Sep
29
2009
18

Adventures in the Mind

Glenn is home! We’ve been busy ripping up the floor, repainting the ceiling, repairing the plumbing, and (unfortunately) not fixing the leaks. Just making our home roadworthy.

AND my precious Jeep, which needed a $450 repair that I was procrastinating, is getting the repair for $150. (Massive over-charging on the part of awful RadAir. I knew it!) I’ll feel a lot better about driving across the United States once that’s done.

I’d like to say that’s the reason I haven’t been around the blogosphere, but it’s more that I have blogger’s block. I can’t think of anything to blog about. Suggestions?

And I’m 493 posts behind in Google Reader.

In the meantime, I’m bored. As a writer, do you ever get sick of being in your head? I mean, we’re always writing these stories and living in these worlds and making friends with these characters. And we can NEVER “really” live in the world we’ve created. We can never “really” hang out with our characters.

Some days, I get sick of living in my head. I don’t know if it’s the writing or these stories that will not end or the fact that I’m working on book 5 of a series.

I’d really like to get three stories finished this week and next (one is a polish, re-arrange and 4K away; one is a polish, re-arrange and 2K away; one is about 16K away), so that when we get to South Dakota, I can vacation for a week, clear my head.

When I get like this, it’s because I’m really going through movie withdrawal. But I’m saving up because I can’t wait to see Whip It! this weekend.

And gosh, can I just say? I miss playing the piano desperately.

How do you balance living in your head with clearing your head? How often do you need to clear your head? How do you clear your head?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing,My Adventures | Tags: , ,
Sep
24
2009
37

The Great Gap

The gap between taste and skill is torturous. Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life explains about the most frustrating period in an artists’ development in the video below: that is, when your taste far outweighs your skill to deliver content that lives up to your taste.

“Your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you… that you can tell that it’s still sort of crappy.”

Glass claims that most of the creative people who he’s known have lived in that phase for years. He lived there for eight years, he says in the interview.

I’ve been chasing that gap since I started writing. It is probably why I always hate my work when it’s finished. There’s always a betrayal of what I’d hoped for, what I’d dreamed of delivering. Sure, there a couple I’m proud of, now, but the rest? Oh man, how the shortfalls torture one!

He says people outgrow this phase. I’m not feeling hopeful at the moment. It’s true: I am proud of a few of my last ones. They are closer to being the writer I want to be, and I’m not sure I would change or could change the books into something better: books are limited to the level at which you are when you begin them. Maybe you can make it a perfect book at that level, but all the editing in the world won’t make it as good as the best book you’ll write ten years down the line. Some knowledge just has to be there before you begin, has to be an organic component of the process, a part of your subconscious understanding.

Glass says that the most important thing you can do during this phase is just to do “a huge volume of work.”

I’ve written and sold a million words. (I was close two years ago before I lost the paper keeping track.) I’ve been writing for just over eight years. I still feel like I’m chasing that gap, like I’ll be forever chasing that gap. I do feel closer, but it’s a definitely a daily battle.

Part of the problem is that I work on improving my taste as much as I work on improving my writing skill. That’s sort of a two-edged sword, isn’t it? Because if you keep on improving your taste, then your skill can never catch up.

I guess I can live with that.

Do you struggle with the gap? Have you ever conquered it? Is it behind you? Is there hope? Or do we just have to enjoy living in the gap?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing,Writing Craft | Tags: , ,
Sep
22
2009
20

Persistence and Determination

It’s the fall equinox, the time for celebrating one’s yearly harvest, meaning one must take stock of one’s yearly harvest. Some years feel more depressing than a cause for celebration, but we try.

When I tripped over this quote by Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, I thought it would be inspirational for this time of year.

Press on; nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Now I’m off to plant some more seeds, see if I can squeeze in an Indian summer harvest. :-) I never seem to be happy with my word count, so I’ve been focusing on getting a solid 8 hours a day with the word document open and my fingers typing.

How was your harvest this year? Writing? Family? Career? Life?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: , ,
Sep
19
2009
30

A Thief Until Proven…

Yesterday, WalMart wouldn’t let me in. I had my computer, which was in a backpack, so I must be a thief. I can’t leave my computer in the car because it’s a Jeep: even if I lock it, someone can reach in and take it; even if I put the top on, all someone has to do is pull a zipper and they can get to my computer.

This is a growing trend. It has become okay in our society for people to treat honest people as thieves, before they’ve thieved, before they’ve been tried, before they’ve been found guilty.

It has become okay in our society to disregard the first amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Making the rounds of the writing community is a petition to protect copyright. The letter sounds great. The intent sounds great. It’s making the rounds quickly because we all want to protect against piracy. But if you dig deeper into their site, the Copyright Alliance are proponents of internet regulation.

Internet regulation means that the United States government can put “nanny controls” on every U.S. citizen and decide what is and what is not good for them. The most common justification for unconstitutional telephone tapping regulating the internet by Bush by the government is terrorism child pornography.

For us writers, the fear we’re fed to motivate us to give up our freedom of the press is piracy, losing royalties, etc.

