Monday’s Writerly Quote

First off, since it’s Memorial Day here in the USA, I have to give a blogosphere shout out to the men and women who are willing to defend this country so I can sit comfortably in front of my computer and write posts about anything I want. I don’t agree with all the wars my country has been involved in the last decade or so, but I do respect people who are willing to put their lives on the line for me. Thanks my military peeps!

Now onto the quote. You know I love me some Ray Bradbury quotes, and I stumbled across another one while running around on the internet. Here it be:

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

Seems so simple, but it’s so true. I’m a big outliner when it comes to writing stories, and one of the downsides of that style is a tendency to want to follow your outline. But guess what? Sometimes your characters have other plans in mind and take you down paths you didn’t expect—if you let them.

Take Luke Skywalker for example. He just thought he had his adventures pretty much figured out working with the Rebellion to fight the Evil Empire. But then he gets this vision to head to this dingy, swamp planet called Dagobah where he learns skills that will ultimately help him accomplish his original goal.

That’s why it’s good to let your characters take the lead. Your outlining or planning never goes to waste. You may have created a roadmap to get from Phoenix to NYC, and you still end up in NYC by the end of the trip, just not in the way you thought and definitely not in the way you expected.

Realizing that originally my novel SHADE was far too long, especially when it came to traditional pub (I think it was 150,000 words then), I cut it in half. It was hard to do, as there were many things I had to rework, but I still did it. I let my characters lead in finishing off Book 1, and had to change things up for Book 2. Because of that dramatic change, however, one of my favorite secondary characters was born, something that never would have happened. It just seemed more natural for the MC to run into this new character, and I let new character lead the way and the overarching story has taken an interesting turn.

You may have to spend a draft or two getting to know your characters, but once you’ve gotten to know them, let them lead. And you follow right behind, taking notes.

Do you agree with Mr. Bradbury? Do you let your characters take the lead? What do you do to figure out what your MC wants? Are you good at following?

Monday’s Writerly Quote

A new blogging friend recently asked me a few questions, one of them being about where I got my inspiration. My answer was:

It probably sounds cliché, but everything. Something will inspire a story that just needs to come out and writing is the way I get it out.

I’m a big fan of a certain quote by Ray Bradbury: “If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels,  films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every  morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life,  mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake  early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping  beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.”

I really do believe we can gain inspiration by stuffing ourselves full of life and story in all its many forms.

Don’t worry, I’m not the major quote today. 😉 Let’s talk about dry spells—more commonly known as writer’s block. What this quote suggests and what I truly believe is if we’re constantly consuming story in all its various forms we’re teaching our brains both how to gather inspiration and how to construct it into story.

That brings us to today’s quote from Terry Pratchett (and apologies to my California friends):

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.

I think losing your ability to write can come if you let the source material feeding your imagination dry up. It’s very much like a lush garden that needs care. It may survive for some time without nourishment, but eventually it will dry up if left unattended. So for those of you believing you don’t have time to read/watch/study/etc. because you’re busy writing—make the time.

Keep your imagination well-fed. photo by eeems via Flickr

Take a break if you have to. Schedule it in if you need to. But make time for nourishment. It will always make you a better writer and often it will keep you away from becoming cliché.

Just don’t stop nourishing.

Do you agree with Mr. Pratchett? Have you let your lush garden dry up before? What did you do to nourish your imagination back to health? Or what are you currently doing to help your storytelling mind stay fresh? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday Flix: Adventure Time

friday flix jae scribblesWhat time is it? Adventure Time! Not that I need to convince many of you to watch Adventure Time. But since I got the first season on DVD and it’s what I’ve been watching, here we go.

I remember way back in the day when Adventure Time was nothing more than a sample Nicktoon of 7 minutes or so. Yep, that’s right, Adventure Time was originally a Nickelodeon product. But because the execs at Nick were a bunch of patoots and couldn’t see the potential in the short, it was Cartoon Network that gobbled the goodness up.

And is anyone really surprised it’s Cartoon Network that took a chance on Adventure Time? If there’s one thing I really miss not having cable, it’s the Food Network. But an almost tie would have to be Cartoon Network. Shoot, I remember when CN was just a fledgling network too. Good times…

Anyway, back to Adventure Time. What is it about? From

A human boy and his brother – a magical dog – set out to become righteous adventurers in the Land of Ooo.

