Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time Off for Good Behavior

I tend to stay busy and I don’t believe in harboring boredom. My husband claims I don’t know how to relax because even when I’m doing something simple like watching a movie or reading a book I’m still analyzing and thinking like a writer. The thought of lounging on a beach or vegging in front of the TV all day ups my stress level. That time could be used more productively says my brain. Some of us are hardwired that way, I suppose.

I have a perpetual to-do list in regards to every aspect of my life (a tiny fraction of which is all you get to see online.)  And if I slow down at all, I tend to get sick. I think I derive more misery from being incapable of working than from all the coughs, sniffles, and belly aches I get.

What has this to do with writing (since that’s the side you care about, right?) In spite of my manic need to keep busy I realize there is such a thing as down-time with writing. It’s great if you have a daily word count goal or can even have the luxury of writing hours as your work hours. Sometimes it’s necessary to re-prioritize and remember there is a person behind the writing, you. After a fruitful and long stint of writing, I reached the end of a story, wrote it and realized I bombed the ending. It was okay but it wasn’t stellar. I went back to work the next day and the next, tore out the ending, rewrote it three times, and became a puddle of tears and nerves. I needed a break.

The stress hit me so hard at the time. I’d let other major parts of my life back-up while I tried to meet a writing goal. So now I had not only failed to meet my goal to my satisfaction but I had an overload of other obligations to meet. I literally developed severe chest pains. That’s when I had to walk away from my desk and remember I’m not only a person, but one with a life and limitations.

A story is a story. There’s enormous pressure to write something of bestseller or breakout status. Aside from that, if we’re active in the writing community there’s the illusion that everyone else is able to eat, sleep, and breathe their writing. Then there are the true-life accounts of famous writers who let themselves go for the sake of art and destroyed their health, their reputations, and their outside lives.

What is the point of writing about the human condition if we can’t actually live it? Maybe you agree with that, and maybe you don’t. It’s alright. I had to step back and ask myself that question a couple of weeks ago. There are other, larger, parts of my life that I can’t neglect. I don’t want to neglect them either. So in a fit of pain and rock bottom depression, I put away my writing. I focused on catching up on other things and on the people in my life.

Have you ever reached the brink like that or had to put the writing away for awhile? What do you do to balance your writing life with your regular life?

Two weeks later, I’m not completely caught up where I want to be, but that’s normal. I think I’d be more frustrated if I didn’t have things to do. I’m easing back into the writing and reading, and hopefully I won’t bite off more than I can chew this next year.

*Update: I finished the book yesterday. The time off did a world of good.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blog Spotlight #18: Questions and Archetypes

Time to direct your attention to another blog. I like to follow blogs for awhile before recommending them as a good resource. Today, please pop over and visit J.W. Troemner’s blog and be sure to check out the archives. She’s got some fantastic posts on writing. What validates her advice is her great writing skills. I’ve had the privilege of reading some of her work so I know she knows what she’s talking about. Oh, and check out her "About Me" page, for a dose of her personality.

You can find the blog here.
You can follow her on Twitter here.
And if you’re already on Agent Query Connect, look for Moonshade.

I'm happy to have gotten to know her a bit and have every expectation of seeing her published soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What is Speculative Fiction, Exactly?

As some of you may already know, I’m a moderator at Agent Query Connect and I primarily host and run the Speculative Fiction Group. We were formerly the Fantasy, Science-Fiction, YA Resource Networking Group (quite a mouthful) and the dreadful name had to be changed. Since the change I’ve noted some confusion in members of my group and for others who aren’t sure AQC even has a group representing their genres.

It might surprise some to learn that the term speculative fiction is more widely used than you know. In essence, speculative fiction is a blanket term for all genres containing speculative and amazing elements.

For one of the best descriptions I’ve found, take a moment to read this article by N.E. Lilly at GreenTentacles.com.

Speculative fiction isn't degrading since it spans comic books to literary gems with magic realism elements. Most fictional books written fall under the bracket of speculative fiction for humans love to use their imaginations and speculate on "what if?" The next time someone asks you what you write, instead of cringing, admit you're a speculative fiction writer. You're part of a large group of writers who not only entertain and enlighten but who examine the human condition in ways other genres can't or won't.

I don't recommend using speculative fiction as a genre designation in a query letter or store bookshelf since industry professionals like us to be more specific as to which branch of speculative fiction we are writing. (It would be nice in reverse if agents listed speculative fiction in their looking-for guidelines.)

So if you are a member of AQC, you write a speculative genre, and you've wondered where you belong, be sure to check out my group. If you have run across the term speculative fiction on the internet and have wondered if it applies to you, hopefully this post has helped.

For more clarification on speculative genres, I'll do another post soon to break down some of the subgenres. If you've got a question regarding your subgenre you'd like me to touch upon, please let me know in the comments or e-mail me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friendship: Guest Post #5

Friendship is a central theme in the story I’m working on right now. So here is the last guest post from another of my writing friends. If you'd like to chime in on the theme or have something to say regarding friendship please feel free to comment.

