He’s so dreamy

30 June 2010 | 3 Comments

I know, I know, another video. But my fantasy boyfriend Johnny Depp has a new movie! I am so excited! You may now take a moment to imagine Nicola rolling her eyes and being patient…

… except I think she just might like this one too (*winks at sweetie through the internet*).


Write-a-thon running total: 2,660 words out of 12,000. This is where tracking wordcount gets a little depressing: because I find my way in by writing and revising, I go through phases where I make no apparent progress. But it’s interesting how different the story already is from those first 500 words. I’m already finding unexpected directions, ideas, resonances… and exploring them takes words and time, and much of it doesn’t work out right for the story I’m telling.

I don’t count that as a waste at all, but I know some writers who do. Shrug. To me, it’s part of the process, and it’s one reason that wordcount tracking makes me feel impatient. Sadly, I know of no objective way to measure “soundness of story” as a daily accomplishment. So I guess we’ll just stick with wordcount.

Wrestling with tense is part of this process. First person is these days by far the common voice of YA, and it’s absolutely right for this story. The choice of present or past tense is more problematic. Present tense is all the vogue and works wonderfully well in many storytelling situations. But it’s also quite limiting and can sometimes be unbearably precious. Past tense is the traditional storytelling tense for very good reasons, and is a much more flexible writing tool than present tense. So I am playing right now with tense to see where I want to land. It’s an exercise in nuance, and I find it challenging and interesting.

And as promised, we have met an Important Character, although not the one I was expecting to bring into the scene. Isn’t that just the way? *Throws up hands and goes off to have a shower*

Enjoy your day.

That’s what it’s like

28 June 2010 | 5 Comments

I really love this short documentary. It’s about writing a novel getting a degree building a marriage building yourself painting signs.

Once the video has started, I recommend double-clicking the image to bring the video into full screen mode. Or you can find it in full-screen mode directly at Vimeo.

UP THERE from Jon on Vimeo.

Write-a-thon running total: 2,381 words out of 12,000. Today was about making what was already on the page deeper, rather than moving into another scene. So much of beginning is setting the anchors in place for the important emotional arcs that will play out in the book. And so this deepening I’m doing will, I hope, bring more resonance to some of the key moments to come.

And tomorrow we will meet an Important Character! Someone who will change my protagonist’s life. I’m excited about it. I always like it when the players come together onstage.


26 June 2010 | 3 Comments

Nicola and I met at the Clarion Writers Workshop 22 years ago today.

Our friend Mark, also a Clarion ’88 alum, has posted some of his workshop memories along with photos — one that shows a workshop session in progress, with me waving my hands and looking serious and so young. Another photo shows all of us dressed like idiots for the traditional Locus photo. Nicola, however, manages to make idiotic look powerful and fascinating instead, so there you go. 22 years later, she still fascinates me and protects me and empowers me to be the best that I can. We love each other.

Thanks to Mark for the memories. And thanks to Nicola for the years, this life together that I love.

Write-a-thon running total: 1,850 words out of 12,000. Still swapping words, deleting as many as I write for a net gain that looks small but actually represents a process of seeing that is essential for me at this stage… It’s as if I am circling, circling, handling the story from every angle, trying to find the way in that will open it up most deeply. I’m now at the point of making notes within the text as openings appear: for example, what I thought was a throwaway line is actually an opportunity to introduce one of the important characters, and so it needs to be its own scene. Tomorrow.

Some of these openings won’t lead anywhere productive. And then it’s more sentences off to word heaven, or wherever they go when I delete them. That’s writing. More work, more work, but the lovely thing about being 22 years on from Clarion is that I know how to do it.

What are the odds…

25 June 2010 | 2 Comments

The Newspaper Guy makes the free throw!

Write-a-thon running total: 1,671 words out of 12,000. A lot of deleting and new writing in the last two days. Still finding “the beginning,” which is more than just “the first scene.” I need to introduce the protagonist, give a sense of her immediate situation, start to build her world…. The initial scenes of a book are vital in this regard. What do I want the reader to know first? What are the important metaphors, and what moments will best establish them so that I can return to them throughout the story? Where’s the energy of the book coming from/going toward, and how do I plug the reader smoothly and deeply into that stream? Always an interesting part of the process.

Story of my mother

23 June 2010 | 2 Comments

I have lots of stories of my mom. But this one is pretty special… Michael Swanwick has Tuckerized my momma. No, it’s not like that, all you people with your minds in the gutter. It’s Michael’s personalized flash fiction in support of the Clarion West Write-a-thon. I ponied up $10 to the cause, gave him a few salient facts about my mother, and poof, he made a story that has left me slightly weepy and in search of a kleenex.

Isn’t it amazing, the things people do? The seemingly endless, inventive ways we find to please each other and ourselves, to help each other and ourselves?


Write-a-thon running total: 1,310 words out of 12,000.

Let the music take you there

22 June 2010 | 9 Comments

From Flavorwire comes this cogent infographic.

