Laura!!