My next guest blogger is Diana Robicheux. Diana is a paranormal writer, a talented artist, and a convention maven. You can find some of her artwork here. Thanks, Diana, for helping out with the theme!

When Clipper asked me if I would like to guest write about friendship, I told her yes without hesitating.  Then she gave me my topic “What kills friendships and possible ways to prevent it or deal with the loss of a friendship” and my brain went “Eek! How do I talk about THAT!”  After I thought about it, I realized I’m probably more acquainted with the topic than I’d like to admit. 
Losing a friend sucks.  No matter how or why it happens or how old we are, it sucks.  Sometimes it’s our fault, theirs, or nobody’s.  These are some of the major friendship killers that popped into my head, ones that I’ve been through.

1.  Losing Touch:
We’ve probably all been through this one.  We say goodbye to our friends at graduations and when we change jobs or move. 
Long distance friendships used to be hard to maintain, but it’s pretty easy these days between cell phones, e-mail and voice chats.  So if you say you’ll keep in touch, just do it.  Don’t forget to remember your friends, even if they’re not right in front of you every day.  I have a lot of great friends, some of whom I’ve never even met in person, so there’s no excuse to let physical distance be an obstacle to our friendships. 
But what do we do if the person we thought was such a close friend doesn’t return our calls or e-mails?  First, don’t be too impatient.  They may have things going on that are taking all their attention.  Wait a few months then try again, but if they don’t respond then it’s best to take a deep breath and move on. 

2.  The Replacement:  
The first friend I lost was in sixth grade.  I was out sick for a few days and another girl took my place, literally.  She took my desk (with all my stuff in it) and my friend.  First, I told the teacher she was in my desk so the teacher made her move.  Next, I tried to make friends with the new girl too.  I figured adding a new friend was better than losing the one I had.  But the new girl turned my friend against me, and that was the end of that friendship.  It was awkward and difficult to look at the two of them every day in class, until I made friends with my old friend’s twin brother.  New friends are the best way to soothe the pain of losing an old one and him being her own twin brother was just cake.
Don’t exclude your old friends if you make new ones.  Introduce them if you can.  Maybe you’ll end up with a whole new circle of friends.

3.  Misunderstandings and Disagreements:
Losing a friend to a misunderstanding is tragic.  Sometimes a misspoken word or an action taken out of context can derail a friendship and we may not know why.  Hopefully we’ll give our friends the benefit of the doubt or at least time to explain themselves before dumping them over something we may not even have the right idea about. 
If we have a disagreement with a friend over anything, decide what’s more important: the friend or the argument.  Is your opinion, or theirs, worth losing the friendship over if you can’t find common ground?  Friends don’t always have to agree to make their friendship work.  If there are “touchy subjects” (politics, religion, etc.) that could hurt your relationship or the other person simply avoid those issues.  There are plenty of other things to talk about. 

4.  Breaking “The Code”:
Since there may be a few out there who don’t know what “The Code” is, I’ll elaborate.  “The Code” is the understanding between friends that boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses are off limits period, even after a break-up (unless the friend gives their permission.)
It goes without saying that this is a deal killer.  Friendship over.  Walk away.  I’ve been through that kind of betrayal and I can honestly say that there’s no way to repair the friendship after it happens.  Turn to other friends or find new ones to help get you through it and let it go.  I know, easier said than done, but it really is the only way.  Don’t even let yourself think about them.  Take a trip and get away from the situation all together if possible.  If not, treat yourself to something you love.  Ice cream or chocolates are easier on the budget than diamonds, so keep that in mind.  No matter what, keep your head.  Neither one of them is worth doing something stupid over.

5.  How NOT to Lose a Friend:
The best way to keep our friends is to BE a good friend.  Keep in touch, just being there may mean more to them than you realize, even if “being there” is by phone or on-line.  Don’t fight over insignificant things.  Treat each other with respect.   But if it happens anyway, make some new ones.  In the mean time, there’s always chocolate.

--Diana R

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Casual Baggage and Adventure

To start with: 8 items you never pack...but should

I love a good adventure story, especially the kind where someone has to use their ingenuity and whatever they have on hand to survive or outwit their antagonist. In my current manuscript one of my characters is taken from her world and whatever she happens to have with her become important tools to help her adapt and survive in a new world. She carries with her basic stuff like homework, snacks, a couple of gadgets (of the communicative and musical type), and a small emergency kit (needle and thread.) As the story progresses, she finds she can use most of these things to be proactive and in some cases do some epic things.

If you were to be abducted today while out and about, what would you have on you that might be useful? What's your favorite survival story and what basic, everyday item used in it made you smile or think "Cool!"? Do you have a story of your own where a character must do the same thing or something similar? When you travel what is the one thing you have to have no matter what?