Monday, July 30, 2012

Rules on Writing

"Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t. It’s like washing the dishes two days later instead of right after you finish eating. Get that draft counter going. Remove a comma and then print out another copy — that’s another draft right there. Do this enough times and you can really get those numbers up, which will come in handy if someone challenges you to a draft-off. When the ref blows the whistle and your opponent goes, “26 drafts!,” you’ll bust out with “216!” and send ’em to the mat."

One of 10 rules from this New York Times article by Colson Whitehead.

more of those "what I've learned" notes

This summer has been full of learning experiences. I tried to hold on to some of those lessons and compile them into a post. Sorry in advance for any haphazardness! 

1. Your next story can come from anywhere. Seriously. Characters are all over the place. Dialogue is at the next table.  I read about an author who was ready to give up and sat on a park bench, lamenting over her failed career. A woman ran by with a red cap and it hit her: a brazen tomboy character who defines herself through running! 

2. Your next friend can also come from anywhere. Our family just moved and our new neighbors happened to have a daughter my age who is incredible: gorgeous, intelligent, talented, and humble. We've been in touch throughout the summer and I've already learned so much from her! 

3. If your writing seems stagnant, then stop for a bit. Just stop. Sometimes even inspiration needs a break, you know? 

4. Some of the people who will help you the most are the ones you may never meet. I can say that this is definitely true when it comes to my blogging friends. The encouragement, wisdom, and sheer knowledge I've gained from them is beyond what I could have from anyone else. 

5. Speaking (or singing...or anything) in front of people only gets easier if you keep doing it. I had to sing two friends' first dance songs at their weddings and then give my first talk in NYC (on medicine, gender roles, and writing...cue nerdy girl comments). In elementary school, I struggled with stage fright and found hints of it revisiting before these events. The only way it went left was to keep putting myself in those positions.

6. This comes from Maya Angelou: "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
It's not always about whether or not someone wronged you (everyone makes mistakes) but sometimes it's about how they've handled it. Some of the situations my girlfriends and I discussed involves those who victimized themselves, denied they did anything wrong, and/or ignored and showed obvious insecurity.  It's all just not worth your time! Wish them the best and hope you never cross paths again, lol. 

7. You can handle anything that comes your way. 

8. Tell people you love them. Nobody gets tired of hearing it. Ever.

9  Study your weaknesses. Then go beat them. No but really, find out what scares you or makes you nervous. Is it writing certain scenes? Is it building characters? Networking with strangers? 

10. Make something. Whatever you do, try to make something. For yourself, for others. I'm focusing on a women's health project this year and was watching television when bham! An additional project came to mind (focusing on maternal health). Yay!

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

A fabulous book party for a fabulous book: Where We Belong

Emily was kind enough to invite my sister and me to her Atlanta launch party for Where We Belong. I've just started it but am already hooked and can't wait to write a review. Her party was just like her: elegant, fun, and inspiring.
Check out her novel if you need a captivating summer read!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Notes on writing from reading

Often, when I'm drained of inspiration, reading is the only thing that helps. "You scarf down books the way other people do food," Samir once joked to me. Reading helps me learn about writing. I wanted to share some notes I took from the recent books I finished.

1. Give a character something to lose, something that drives them, or both.

2. It's okay to not dive into every detail of a character's life. (Character charts sometimes help us flesh a character out but that doesn't mean each tidbit has to be woven into a book.)

3. Don't make anyone too "perfect". Smart, handsome, kind, wealthy, etc. Flaws are what make characters and people real. 

4. Describe someone's settings to show character. For example, does your character have a messy desk? A neat one with file folders and organized drawers? No desk? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Being Stubborn

The fortune teller---an old woman with young hands---claimed I was stubborn. I'm sure anyone could guess that, right? As she gestured to each tarot card, I thought I'd take this trait, one that's often perceived negatively, and see how I could use it to improve, evolve, and ameliorate. 

Writing: Refusing to give up, refusing to allow anything but love when love seems to be the easiest thing to drop, is what makes great books (great anything, really). 
That's the thing: when you're beginning, there usually isn't anyone watching over you, making sure you've completed this or that task. There's that essential something---a mix of stubborn behavior and insanity---that makes dreams come true. 

Medicine: It's convenient to complain a lot in medical school. Everyone's doing it and most of the time, it's a unifying experience. We complain over our 20 hour days, the volume of information, patient reports, etc. But it can also become a little negative at times. At times, I'm optimistic to an irritating degree but for now, I'll keep to that :) 

It's our own stubborn tendencies that can keep us going.

P.S. I'm heading to Canada this weekend for a quick trip (cousin's wedding!) but will be back soon. I can't wait to catch up with your blogs!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now...

In order to prevent burnout or resentment and build gratitude, I've done some posts about what I would tell my old self. It's always around this time every year that I become myself again. Something about the pink, unimposing July does it. 

1. You'll experience heartbreaks of all types: from friends, relationships, and places. Don't dwell on them or try to change the situation. Improve yourself and move on. 

2. Writing is editing. Period. 

3. Happiness will hit you at unexpected times, like while you're sipping white wine on a porch with your great love, exchanging silence. You'll recognize it.

4. Fall in love with everything you do. Homework. Breakfast. A bold shade of lipstick. Just fall in love. 

5. Things may look like they come easily for some but know that everyone is working hard at something. 

6. The older you get, the less you'll judge. Acceptance will embrace you and others.

7. View everything you do as practice. Then, nothing will ever feel wasted. 

8. Don't dismiss anyone or anything. You never know....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Nerdy question alert: What's your favorite punctuation mark and why?

I've always had a soft spot for the semicolon and this article captures why better than I ever could: 

"Their textbook function — to separate parts of a sentence “that need a more distinct break than a comma can signal, but that are too closely connected to be made into separate sentences” — has come to seem like a dryly beautiful little piece of psychological insight. No other piece of punctuation so compactly captures the way in which our thoughts are both liquid and solid, wave and particle."

What's your favorite punctuation mark? Why?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

YOU always deserve respect: agent vs. author

I thought of this post last night while Samir and I were scarfing down take-out pasta. When many writers are sending out queries, partials, and fulls, they're encouraged to be respectful. Fair, right? This busy person is taking out time to consider your work. 
But the reverse is also true. 
I remembered one particular agent who asked for a partial, then a full. 5 months later, I heard nothing from her, so I assumed that was probably a "no" but just wanted to make sure. I had other offers and learned it was polite to let anyone who had the manuscript know. 
I wrote a short e-mail and got this response:
"I haven't read it and you can't bother me with your question. I'll get to it when I feel like it."

A week later, I had some mail from this agent. My manuscript? No. 
A suggestion to attend a $300 conference and watch her speak? Yes.

The point is, I know we're all eager to get our work out there but respect should always be a two way street.  Everyone is trying to get to a partnership, not a dictatorship. Anyone who doesn't give you or your treasured work courtesy is not someone you need! 

Summer + rich brunches + books = free therapy