Makes me think it’s time for some more jukebox around this joint. I’ll work on that. In the meantime, what else can we add to the list? I will ponder this as I drive to the gym.

Write-a-thon running total: 1,007 words.

Enjoy your day.

Write-a-thon is on! Progress update…

21 June 2010 | Comments Off

The Clarion West Writers Workshop has begun, and the Write-a-thon is in progress! We have 79 writers signed up, and donations to support them are rolling in. Our goal is 200 donors. There are so many great writers to sponsor — please consider picking one and pledging. Any amount is welcome. Every single dollar helps. And we love our donors, and our love is strong (smile).

Here’s a particularly inventive and cool way to support the Write-a-thon and give a gift to yourself or someone you love. The fabulous Michael Swanwick is writing one piece of flash fiction every day for the next six weeks (I know, is this man awesome or what?). For a donation of $10, you can ask Michael to Tuckerize one of these stories for you or someone you know/love (no strangers, please!). What’s Tuckerization, you ask? Well, you provide your name and a few random details about yourself, and Michael puts you into one of his Write-a-thon stories. You can see the stories at Michael’s blog, and you can go to his Write-a-thon page to get on board the Tucker Train. It’s fun, it’s cool, and it’s in a great cause!

Part of my commitment is to blog regularly about my progress, so here you go: I’ve begun my YA novel. Beginnings are always slow for me, so I can currently report only 577 words of draft. Which really means I’ve probably written 1,000 words and then deleted/revised/fussed them down to 577. Although I’m in “push ahead” mode on this, I still always find that I need to fuss with beginnings. On some level, the beginning needs to feel right before I can move on. The details of the scene aren’t important — in many (many!) cases, the opening scene changes dramatically over the course of several drafts. But I’m a writer of character, and I use emotional events as my primary story anchor points: and so I have to know where I am to begin with. It’s best for me to put the time in up front to get squarely inside my character.

So the real progress is that I know where my protagonist is in space, time, action and most importantly, in her head and heart. In a coy and thoroughly unhelpful teaser, it has to do with pennies…

It’s been all screenplay all the time for me for quite a while, and so I’m especially excited to be working on new fiction! And I hope you’ll support me and Clarion West. Thanks to all who have already donated — I really appreciate it.

A moment in time…

17 June 2010 | 2 Comments

Have you seen the New York Times new Lens blog of visual journalism? Wonderful stuff. And I am particularly awestruck by this interactive set of photographs called A Moment in Time. Be prepared to spend many, many (many!) moments there.

It’s a big world full of all kinds of people, my friends. So much happens in a single moment.

Enjoy your day.

They stole my book idea!

15 June 2010 | 8 Comments

Oh noes! The Clarion West Write-a-thon starts on Sunday and The New Yorker swiped my YA book idea!

Well, I guess I’ll just have to come up with something else. Any suggestions?

Kidnapped, kinda

12 June 2010 | 7 Comments

So there’s a company in France offering a new kind of recreation adventure — for a fee, they will kidnap you. Now you too can experience the thrill of being taken off the street at some unexpected moment, thrown in a van or a car trunk, taken somewhere, tied up, terrorized just enough to get a taste of the “real thing,” and then turned loose after a preset number of hours. Or for a little more, you can even add in the entire ransom negotiation experience. Or customize your abduction (who knows, maybe you can be kidnapped by willing women in bikinis or men in tight pants, or something…)

Have you seen the movie The Game? I really enjoy that film, and I think it’s a cool movie idea. I find that I’m less sanguine about the reality. I’m fine with the general notion of folks paying for adventures in expensive role-playing games — what I don’t like is that a kind of violence that is visited on so many people in the world is now being turned into a Disney ride. Kidnapping is a brutal business with horrible consequences to victims and families. It’s not a game.

If I’m reading various blogs correctly, you can get one of these packages for about 1,000 GBP. Somewhere in the range of $1,500 – $2,000 USD, depending on the exchange rate. If that’s the case, then this moves from the realm of the uber-rich vacation into a realm that most people on an executive salary, for example, could easily afford. And it’s weird to me to think that this kind of “sport” might enter the mainstream/middle-class consciousness as an alternative to, I don’t know, going to the Grand Canyon or renting a beach cottage for a week, or all the other ways that people like to spend their leisure budget.

There are plenty of ways that people use their money that I find personally disturbing, and so I don’t spend my money that way. But when people do things I wouldn’t do, I mostly think Meh or Huh or even sometimes I wish I had the guts to do that too. But those are personal choices that affect only the people involved. This one seems… hmm, bigger than that. This seems like a choice about “visiting” other people’s pain. It feels like a bad idea on a social level.

I dunno. Am I just being a sensitive plant? Maybe it’s all just good fun and I should lighten up. Still, wouldn’t it be lovely if there was a company that could make a profit from taking people by force out of their office jobs and subjecting them to an entire afternoon of picnics and peace?

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