To be honest, this show is very absurdist in its approach to plot—a bit like the Simpsons. But having been a film school kiddie, the thing is you start to feel like you’ve seen everything, so something like Adventure Time comes as a breath of fresh air. I like the absurdism because life generally doesn’t make much sense either, at least while you’re in the middle of living it.

To give you another reference, it’s kind of like the kiddie version of Napoleon Dynamite style humor. Stuff just happens, often in strange or unexpected ways. Of course for Finn and Jake, it’s far more adventurous.

Continue reading

Monday’s Writerly Quote

With Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness behind us, some may be wondering what now? Well, there’s always Peter Knapp’s manuscript critique contest (seriously, check it out). But more than that, it’s important to keep writing. From one of my favorites, Ray Bradbury:

You fail only if you stop writing.

Maybe you need to take a break, try something different, or reassess your goals. Maybe you write a few short stories, a novella, or the sequel to your current WIP. Whatever you choose to do, keep on writing. Even if you have your book in for consideration with agencies, keep on writing.

My personal advice, is look into contests. A lot of the biggies seem to culminate April/May, although they are all over the place with different deadlines. It’s always nice to rack up some writing creds for the query, especially since requests from agents usually means a lot of waiting in the meantime. Besides, I found it really helpful for SHADE to put it away for a few weeks and write something else so I could come back at it with fresh eyes.

During the fall, I had a goal to read all 200 available Anton Chekhov short stories. I only made it to 50, but it certainly helped me figure out rhythm when it came to writing short stories. So something else you can  do in the meantime is study the genre you want to write. In other words,  READ, READ, READ. And then read some more in a different genre, just to shake it up.

But always, always, keep on writing.

How about you? What do you do when it’s time to take a break from the novel? Any upcoming contests for you?

Mini Reviews: The Halloween Tree, Prince of Thorns, Firelight, Darkfever

The Holiday Book read has officially concluded—that and all my books were due back at the library. So let’s get to it, shall we?


Thanks to the recommendation of Gloria Weber and my own love of Ray Bradbury, I checked out The Halloween Tree. It’s an easy read, I think middle grade, and a lot of fun. Mr. Bradbury does a great job of setting up the characters, the night, and the conflict. He’s got great descriptions and really pulls you into the story right at the beginning. It’s a fun tale about how Halloween came to be (at least in the book’s world), reminiscent of the style of Roald Dahl. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it.

My only complaint was the pattern got a bit tired toward the end. I think there were 6 boys in costumes, so they had to explain how each costume tied into Halloween with its own scene. By scene 4 or 5 I found myself saying, “Get on with the rest of it already.” I think the lesson to be learned here is not to delay the payoff with the same devices too many times. I think it would have worked out better if the boys had rescued their friend and then learned more about Halloween. Or maybe he could have combined a couple costume explanation scenes.

Don’t get me wrong though, that was some pretty decent story. Although I do find the beginning of it sticks in my mind more than the end. A little bit of a let down.

My grade for this book: A-


This book I picked up because of another blog recommendation. After reading the review, part of me wondered if this book held any similarities to my own. Yeah, this one’s far darker. But I found it helpful for my own writing, in that Mark Lawrence still got me to feel empathy for what was, in my opinion, a mostly despicable character. Understandably despicable, but despicable nonetheless.

It’s interesting how some books are a struggle to get through and others just click. That’s how Mark Lawrence’s writing was for me. I didn’t have to struggle to get interested, I was immediately drawn in. Granted, I’m not saying it’s the most brilliant prose you’ll ever read, but it’s very clean and precise and stays out of my way so I can get involved in the story. That’s the kind of writing I like.

The story is about a prince who’s mother and brother are murdered while he lays helpless in a patch of thorns watching. The thorns nearly killed him, but he survives, seeking revenge.

Revenge plots aren’t necessarily my favorite, but Mr. Lawrence built in enough tension I felt like I had to see it through to the end. And he built that brilliant empathy to boot. Just as he becomes too despicable, he weaves in hints of Jorg’s humanity so we’re drawn back to this hope of redemption. He does it very well.