Fear has been used too long to take away our freedoms. I don’t know what is happening to our country, but every time I turn around, the people and the government seems to have forgotten the first amendment.

There are already laws which prohibit people from posting your work on the internet and giving it out for free. If the publishers found it more profitable to protect copyright, they would file charges. You could sue. Unless it’s in a different country, you can even have the site taken down by contacting their host provider, something that is not difficult at all.

We’ve seen how regulation of the internet in Iran and China work. We all duly act appalled, but somehow we campaign for regulation of the internet in the United States because the politicians just keep yelling “child pornography!” and “piracy!”

No.

“Regulation” of free press is not okay. It’s a contradiction in terms.

If you read child pornography sites, you will be trapped. They can track ISPs. They can prosecute you. When you break a law, you should be caught.

BUT, this is not martial law. In this country, locking people up BEFORE they commit a crime, just to be sure they don’t commit a crime, is not okay. Yes, it is harder to wait for people to break the law and then try them before putting them behind bars, but that does not mean that the alternative, putting them behind bars before trial, is okay.

In this country, you cannot treat people like thieves before they thieve.

“Wherever there is a loophole in the existing laws protecting traditional American liberties, the opponents of these freedoms try to squeeze in. Whenever legislators create the slightest opening to allow some kind of censorship, the censors will be born and will march again.” ~Mieczyslaw Maneli

Please don’t sign this letter. Yes, artists need to band together to protect copyright, but the regulation of the internet is not the answer. How many artists’ works have been censored against? Artists NEED freedom of expression, and censorship—which is what internet regulation is—is not the answer.

And may I remind that internet regulation is often packaged with anti-p0rn? Do you think a computer program can tell the difference between romantica, erotica and pr0n, which use the same words? What about nudes in photography? Sculpture? How quickly can internet regulation turn against us?

Fast. As long as it takes to sign a bill.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |
Sep
15
2009
24

Howdy-doody?

Just an update. As if you guys can’t live without hearing what I’m up to, since I haven’t posted since—omg—Sunday! I know you’re all frantic. I know you were all wondering.

Okay, I know better. :-)

I’m feeling the pressure of impending doom if I do not write up a storm, so I’ve been writing up a storm. Hustle time. And part of that, for me, is doing a TON of reading of my WIP while writing.

I don’t know how most writers are, but I read my WIP all the way through at least three or four times a week. At minimum, I start every day reading two chapters before the one I’m working on. Since I always tweak and pick and fix as I go, this can take awhile. This is not fast reading.

My memory is what it is, and it definitely is not hers. I have to do all that reading in order to remember the details and threads, and to iron out the pacing. Keep the flow going.

This is probably part of my confusion with “drafts.” I write one draft. It’s not done until it’s done, and if I had to re-write, the draft wouldn’t be done. If it needed fixing, it wouldn’t be done. Hence, one draft.

As for my 365-book challenge, now that I’m 45K into my WIP, all this re-reading is cutting into my reading time. I am not giving up, though! I’m at day 26 and I’ve read 19 books. I’m halfway through quite a few, so I don’t feel too behind. I’m listening to Until I Find You by John Irving, which is definitely my favorite of the month.

As far as my adventures, we’ve got a Jeep that’s decided to fall apart. I’m doing as little as possible by way of travels, which is fine: this year is about saving up for an upgrade and writing up a storm. So although I’m anxious to see new places, I’m excited with the focus of my year: reading and writing.

As long as I’m doing it in a camper with a campfire nearby. :-)

So how much reading do you do of your WIP? How often do you read through? How many drafts do you write? How do multiple drafts work for you?

How’s it all going for you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: ,
Sep
13
2009
20

Front Table Junkie

It’s terrible; I’m embarrassed: I am addicted to the front tables. Give me any bookstore, and every single day (even if I’m there four or five or six days a week), I will comb through the front tables to see ALL the newest releases.

I’m ashamed. I’m the reason why authors get significantly more sales if they get co-op. I’m the reason why authors struggle to make me aware of their book, let alone buy it, when they don’t get co-op.

Even though I know better, I tend to operate subconsciously on the misconception that if I comb the genre section once every month or two, then I only need to keep track of the front tables and I won’t “miss” anything.

This is not true. I know that.

In actuality, most of the newer books are hidden in the stacks. There’s been a trend lately: have you noticed? An ever-increasing majority of the books co-oped on the front tables are already-proven sellers, a year or two or even three years old.

I’m driven into the stacks to find new books. You’d think this would be a good thing, right?

No. Oddly, I’ve grown addicted to new books, as in, I want to read a book released in 2009. Not 2008. Not 2001. I’m okay with the 1800s, but other than that, I seem to want 2009. If a book perks my interest, I immediately look at the copyright date. If I try a new author, I always pick their latest release, unless it’s a wildly popular series, in which case I will start with (and only with) number 1. If number 1 is not in stock, oh well.

By and large, though, I want the books being released TODAY. I want stories that reflect our world’s subconscious TODAY. I want stories that reflect our culture and society TODAY. I want to know what authors TODAY are thinking. I want to know what readers TODAY are reading.

