So you want to be a writer: Living in the written word 25/8.

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I get asked this question a lot:

“I’ve always wanted to write a book but I just can’t finish anything I start! What should I do?”

Well, before I dispense of my answer to this question I would like to impart the wisdom of Ron Dakron on how to be “Zen” with your writing.

“Samurai Poet Rules (Go Forth Grashopper)”

Ron Dakron

1. Write like you’ll live forever — fear is a bad editor.
2. Write like you’ll croak today — death is the best editor.
3. Fooling others is fun. Fooling yourself is a lethal mistake.
4. Pick one — fame or delight.
5. The archer knows the target. The poet knows the wastebasket.
6. Cunning and excess are your friends.
7. TV and liquor are your enemies.
8. Everything eternal happens in a spare room at 3 a.m.
9. You’re done when the crows sing.

 

The first thing I can tell you is: get comfortable with yourself, because honey, you will be spending a lot of time by yourself if you choose to go the road less travelled and become a writer. Writers live lonely lives, but fascinating ones at that because all of the greatest adventures in mankind…happen in their head. 

Ask yourself if you are willing to be a walking contradiction. Why? Because as a writer you have to be both an introvert and an extrovert, able to read people easily and shut them out completely when necessary. You have to be in the “in” crowd, yet revel in the “out” crowd. See what I mean?

If, after a lot of soul searching, you find that you are willing to have no social life, essentially consider writing as a job, and never get a tan from all of the time spent indoors… then welcome. We’re glad to have you. 🙂

Writing is a very hard job to do, and it requires focus and thought 25/8. Which means, thinking about characters and plotting your story 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.

Here are a few things that I like to keep in mind whenever I’m working on a project:

1. Writing is my priority.

2. Keep your voice and writing genuine.

3. Writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process.

4. Editing is the hardest part of the process.

5. Don’t pull my hair out if I find something in the plot or character isn’t working.

6. Always have pen and paper. No matter what!

7. The Internet is my best friend and worst enemy. It is a major asset to my research but distracting when I watch Lady Gaga videos on YouTube when chapter 7 should be edited.

8. Finish the project you are working on and don’t get distracted when a “new” book  idea pops into your head. Write the idea down in a seperate notebook, then keep plugging away at your current project until it is finished.

 All in all, you have to love the written word in order to spend 25/8 on it. So, for those of you who want to know, “Okay, but how do I start my novel?”

It’s simple.

1. Relax. It is easy to be overwhelmed with plot ideas and character names, etc. but a relaxed brain works way better than a tense, worrying brain.

2. Read a lot. Read books that inspire you to follow your dreams, favorite books from childhood, new bestsellers and anything you can get your hands on from Harry Potter to Pride & Prejudice.

3. Keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas. The more you daydream and think, the more ideas you will have.

4. Find out where you feel the most comfortable to write. Some writers like to do the cliche thing and write at a busy cafe, while others hole themselves up at home with their Macbooks. Nothing is ever wrong if it gets you results. Write where you can be at peace with yourself and concentrate.

5. Find out what you are comfortable writing with: typing it on a computer or writing it long hand a la Virginia Woolf. I prefer to do the latter, but unlike Ms. Woolf I actually don’t need to stand and walk while writing. I feel my writing is more organic that way, plus a notebook never needs batteries or disk space.

6. Find a subject that excites you, preferably something you know nothing about. Writing is a journey, and if you know all about a subject you will get bored quickly.

 Writing is therapeutic, and if you devote yourself to the characters in your head then I promise it will be a rewarding experience when you have your finished manuscript in your hands.

And darling, the rest is up to you…

Send in your writing questions and I will be more than happy to answer them!

 

 

Review: Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen

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Summary Courtesy of Booklist/Amazon.com

Auden is about to start college in the fall, and decides to escape her control-freak professor mom to spend the summer with her novelist father, his new young wife, and their brand-new baby daughter, Thisbe. Over the course of the summer, Auden tackles many new projects: learning to ride a bike, making real connections with peers, facing the emotional fallout of her parents’ divorce, distancing herself from her mother, and falling in love with Eli, a fellow insomniac bicyclist recovering from his own traumas.

I hadn’t been excited for a Sarah Dessen release in a very long time. I waited patiently for months when I heard that she was releasing Along For the Ride, saving up to purchase the hardcover edition. Now, I am a bibliophile to the greatest extent, with mountains upon mountains of books that could easily fill the library in Beauty and the Beast. But I never buy brand new hardcover books. I just don’t. First of all, twenty dollars is a lot to pay for a book that will last me—maybe—a day and a half. That is why Benjamin Franklin established libraries. So when I bought Along For the Ride, it was a pretty big deal.

Through the majority of the book, I was disgusted by the way that Auden’s father acted. He was a jerk, self-absorbed, and inconsiderate. His new wife—Auden’s stepmother—wasn’t a strong figure like I expected her to be, with the exception of taking all of the responsibility of raising their newborn baby Thisbe while still managing her own business.  The baby was given a wretched name—Thisbe—from Shakespeare and seemed to be more of an annoyance to the storyline, making my stomach clench whenever I read that she was again plagued with colic and wouldn’t stop screeching for hours. The baby really didn’t fit with the rest of the plot. Auden seemed a bit of a pushover and a people pleaser, and the “fling” with Jake seemed out of character so early in the book that I felt it was an amateur writer’s first draft, not a published novel that had gone through the rigors of editing with a seasoned author at the helm.

Along for the Ride was disappointing, to say the least. The writing was formulaic and predictable, having read the majority of Sarah Dessen’s books I basically knew how it was going to pan out in the end.The only thing I liked were the nights at the bike park, where Auden watched the town’s teenagers having a good time throwing tricks on their BMX bikes, and the nights where Eli and Auden would work on her “quest”. The cover suggested that the subplot of her learning to ride a bike would be a major factor, a struggle for her after possibly a traumatic event, but instead it was  Eli’s tragic event. But no such luck. The plot should have been thought through longer, instead of caving to the pressures of the young adult audience to produce another book quickly.

I am a great fan of Sarah Dessen’s work, and there were moments in the book that I liked. I pretended to escape back into summertime. I had wished it to be another “Someone Like You” or “This Lullaby”, giving the reader hope that love could really be neverending and anything was possible in summer. Maybe Ms. Dessen will break from her norm and produce a fantastic fantasy or adventure book? We shall have to wait and see.