Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writing and Building Snowmen

I used to have a really funny intro for this post.

Yep. It was all about how my ulterior motive for writing this was that I wanted it to snow. I also explained the magical charm needed to bend weather to your whims around Christmastime.

But then yesterday it snowed. So there went my intro. On the positive side, the snow put me in the mood for the actual topic of this post: how writing fiction is exactly like building a snowman.

Okay, maybe not exactly. But there are similarities. If you’re skeptical about associating snowman building and good writing, I have three words for you: Calvin and Hobbes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sabbath Reflections: Writing in a Minor Key

Thanksgiving is over. This means I can officially write blog posts about Christmas.

If you weren’t aware of this deadline, it’s probably because you are either surrounded by happy-go-lucky elves who started playing carols after Labor Day or Grinches who might work up a tiny scrap of holiday cheer by Christmas Eve. Maybe.

However, let me assure any doubters out there that this is a legitimate, if somewhat arbitrary measurement. So here we go.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” You know why?

Because it’s in a minor key.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Writer's List of Blessings

I don’t know about you, but just thinking about counting my blessings overwhelms me sometimes. I started to list just the people in my life who have had an impact on me, and I had to stop after three full single-spaced pages.

So I’m subdividing my life into categories and making lists.

Those of you who didn’t appreciate the magnitude of that sentence clearly do not know me very well. I, the unorganized one, do not subdivide anything, and I avoid making lists whenever possible. In the spirit of the holidays, though, I decided to make an exception.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sabbath Reflections: Is This a Christian Book or Not?

If you’re anything like me, when you pick up a novel at a yard sale where books aren’t separated by genre, the first question on your mind is, “I wonder if this is a Christian book or not?”

Well, wonder no more. Since it’s obvious that spirituality can be rated by entirely subjective and arbitrary characteristics, score a book of your choice here:

Author Photo/Bio:
  • The author lives in a small town in the Midwest. +5
  • The author lives in San Francisco. -3
            The author lives on a vineyard outside of San Francisco for most of the year, and in Las Vegas for the summer. -10
  • Photo shows the author wearing a cross necklace/earring/T-shirt. +8
  • He has Jesus-like facial hair.  +5
  • She has a haircut like your pastor’s wife. +5
            (If the picture shows a female with facial hair or a male with a pastor’s wife haircut, give it a -50. And write a letter of concern to the author.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Rules of Informal Copyright

Although it sounds very technical and complicated, the actual copyright law is very simple: You write it, you own it. (Or, in government-speak: “Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.”)

That is not what this blog post is about.

No, I’m exploring the more complicated side of copyright – ideas that come up when you’re around other writers.

Of course, you can’t copyright an idea. That would be legally untenable, not to mention silly. But what do you do when you’re with another writer and you overhear something that could become a great devotion or short story?

It’s kind of like the literary version of calling shotgun. No one is exactly sure how it’s done, but doing it wrong can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or writing group factions that involve Amish-style shunnings and inclusion of villains in future stories that bear a striking resemblance to the offending party.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sabbath Reflections: Song for a Book Signing

There’s this great song that every writer should add to their “Music About Writing Playlist.” (You mean you haven’t made one of those? Seriously, get with the program. All the cool kids are doing it. Because, you know, writers are typically known for being cool. And normal.)

This song has deep, moving lyrics that really capture the essence of my writing struggles and angst.

And it’s a hymn.

Well, I think I just lost half of my readers right there. The Venn diagram of people who read blogs and people who sing hymns in relatively small.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fun with Rejection Letters

I thought about titling this post “Win Freshly Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies” or anything that would attract people’s attention in a positive way. I decided against it, mainly because I didn’t want to get a lot of nasty letters saying, “Where’s my chocolate chip cookie?” “Why don’t I have a chocolate chip cookie?” and I wasn’t prepared to deal with that.

If you recognized this as an obscure VeggieTales reference, you win a gold star. If not, keep reading to figure out what this blog post is about once you get past the seemingly unrelated introduction.

The point is, the topic of rejection isn’t all that appealing. Who wants to read a whole blog post about being rejected, anyway?

You, that’s who. Because if you’re a writer, you’re going to be rejected. And because this isn’t your typical blog post about rejection. It is not….
  • A list of authors whose famous works were turned down by multiple publishers. Look this up on Wikipedia if you want to make yourself feel better, but keep in mind that for every bestseller that was rejected, so was a poorly written manuscript. Rejection is no guarantee of greatness. Or, as Carl Sagan put it, “They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
  • An instruction manual of different origami creations that can be made out of rejection letters. This could be a future blog post, though.
  • A five-step plan for not caring about rejection. There is no such plan. There is, however, a one-step plan that will work every time: don’t care about the things you write. That way, it won’t affect you at all when your work is rejected. Getting published won’t matter one way or another.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sabbath Reflections: Woody the Cowboy and Jesus

I learned a lot about writing a good protagonist by watching Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy, which you should go see if you haven’t already. The way Woody develops over the course of the movies led me to a revelation about the nature of heroes: all heroes, not just the ones in corny chick flicks, are motivated by some kind of love.

Obviously, that love looks different depending on the characters and their relationships to others in the movie. It could be a father who loves his son enough to cross and entire ocean to bring him back home (Finding Nemo), or an adorable robot who loves a stranger enough to protect her even when she shows no interest in him in return (Wall-E), or a superhero who loves truth and justice and the generic citizenry of the world enough to risk his life multiple times to save people (The Incredibles).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

National Starting a Novel Month

PROMINENT AND OBNOXIOUS DISCLAIMER: I am not against the National Novel Writing Month project. I think it’s awesome. I think it’s exactly what a lot of people need to motivate them. I think that it results in great writing, a greener environment, and puppies, rainbows, hearts, and unicorns. Nothing but love for NaNoWriMo.

That said, I have declared this November National There’s-No-Way-On-Earth-I’m-Writing-A-Novel Month. This is mostly because of my lack of faith in my ability to balance an intense writing project with my junior year of college, which would be something like trying to juggle flamethrowers and chainsaws at the same time.

But I am starting a novel. And, unless I find that the plot is totally unredeemable, I will finish it.