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How the Olympics slapped me with the wet suck-it-up fish

The Olympics are on! Drama! Big gold medals! Sweaty, muscly men in tight clothes!

Er.

The Olympics are supposed to be inspirational. It’s part of their purpose, along with deciding who the best sportspeople in the world are. Honestly, I feel like if you make it that far, you’re the best anyway, regardless of what a few points or hundredths of a second say, but that’s not my point here. It occurred to me the other day that I personally have never been inspired by the Olympics, but that realization came when, all of a sudden, I was. Or, more accurately, I was slapped in the face with the Soggy Trout of Truth.

I’ve been watching this year with a different kind of interest than I ever have before. I’m the first to admit that I have no concept of what these athletes put themselves through physically, since my life goals require me to sit at a computer for long stretches, but I know what it’s like to want to be great at a specific thing. A thing that requires training and hard work and mental strength, if not any muscles besides the ones that keep me upright and typing. So it’s through that eye that I’ve admired and cheered and drooled over the muscles.

There are only a few sports I’m really interested in. I don’t do any of them because they involve wearing something other than yoga pants, but put them on TV or a live feed online and I’ll sit there, mouth open, breath held, sometimes with my eyes scrunched shut because I just can’t watch. It’s a good look, let me tell you. One of these has long been track cycling, because I’ve always been a speed demon and these people can get up to cheetah speeds in under ten seconds from a standing start. That shizz is EXCITING, yo.

So there I was, glued to the scratch race of the men’s Omnium, which is basically the track cycling version of a heptathlon, except there are six elements. The scratch race is one of the longer ones, which makes it especially fun because it’s sort of impossible to pick the winner. Unlike some of the other races which have only one or two cyclists on the track, everyone and their dog (ok, no dogs) gets in on a scratch race, so you have a bunch of people jockeying for position on a steeply banked, polished wood surface while going at frightening speeds.

 
You might guess where I’m going with this.

 
The Danish guy who went on to win the Omnium crashed, and he was damn lucky not to take at least two other riders out with him. He slid down the bank to the infield, leaving a metric ton of uniform AND HIS SKIN on the track on his way, and by the time he came to a stop at his coach’s feet, he was looking for a spare bike to get back in the race. That is BAD. ASS. Not only did he get back in, he won. As in, beat-everyone-to-the-finish-line-eat-my-dust-suckers WON. Later, he said the crash gave him the adrenaline boost he needed to win the race and the event. I say again, BAD. ASS.

So, yeah. This is basically the point at which Emma starts to wonder why she complains about anything, ever.

Sometime, likely while I’m on a manuscript-completion high, a longer post will come about the process of writing my current book, and how different it’s been to writing CODA, but for now, CODA was kind of the surprise win coming from the back of the pack, and when the race ended I felt like it had been almost frighteningly easy. Huge chunks of that book seemed to write themselves while I slept. Maybe I had a helpful house elf. Maybe I was inspired. Maybe there was just no pressure. Maybe it was easier. Probably it was a combination of all of those except the house elf, which is a shame but that’s a rant for another day.

Not so, with what has come to be known as Magical Bird Book, except by people who know the actual title. “Writing is hard,” I whine when it doesn’t go my way. There are sections of this book I’ve rewritten at least a dozen times since I began it in March. Maybe more. I’ve completely reworked the beginning three times. “It’s not right,” I complain to the friend who, in a move that will one day get her canonized, puts up with me when I get like that. “Help!” I say to the Patient Agent, and lucky for me he does. If CODA was a sprint in an indoor Velodrome, fast, furious, and slick, Magical Bird Book is the Tour de France, harsh and almost unending and open to the elements.

Writing IS hard, sometimes it really doesn’t go right, and sometimes you need your coach to hand you a new bike. But metaphorical bleeding isn’t a reason to bitch, or give up. It’s a reason to keep going, and that reminder came at a great time for me.

So I didn’t – and won’t – stop. Yesterday, I reworked a section that has had me beating my head against the wall for weeks. I love it now. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. I can look at it now and say “you’re good, and I can make something great from you” and so I love it in that way it’s only possible to love imperfect things–for their potential. Today, I’m excited to get back to work, even if I know it still might not all be easy from now on. Half naked and skinless, finish the damn race. And win. Be a badass.

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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Don’t write someone else’s book.

No, this isn’t a post about plagiarism, although that’s an interesting subject.  This is about an obvious writing lesson I really had to learn the hard way.

Writers are told to read widely in their chosen genre/age group/subject matter etc, so we know what’s out there, what’s been done.  I touched on this briefly in an earlier post, but that can be a double-edged sword for people, like me, who tend to accidentally pick up on style and let that color whatever I’m writing.  I know enough now to steer clear of things where that’s a risk.

Unfortunately, for a long time that didn’t stop me from doing it intentionally.  I have this project I’ve been working on for…a long time.  I’ve redrafted and reinvented this thing more times than I can count.  I’m determined to make 2012 the year I’m happy with it.  And for years (not kidding, years) I’ve told myself that it’s a specific kind of book and so it needs to have a specific kind of voice.  I’ve fought with my protagonist, my supporting cast, my villains.  I’ve been thisclose to throwing my computer out the window and abandoning the idea completely, but I can’t because I love it too much.

2011 was a busy year.  I wrote a different book, did several rounds of edits, found an agent, edited some more, CODA went on submission–and that’s just the stuff related to that one book.  I have a Real Life that demands attention, too, just like everyone else.

I was tired of fighting Secret Project.  For a while at the end of last year, the temptation was again there to abandon it, but fuck that.  In one of those moments of bizarre lucidity that only come from some form of exhaustion, I finally saw that there’s a different way to stop fighting.  I can just write like me, and let the damn story be told the way I want it to, the way the characters have demanded from the start.  Yeah, there are some rules that I need to adhere to, like not swearing up a storm in a MG manuscript, but I’m allowed to use my voice.  I don’t need to use the voices of the writers whose ranks I hope to join with this book.  I’m allowed my style, my fun.

And it will be better because of that.

I’m wide awake now, and I don’t think it’s the 4,876 cans of diet coke.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Writing what you know is crap

I find myself with a little writing-related time on my hands while Second Novel brews in my head and Weird Novel is beginning to make its first tentative steps out into the wide, scary world of queries, so I thought I’d blog about part of the writing process today.  The title really says it all, but it’s worth saying twice: writing what you know is crap.  The (many) of you (us) out there who write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy prove that.  We’ve never been on a spaceship, had magical powers, been a vampire/werewolf/vegetable lamb (my personal favorite mythological creature/supernatural being of your choice.

So, here’s the thing.  Don’t write what you know, write what you can extrapolate.  For all the wide range of human emotions and experiences, the nuts and bolts of those things don’t change that much.  Guilt is guilt, whether it’s over breaking that jug your mother was fond of or crashing that spaceship prototype into the Ocean of Storms.  You know what your first kiss felt like, so when you write about it, it doesn’t matter whether the other participant in your fictional game of tonsil-hockey is a cute guy in your protag’s drama club or a demon from the depths of hell (but he’s TRYING to be a better person, Mom, honest!)

Sit down at your keyboard, think back to a time when you felt the *thing* you want your protagonist to feel.  That’s where it starts.  Subjects and settings…that’s all research, and we’ve never lived in a better time for having access to information.  You’re (probably) writing because you want whoever reads your work to be emotionally affected, invested, to cry when your protag does, laugh when they do, cheer when something great happens.  That’s what has to be real, that’s what you have to know.  You already do-you’ve been navigating the world through a haze of emotions Spock would disapprove of since you could walk.  Write from the heart.  You know that. 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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