But Jorg seems written a little older than he is, a little more confident than he should be. It made me wonder whether Mr. Lawrence has been around that age group recently. Granted, it is supposed to be a medieval time frame fantasy, but still… There’s explanation for that later, sort of, but it feels a bit convenient. I may have shrugged it off, but then a lot of other convenient-feeling plot wrap ups commence. By the end he’s a bit too invincible.

Anyways, everything wraps up and by the end I’m lamenting the thrill I had in the beginning, killed by convenience and invincibility. I won’t be reading King of Thorns, but I’m grateful for the lessons learned in strong writing and making despicable characters likeable. And I love the book cover. 🙂

My grade for this book: B+


Sophie Jordan writes the tale of a girl who’s a Draki—a human who can become a dragon, and her dangerous love with a boy from a dragon hunting family. I thought of the book I read earlier, Abandon, and how these were both speaking to the same audience, using a lot of the same story elements, but Firelight easily kept my attention while Abandon did not.

Like Prince of Thorns, I enjoy writing that gets out of my way so I can get absorbed in the story. Ms. Jordan isn’t as strong a writer as Mr. Lawrence, but what she lacks description she makes up with plot. And don’t take this the wrong way, but it made me think, “Oh, so this is what Twilight could have been in a different author’s hand.” Because honestly, they’re almost exactly the same story. Girl feels awkward in new town, meets bad boy who has dark secret. Has other boy who she should probably date instead, but there’s just something about bad boy she can’t resist.

I think it was the idea of dragons secretly masquerading as humans that drew me in. Plus it has those universal struggle of mother-vs-daughter, both of which have valid points to their views of how daughter should live her life. It’s a good story, and I will probably pick up the sequel in the future to see how things turn out.

But I’m beginning to see what the Mystic Cooking ladies were saying about love triangles. Not sure if they were referring to this book or another, but if it goes the same route the Uglies series did, I’m going to be one unhappy camper.

It’s not a brilliant literary tale by any means, but an enjoyable read, and that’s all I was looking for.

So my grade on this book: A


You know it’s pretty terrible when you can’t even remember the title of the book you didn’t like and have to go searching through the library queue to remember what it was. And here we have Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning. I should have suspected this when Charlaine Harris is calling it brilliant. It’s not that I have anything against Ms. Harris, it’s just after hearing her speak at a Comic Con panel, well, let’s just say our tastes are different.

It begins with the dreaded info dump prologue. You know, the one where they tell you everything you might need to know about the novel before the story gets going because the author lacks the cleverness to weave this information into the story as we go along. That or they think the audience is too dumb to get it otherwise. Both are insulting and leave me with a sour taste. Not the best way to start off a novel.

Nine times out of ten I hate prologues. I never write them myself, I usually skim those I do encounter, and what I’m telling you right now is either cut the prologue you have in front of your novel or have a ridiculously undeniable reason for having it there. I still say cut it.

Once I got through the info dump, the story began with a spoiled girl I could care less about who narrated the story like it was one of those hoaky mystery novels, reminiscent of Sam Spade (expect those are probably better). This novel has already pissed me off twice. But I feel an obligation to at least try and give novels a chance, and kept trudging through it. I guess her sister was murdered (yawn) and now she thinks she needs to go play detective (yawn). I think eventually she finds out she’s a faerie or something (she may have told me that in the beginning, but my brain has already quit caring).

Needless to say I made it two or three chapters in and seeing that the book was due back at the library anyway, took it back. I’m calling it lits.

What’s lits you say? It’s a phrase the BFF and I have taken to using, especially when encountering things of a lesser quality we feel isn’t worth our time. It’s more appropriately L.I.T.S. or Life Is Too Short. I could be reading Firelight 2 for crying out loud, or watching another episode of Chuck, or checking out what’s happening on Facebook.

I know that’s not a fair review, but having dragged myself through books I didn’t like only to still not like them, I gave up. Lits.

My grade for this book: D


And that’s all the ones I could squeeze in between Christmas and New Year’s. Did you read any books over the holidays? Have any recommendations? Have any books you think everyone should stay far away from? Let me know below.