Flake-out Friday–It’s My Birthday and I’ll Laugh If I Want To

Hey all! I’m away at a conference in Boston, but I couldn’t leave y’all without a flake-out. Especially since today is my birthday!

Listen, if I’m doin’ some learnin’ on me berfday, so are you!

Eddie Izzard on Learning French (funny fella, drops a lot of f-bombs–you’ve been warned)

(with subtitles)

I’m so glad I found this clip for my birthday. I think it’s the solution to my writing woes that I’ve been waiting for.

 

My dear blog buddy and critter extraordinaire, Amie Borst, is using my first pages “before and after” on her Free Critique Friday blog post! Check it out!

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Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog AND Attack of the Internal Editor

It’s Lydia’s turn to discuss the importance of stories! Click here for her post.

 

I can say with relative confidence that my writing skills have steadily improved over the past two years. I can also safely say that I’m a fast-paced, sometimes sloppy panster at heart. Seriously. Every time I try to outline, I veer off of it in less than a paragraph. I’m not kidding.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that along with increasing skill comes increasing persnicketiness about what I write. This has benefits and drawbacks. I can admit–despite my rushed seat-of-the-pants-writerly-ways–it’s good to slow down and take my time in crafting a novel. It forces me to choose awesome words instead of good ones. BUT, the pressure of picking the RIGHT word the first time often leads me to a stand still. Like literally.

Case in point. My most recent WIP (a middle grade adventure that I actually outlined! Holy shizz!) has been a complete blast to develop. The first four chapters practically wrote themselves. Yet it’s gotten to the point that every time I open the document, I freeze. I can’t decide what words to put on the page. What order do I want to write them? Who do I want to say what? Where do I want to put the description? What description do I want to include?

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!!!

A surge of frustration forces–yes, forces!–me to procrastinate. I look at Facebook, Twitter, online forums. I watch an episode of South Park, The Office, or Family Guy.

Two hours later, I return to the MS and fret some more. Why hasn’t the word count risen? (Duh. Cuz I didn’t write anything. Geez.)

What’s happening? Well, in my effort to “prove” I’m a good writer, I have unleashed the Hell beast otherwise known as the Internal Editor (cue horror movie soundtrack here). Any writerly person is very familiar with this monster. When properly fed and cared for, the internal editor can actually be helpful, even friendly. But when little devil runs amok through a first draft, it’s akin to a disaster.

So, dear friends, I’d love to hear from you what strategies have helped you tame Internal Editor.

I’ll start the dialogue by sharing my strategy:

  1. I free write. Screw picking great words. Just get the damn scene on the page.
  2. I re-read what I just wrote…and am pleasantly surprised it’s not as icky as I’d imagined.
  3. I crit someone’s work.
  4. I read a book and “take notes” from the pros.
  5. I take a break. Burn out doesn’t do anybody any good. Just sayin’.
  6. I try to stop being my own worst enemy and let myself off the hook. It’s impossible to be perfect the first go around, so why set such an unrealistic goal? Right? Right.

Alrighty folks, your turn.

Hell beast, AKA Internal Editor. He also goes by the name Phil.

Mental Health Monday–Cognitive Dissonance

You know that feeling you get when you realize you’ve made a mistake? Come on, admit it. It’s that sinking or twisting feeling in your gut. Or the tightness in your chest. Don’t forget the throbbing or stabbing headache that brings you to your knees.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume most of all y’all have experienced this.

Why, oh why, does it happen?

Well, something called cognitive dissonance is at work. Stated simply, cognitive dissonance occurs when we’re confronted with two ideas in direct conflict. This comes up frequently when a particular thought (ex. “I am a good person.”) is challenged with evidence to the contrary (“I just punched someone.”) (By the way, I wouldn’t try this to test the theory. Punching someone would get you in trouble.)

The Fox and the Grapes by Aesop captures this perfectly. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for pointing this out!) The fox see a bunch of grapes high up on a tree branch, but he can’t reach them. He isn’t able to solve the problem, so he surmises the grapes are sour (ever heard the expression “sour grapes?”) or they aren’t ripe yet. In effect, he’s talked himself out of wanting them. Neat, huh?