I do have a bit of an interest in watching the pop culture trends and the book trends, so that might be part of the problem. Also, I believe art should reflect its society and its time. How can an artist/author do any reflecting, if they are unaware?

What think you? How do you browse? Do you have a preference for any era of books, or do you not notice?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books | Tags: ,
Sep
11
2009
14

The Unexpected Angle

I fell into the trap. I got into a series, and I started understanding what the readers wanted. And, of course, I’m a for-the-reader writer, so I started giving it to them.

I forgot the most important thing to remember: you need to give them what they want in an unexpected way.

Reading back through one of my series last weekend, I did that in books 1-3, but failed to in 4 and half of 5. I slipped into only giving readers what they want, which is, unfortunately, not really satisfying.

What’s the angle? Because we almost always need one to stay “fresh.”

The other day I talked about the challenges of serial writing. Neil Gaiman once mentioned how educational comic book writing was in terms of readers. The letters would pour in after a release, and he’d have instant feedback on what the readers thought he was going to do next. So of course he did something different in the next installment.

There is a difference between giving the writers what they want and what they expect. One must always fulfill the former and thwart the latter.

What think you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags: , ,
Sep
10
2009
14

I’ve Seen the Devil

I haven’t, but I knew a few kids who did. One of my best friends went to Catholic school, which was an endless source of envy for me. First, I wanted to wear the uniforms. Second, I wanted to go to private school. Third, I was dying, and I mean dying to go to boarding school. I begged and pleaded with my mother, even sent away for the brochures. I remember crying.

When that didn’t work, I tried for a scholarship to the Catholic high school in my old school district. I don’t remember how that ended up, but I think the deal was that I could go to the little Catholic high school down the street that was terrible, and that was a big “no” from me.

I’ve been reading a lot of my old childhood favorites lately, some disappointing (the Oz books), and some just as wonderful as always (Narnia & Harry Potter).

And somehow it brought me back to the devil. You see, someone in my friend’s class did see the devil. In fact, the devil appeared at this particular Catholic elementary school yearly.

No one said, “I don’t believe you.”

We all believed it. We all were certain that the devil was red with horns and a tail. We spent some time weighing what we would do if we did see the devil. And, I suspect, I was not the only one who was curious enough to wish the devil would show himself to me.

Most of all, I suspect I was not the only one who imagined myself the hero in an all-out battle with the dark one.

I remember that absolute belief that we, as little munchkins, could battle the devil and win, that we could be the heroes. But then, teaching all ages proved to me that children are stronger than adults, almost all the time. :-)

What did you believe, as a child?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:
Sep
09
2009
18

Hitch Itch

I’m restless again. One of the things I feared was that even though I left my old town, I knew I was bringing myself with me. And I feared that I’d be bringing bits that had been making me miserable before.

I’m glad to report that none of my bits were making me miserable. Those bits are all back in my old town.

But I’m surprised that my restlessness came with me. I’ve got what full-timers (those who travel in RVs permanently) call “hitch itch,” as in, time to hitch the trailer to the truck and get on the road again. This feeling surprised me, because I’m so happy here. I love being near my best friend and niece. I love everything about where I am right now.

My dad died when I was ten, but there are so many conversations that I, the adult, wish I could go back in time and have with my dad. He was a restless sort, a traveler. I wonder if this is a permanent condition, if I’ll constantly be chasing new places for no apparent reason at all.

I wish my foot would get better, so at least I could vent some of my restless feelings in some sport.

“Itch” is a good word for it, because it really does gnaw at you like an unscratched mosquito bite. Restlessness is irritating. I’d lived with it for several years, and I’d hoped to leave it behind. It is not a comfortable feeling.

But here it is again.

And I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m perplexed.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures | Tags: ,
Sep
08
2009
13

Serial Writing

I feel for comic book writers. It’s a different method, for sure, a different sort of writing skill. Like comic book writers, I write a chapter, it gets published, then I write another chapter, so on and so on. When I’m ahead, I write the whole thing before the first chapter is due.

But when I’m not? Ugh. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes not. It is a different writing process. You “drop” lots of threads in the first chapter, and you spend the rest of the novel picking them up. You end every chapter with something of a cliffhanger. You have a vision of the end, but…

Right now, I’m at the it’s-a-total-freakin’-mess stage. I’d started this thing with 15K of the end, which is sort of a ridiculous way to start. And now the end needs to be thrown out. In fact, the whole darn thing needs to be thrown out and done over.

But I can’t. I hate that.

The first six chapters are SET IN STONE. So now I have to deal. Sometimes things aren’t as much of a mess as they feel they are. Sometimes they are. I’m usually better than this; I usually can handle serial writing better. It’s a skill you learn just like any other.

Adapt and overcome. It’s just a tiny handicap. One can adapt to most anything and still turn out a good product. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

I’d sorta hoped I’d have some point, some epiphany, something. But I don’t.

What writing challenges and strange situations have you had to overcome, to learn to adapt your writing process to? how did you adapt?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags:

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