Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On Rule Breaking

I spend a lot of time studying writing craft. I devour non-fic books on the topic. I analyze novels-- what works, what doesn't, what is brilliant, what is crap. And I think about craft a lot, writing in notebooks and filling pages with my thoughts on all different aspects.

Like, what makes a good twist? How do I put tension behind every piece of dialogue? How can I use any single mention of a character to further develop them? What elements am I using to hook readers from the start? (In my current wip, I'm using imagery to pull the reader right into my world, and tension to make them wanna stay.) How should I end the first book in a series? (Actually just wrote a long musing email to Jade about this one. Verdict: End the book in a way that doesn't affect reader expectations too much. Yeah it's A LOT easier said than done.)

Anyway, lately I've been thinking a lot about writing rules, and breaking them. You always hear, "Learn the rules, master the rules, and then-- and only then-- can you break them."

And my reaction was basically:

Psh, whatever, I do what I want. I'm a REBEL.

At first.

But the more books I read, the more I started to realize... There are a lot of good books that break the rules, but they do it WITH PURPOSE, and that's what makes it good.

This means: THINK about every decision you make, and give every broken rule a PURPOSE. Actively choose to break the rule, instead of just letting happen, and know why you made that choice. It's not about breaking the rules because you know the rules and that gives you a free pass to break them.

For example, don't have your character talk constantly in run-on sentences just because you want them too, or just because you think it's FRESH and QUIRKY. And don't use a cop out excuse like, "That's just their voice" or "That's just the way they talk."

WHY do they talk that way? Are you trying to capture the stream of consciousness in first person present tense? Or maybe the character talks that way because when they get excited they forget how to switch off their mouth. Or maybe you're using a long run-on sentence to PURPOSEFULLY make the reader feel a little breathless or rushed.

In my current wip, my main character had just received some bad news, and her head was spinning. So I CHOSE to use a run-on sentence here because I wanted the reader to grasp that she wasn't really thinking clearly. That her mind was wandering and she was going off in this tangent and was so intent on NOT ending the thought because then she knows she'll be brought back to the present, where the bad news is right in her face.

In fact, in revisions I added about twenty words to this already very long sentence to make it more of a run-on. And immediately after this very long sentence, I used a couple of very short sentence fragments, to bring her back to the present. Which is cold. And hard. And painful.

Of course this isn't just about run on sentences or fragments. Creative punctuation usage, intentional lack of punctuation, big blocks of text, lots of white space, super short chapters, exceptionally long chapters, and any other rules you can think of.

Go on. Break the rules. Break them all, if you like. Just know WHY you're breaking them, and let that reason add power to your writing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Six Reasons I Don't Blog

In order from least to most likely.

6. I'm actually, legitimately busy with real life and do not have computer access.
Honestly, on any given day, I have AT LEAST five hours of uninterrupted computer time. (I know, I should be putting out like a book a month.)

5. I am WRITING and it is going WELL!
This almost never happens, but when it does I am quite happy to say eff blogging because the words are flowing and my story is actually making sense and oh, I just love it so much!

4. I have nothing interesting to say.
I am of the idea that you shouldn't blog just to blog. Who wants to read something you barely wanted to write in the first place? And while I do believe that having a blog and online presence is important, I will say this: I have NEVER not bought a book because the author didn't have a blog, but I have lost interest in a book because the author was kinda annoying with the self-promotion and pointless posts just to fill in a M-F schedule.

3. I used up all my clever on emails to my crit partners.
I have somehow convinced these people that I am humorous, so it takes some work to keep it up. Also, I tend to ramble. A lot. Just ask Jade. Seriously, though, we get into the longest, FUNNIEST email chains, and I need a loooong time to write each one. I mean, it takes me like 10 minutes to write each tweet because I keep revising and revising and revising until I realize that the moment has passed and it's not even funny anymore and then I have to come up with something new.

2. I'm procrastinating.
Youtube, reading, watching TV, alphabetizing my bookshelves, organizing the refrigerator, reading blogs, counting stars, browsing amazon, watching the moon wane, refreshing twitter, wandering around the apartment aimlessly, reading web comics, blowing really big bubbles with gum, indoor cartwheels (bad idea, FYI), deciding I need arbitrary items like a new desk lamp or a passport or In-N-Out before I can bring myself to write, and MANY MORE!

1. I'm lazy.
And Buffy is on Netflix instant stream. But mostly the lazy thing.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Whoa, January

So it's January, I suppose. Kinda swept in here all quiet like.

December was a whirlwind of Real Life Events, hence the lack of blogging. And writing. And doing anything productive, really.

And then I brought in the New Year with a case of Imploding Head Sickness, which rendered me unable to perform basic tasks like breathing through my nose and sleeping without waking every ten minutes to cough. I couldn't even concentrate fully on Buffy, let alone work on my wip.

But now I'm feeling better. Still a little head-coldy, but I'm halfway through Buffy season six, so I am making progress.

Revisions are painful. I've decided to work on this project until it is DONE, which is something I haven't really done before. Sure I've finished drafts, I've revised and revised and beta'd and revised some more, and I've even queried.

But I've never felt like any of my projects were actually done DONE to the point that I felt they no longer needed work. So that's my goal now. I want to really put the effort into this. I don't want the story to be I-guess-I'll-query-to-get-some-feedback-on-how-to-fix-the-bad-parts done. I want it to be DONE. For reals.

This month will be all about revising, and trying to get a solid working draft that I can send out to beta readers.

What have you guys been up to? Hope your holidays were fun, and here's to a great year!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Books

1. Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler - 1/1
2. The Sky is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson - 1/5
3. Across the Universe - Beth Revis - 1/14
4. When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead - 2/2
5. Delirium - Lauren Oliver - 2/11
6. Cryer's Cross - Lisa McMann - 2/20
7. Clarity - Kim Harrington - 3/8
8. Liar Society - L & L Roeker - 3/13
9. Unearthly - Cynthia Hand - 3/14
10. Going Too Far - Jennifer Echols - 3/20
11. If I Stay - Gayle Foreman - 3/29
(No books in April? WTF Kat?)
12. Divergent - Veronica Roth - 5/12
13. Wither - Lauren DeStefano - 5/19
14. Beauty Queens - Libba Bray - 6/4
15. Red Glove - Holly Black - 6/12
16. Where She Went - Gayle Forman - 6/14
17. Demonglass - Rachel Hawkins - 6/16
18. Invincible Summer - Hannah Moskowitz - 6/28
19. Hourglass - Myra McEntire - 6/29
20. Uncommon Criminals - Ally Carter - 7/15
21. The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Mary E. Pearson - 7/24
22. Supernaturally - Kiersten White - 7/28
23. The Near Witch - Victoria Schwab - 8/5
24. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins - 8/20
25. Extras - Scott Westerfeld - 9/4
26. Possess - Gretchen McNeil - 9/8
27. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor - 9/21
28. I Am Number Four - Pitticus Lore - 9/23