Imagine applying this to a character. For example, maybe your main character has a crush on someone, but they assume the crushee won’t like them, so they don’t start a conversation even though they’re the only two people on the bus. Or maybe your main character doesn’t think she can manage life on her own, so she stays in an abusive relationship.

So tell me, what examples of cognitive dissonance have shown up in your characters?

***Don’t forget Lydia’s post on Medical Monday!

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–What Makes Storytelling Important?

The lovely Danyelle Leafty starts of this month of the traveling blog with the following question:

Stories have existed in every time and every culture. How come? Why are stories so important?

Human beings are such inquisitive and imaginative beings that I think it’s impossible NOT to tell stories.

To take a “scientific” point of view, early storytelling was a way to teach others, a way to create a sense of comradery, and probably a way to pass time. Storytelling has an element of entertainment, right?

Evidence of storytelling abounds. Drawings on cave walls, hieroglyphs on papyrus scrolls and stone walls, and, of course, books (hand written and later printed on a press). In a way, a story extends the life of the teller, even beyond the grave, depending on how many generations hold onto a particular tale. It’s a sort of immortality, if you will.

Storytelling means much more than this, though. It also shows our need and desire to share with others that which we create. It symbolizes a curiosity that speaks to our souls. It evokes emotions, creates pleasure and longing. It allows us to escape to a different reality. It provides catharsis.

My goodness, stories provide so many things, ti’s hard to encapsulate in one post! Tell me, friends, what makes a story important to you?

Check out Lydia’s take on the topic next Wednesday!

Guest Post By: Christine Fonseca, Author

****PLEASE NOTE AS OF 10/12/10 AT MIDNIGHT EST, THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. A WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED NEXT WEEK! GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!

Christine Fonseca, author of Emotional Intensity In Gifted Students, has graciously agreed to participate in an interview with yours truly! Thanks, Christine! Congrats on the release of your new book! 🙂

 

 

1. Tell us about yourself.

 

I’m a school psychologist by trade, after having always worked in a million other fields ranging from modeling, to buying for a major retailer, to marketing in the scientific field, to banking and finance. I guess you could say I am eclectic!

 

I also write YA fiction and nonfiction for parents and kids focusing on the needs of gifted kids.

 

When I’m not doing either of those things, I spend my time hanging out with my family and curled up with a great book.

2. What inspired you to write EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS?

 

Having worked with families of gifted children for over ten years, I really found a lack of resources for parents or teachers when it came to understanding the unique social and emotional needs for this population. I developed curricula for my workshops, which eventually turned into this book.

 

My next book, 101 SUCCESS SECRETS FOR GIFTED KIDS is the kid version, with lots of specific strategies for kids.

3. What do you enjoy about writing non-fiction?

 

I have always enjoyed working with kids and families. Writing the type of nonfiction I write enables me to help on a larger scale. Even if it is just a little piece of advice given when a parent needs it most…nothing is better! Writing my advice books and having them out for the world to read enables me to reach a much broader audience on topics I feel passionate about.

 

4. What do you enjoy about writing fiction?

 

Ah….fiction! I love writing fiction too. Fiction gives me the escape and the creativity I often crave after a long hard day. Like nonfiction, I can reach readers through my stories and deal with human emotions in a way that can help kids. But, unlike nonfiction, I don’t have to approach difficult material head on. I can weave it into a storyline.

 

I also like the challenge of writing fiction. For me, nonfiction is a true extension of my day job, and as such, it is not super-challenging.

 

But fiction – that is a different matter all together. Fiction requires me to learn, learn, learn. And I LOVE that!

5. What is/are your favorite genre(s) and why?

 

In terms of writing, I am a YA junkie…in every genre possible. There is just something about the pacing and topics that I love. Currently, I write contemporary YA and dark gothic romance. A huge difference between the two, requiring really different writing skills – and I LOVE them both.

 

Now, in terms of reading, I do gravitate towards YA. But, honestly, I’ll read anything from mysteries to paranormal to romance to literary books. There is very little I do not read!

6. What’s the next step?

 

Most of my time this month revolves around this launch. I also have events planned most months, just to keep the momentum up in between my two book launches.

 

In May, 101 SUCCESS SECRETS is released, and I am planning a larger summer book tour – hopefully hitting CO, UT, and a few other states.

 

I have a couple of other NF ideas brewing, so I’ll be working on that as well.

