This Never Happened to Me Before

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...

I am in deep thought, too...but with clothes on...Image via Wikipedia

I wanted to write a simple post today about something that I did in high school and intersperse some observations about the writing life and the writing craft in it. You may have noticed I sometimes “set the scene” with a little vignette that’s meant to set up the “meat” of the post.

Well, as I was setting up my little vignette, something strange happened. It started to spin out into this who non-fiction piece. I started to say profound things without trying. My mind unfolded to similies and metaphors without effort. All of a sudden, instead of introducing a blog post, I was writing a creative non-fiction piece.

I’ve sat down to write and not been able to come up with anything. I’ve started writing and had a piece go pear-shaped. I’ve even started writing and have a character (or an entire piece) take a sharp left turn. But I’ve never had a blog post go all “real writing” on me.

The thing is, I was thinking about sharing some of my writing here–not a lot, I still have trust issues, you understand–but I didn’t think it would be non-fiction or, well, on this topic. When I envisioned myself sharing a piece with you, I envisioned it being a little poetry, or a mini-scene. I was going to do some flash fiction exercises or something on here, you know, nothing fancy that may possibly get published later (I mean, don’t magazines want first publication rights? Would posting something on my blog count as publication? Help!).

I was so blindsided with an attack of the green-eyed monster and my problems building a big blog following that I almost missed the fact that I’ve had several ideas that could further stories this week. For example, the very non-fiction piece I’m speaking of brought to mind an area in the dorms where residents practiced music that would be perfect for A Blues for Zora (somewhere–I’m thinking Hershey’s place? Hmm…). I was also thinking that it’s perfectly normal for someone approaching their class reunion age to have a quarter life crisis, as per the wikipedia definition that came up on a post I was writing. I even thought how much better my chick lit is going to be than something I’m reading right now, because I am not doing something that’s standard chick but am going to do something that’s so Bildungsroman. And it will all be EPIC.

To what unexpected places has a blog post draft led you? Maybe for you, through the act of typing up a post, some miraculous insight into writing, your works in progress, or life, has hit you. Maybe you were struck with the idea of making the post a series of post. Whatever it was, feel free to share!

Roses by Other Names

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

My story isn't this campy...nor does it has as good of a tagline...sigh... Image via Wikipedia

You can never underestimate the power of a good name. Maybe a rose would smell the same, but would as many people shell out fifty bucks for a bouquet of Pukes or Drivels (assuming all words held the same meaning save rose)? A name should in some way describe what something is at its core, whether the connection is obvious right away or reveals itself over time–like Oranges or Killer Bees.

Seeing as names are so important, it’s no wonder I am wrestling with naming this NaNoWriMo Novel. When I ponder pitching my book to an agent in a query letter, the current title is one of the things that bothers me (never mind I’m not even finished with the first draft, let alone ready to query; this is just how my brain works). After quite a few attempts at tweaking it, it still doesn’t fit.

Usually, I’m pretty happy with the titles that I come up with for my works. They usually say something about what I’m trying to convey with the piece, or focuses on something central to the plot or main character. In this instance, I know what I want the title to focus in on, but I have no idea how to convey this without being…cheesy.

I know that Chick Lit can stand a little cheese, but my writing is one of the few things I don’t want cheese on! Even though a lot of the story is fun and sweet, there’s a real message I am trying to subtly get across. I want this book to be one you wouldn’t mind passing along to a friend. A cheesy title isn’t going to cut it.

The feel I’m going for is something class reunion/class related. Feel free to ramble about how you were when you were in school, or how your high school reunion went, or who you dreaded seeing. Maybe by hearing how it went for other people, something will be sparked in my brain that will eventually lead me to the right title for my masterpiece.

Living Happily (Enough) Ever After…

they walked off into the sunset and lived happ...

Image by plousia via Flickr

I have been writing long enough to know that for some characters, living happily ever after is not part of the deal. It’s still one of the things I struggle with as a writer, though. I don’t always like what has to happen to characters, how the stories have to end. I fight with myself, trying to be true to the story and “fair” to the characters.

I’m even conflicted about other people’s endings. When I was in college, we read Edith Wharton‘s House of Mirth in The Nature of Literary Study. While my teacher (whose area of expertise, as I recall, was eighteenth and ninteenth century works like Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke and other such things) waxed lyrical about Wharton’s descriptions people and places, I fell in love with the spirited main character, Lily Barth (I think; it’s been five years or so). She was plucky and manipulative and social climbing. She was the original version of the independent woman, someone who forces her way into society to marry up, but is picky about it. I kept hoping she would give up her social climbing ways and marry the sweet nice guy, but she didn’t. She ended up horribly impoverished. I hoped she would rise up from poverty like a phoenix from the ashes, scarred but all the better for it, but…well, you know what happened.

If you don’t know what happened, suffice it to say, I was unhappy with Edith Wharton for a long time after that. I still haven’t picked up another Edith Wharton book, even though I think she’s one of the best writer’s I’ve ever read. Her command of language is amazing to behold. But she was a Naturalist writer, scientific and removed in her rendering of characters. She seemed to have no problem letting anyone get exactly what was their due.

Luckily, in Chick Lit, it’s possible for characters to get their comeuppance without cutting off the possibility that they could be happy and soldier on. In fact, this is exactly the result of the movie version of Confessions of a Shopaholic (I must confess I haven’t read the book, but I will). SPOILER ALERT: I usually do NOT spoil movies, but it makes my point.