 

In fiction-land, I have my dark gothic romance all polished and ready to go. My current WiP is a contemporary piece I am really excited about. Additionally I have a few other ideas brewing.

 

Things in Christine-Land are always busy!

7. Random fun:

 

  • Your favorite movie: Sorry, can’t list just one: Dark Knight, STAR TREK, Batman Begins, The Last Samurai, – there is a theme here, yeah?

 

  • A city you’d love to visit: Anything in Australia or New Zealand; Rome, Italy

 

  • What book you’re reading right now: A couple, actually – PERSONAL DEMONS, the REPLACEMENT, and PRIVATE

 

  • What song is playing on your MP3, iPod, or Pandora channel: I have a quick mix on my Pandora station, playing soundtrack music a la Zimmer, and Evanescence style music. Right now, it’s playing music from the video game Halo.

 

Thanks for having me Laura!

 

Thanks for sharing, Christine!

Okay, gang, Christine has offered to give away a signed copy of her book! Simply leave a comment here and you’ll be entered to win. (PLUS, I’ll give an extra point each for Tweeting and Facebooking a link.) The deadline is one week from today–10/12 at midnight EST.

For more information about Christine and her book, check out these sites!

Website

Blog

Find me on Facebook or Twitter

Order the book.

Want an e-reader version? Order here.

Read the first chapter here.

BLOG CHAIN–What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

M’kay, y’all ready? I get to start of the blog chain this time. *cracks knuckles*

My question: Regarding your writing career, what’s the best mistake you’ve ever made and why?

This question was inspired by a Yahoo article I came across a couple weeks ago, title Five Mistakes Everyone Should Make. (FYI: I’m not a big follower of news and Yahoo articles as such, but the caption totally piqued my curiosity.) The five mistakes are:

  1. Totally embarrass yourself–done, done, and DONE! (This will be an ongoing adventure for me, let me tell you!)
  2. Ruffle people’s feathers–in other words, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion (though I’d recommend finding the most tactful way possible of doing that, just sayin’).
  3. Follow trends blindly–um, yeah, so I’m gonna confess I’m not so much into this one…
  4. Be willing to fail–doing something you love–ding, ding, ding! We have a winner here, folks!
  5. Carelessly put yourself at risk–again, not something I’d ascribe to wholeheartedly, but you do have to take some risks to break outside your comfort zone, no?

Alrighty, so, getting back to number 4. When I read this, I totally thought about my writerly life. I never expected the journey to have the extreme highs and lows that it does. I never expected to take it this far. I never expected to spend like 99.9% of my free time writing or obsessing about writing. I never expected to meet such wonderful, supportive, knowledgeable, and smart people–who have experienced THE SAME HIGHS AND LOWS AS ME! (It is comforting to feel understood, am I right?)

The idea of willingness to fail at something you love is a tough one to swallow. I wanna be successful. I wanna make millions (*snort* I can’t believe I just said that, cuz $ isn’t a high priority to me, at least consciously, but still, who doesn’t dream of making it big?). More importantly, I want to be proud of completing something that is wholly creative and respected. I wanna hold my book(s) in my hands. I want to share them with the world.

I’m not saying anything y’all haven’t thought, right?

It’s becoming strikingly clear to me that in order to do this, I need to fall down flat on my face–several times, in fact–and learn from what I’ve done wrong. It’s the mistakes in life that help us figure out how to improve ourselves. Flubbing something up makes us stop, stare at it, and find a better solution.

There’s another aspect of this idea. I put a TON of pressure on myself to be successful, perfect, and fantabulous. Problem is, that pressure comes from a fear of failure. It’s only when I let go of that fear and become willing to fail and make mistakes (for the sake of learning and improving myself) that I can face my work with a sense of freedom and enjoyment.

And that, my friends, is the answer to my best writerly mistake–being willing to fail at something I love.

I’m working on this mistake with every revision, with every new project, with every opportunity to critique/beta someone’s work.

I pick myself up by the proverbial bootstraps every time I fail. Every. Time.

My work gets stronger. I take feedback better. I grow. I learn.

I accept failure as means to success.

What say you, dear friends? How do you approach mistakes?

Check out the insightful Michelle H’s post tomorrow for her answer!