Still reading? OK, then. But you were warned.

The main character’s lies were found out, she had to pay all the money back and go to therapy, but she learned her lesson, grew up, and got another chance with the hot guy.  

I hated how they changed the ending of The Devil Wears Prada when they went from the book to the big screen; I felt the book ending was more empowering and felt right, but Hollywood does that sometimes. But that’s the kind of ending I want for my chick lit book–harsh, but right, with some redemption and hope. Most of all, I want the main character to grow up!

I still don’t know how this will happen; the writing will have to be completed before I know who finds her out and what they will do about it.

It’s nearly impossible for me to successfully complete NaNoWriMo at this point. It’s true I have eight days, six of which I am off work, and miracles happen everyday, but I won’t hold my breath. I will be content with having written well, and consistently. There isn’t much that I would need to trim because it’s just filler, so far. I have a solid first draft. I hope I can continue on and do justice to what I feel is a really good story.

I may change the title to Confessions of a Compulsive Liar–it’s more catchy than the title I have.

How do you deal with having to let bad things happen to good characters? Do you have a problem with letting it happen, or do you just wrap the book up before the worst happens? Suggestions are welcome.

One Chick’s Lit

Cover of "Bridget Jones's Diary"

Cover of Bridget Jones's Diary

My NaNoWriMo novel is my first attempt at Chick Lit. I have a love/hate relationship with the Chick Lit genre, mainly because for some reason, many authors get away with subpar writing in this genre. It’s a gripe I have with many genres, such as urban fiction and whatever it is that the Twilight books fall into (but you’ll hear me talk about that later). The second problem I have with it, like with many other genres, has little to do with the writing and more to do with the fact that no matter what I write, I will be stuck in literary segregation in the bookstore (more on that in a later post as well).

However, I do love some Chick Lit, and I like what the genre does when it is working well.

I fell in love with chick lit when I read one book: Bridget Jones’ Diary. I got the book from Amazon along with some other books, and I couldn’t put it down. I remember that it was cold when I read it, and I wasn’t in school at the time. I remember wearing sweats and bundling up in a blanket on the living room couch, reading voraciously. Bridget flitted from one cringe-worthy moment to another, getting herself in all kinds of trouble that her friends good naturedly tried to help her out of. She had a dead end job, a crappy relationship (when she had one), and crazy friends. As the book went on, her whole life was transformed. She blossomed right before my eyes. It was what all women wanted–to achieve success in career and love without losing the wonderful friends who made life worth it when you had neither. It was girl power–er, woman power.

That’s what I want for my NaNoWriMo novel. My heroine is not finding love–at the start of the action, she has a great man. She has one really great girlfriend (not the optimum three). Her job leaves a lot to be desired but her life is pretty boring. That is, her life is boring except she is a compulsive liar–a well-meaning one, but that’s what she is. She lies about everything. The thing is, she wants it to be the truth, and starts out trying to make it the truth, but life gets in the way. The next thing you know, time slips away and she is faced with delivering on the lies or being humiliated and shamed. She may also lose her amazing man.

I will tell you more about the story as it develops, but I am excited about it. I want to eventually publish it. It should be ready just in time for all the events in the book to have happened (some take place in 2011). We will see.

I’ve never read many of the current favorites of the genre–the Shopaholics books, the ones with Sweet Potato in the title–which all appear to be serials, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it. What I hope to find in them, as I hope can be found in my own work, is good/great writing, fun & laughter, character growth, an emphasis on female friendship, expansion on what it means to be a woman from one woman’s existence, and a way to create a dialogue about something larger than shoes & purses.

What’s your NaNoWriMo novel about? What are you hoping your book would add to the genre if published? What great book inspired your love of the genre?

P.S. Love the clinical word for compulsive liars: Pseudologia Fantastica–sounds sexy! 😀

Your Introductory Course to Me

Misery (novel)

Image via Wikipedia

“Hello there,” you say, staring at the back of my head, angling your neck to try and get a better view of my face. I see you clearly reflected in the window in front of me. “I thought that was you!”

You appear delighted to see me, but I have no idea why. I’ve been dodging you for days, turning into alleys and crossing the street without thought to danger or destination whenever I saw your beige trenchcoat and stylized bedhead hair.

I’ve been waiting for you to catch me, turn your head faster than I can duck out of sight and raise a casual hand of greeting. I thought you had once, but you were signally a taxi. It made my heart race to almost be caught, just as it’s beating now…

I turn and extend a hand, one corner of my mouth upturned, the other a straight slash…

***

All of the above is fiction. I don’t make a habit of dodging people, but I am not a fan of introducing myself either. I usually don’t spend much time doing so (as my other blogs will attest). I usually just jump right in with wherever I am and catch you up as we go along. So, without further ado my life right now:

  • I am participating in NaNoWriMo; in other words, I am a nutcase. I still don’t know why I signed up for it. This is my first time attempting it, and I am well below the total I’m supposed to have at this point. More on this later.
  • Oh, and my NaNoWriMo novel is my first attempt at Chick Lit. Oh, boy, will you hear more on that later.
  • I am reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s a well written book. I found it a little slow at first, but I’m beginning to see her genius. I usually read on my lunch break from work (I work for a company and do stuff–I’m sorry; that was deliberately vague). So far, on said lunch break, I’ve read Stephen King‘s Misery, Carrie, & It, along with a litany of Harlequin romance novels; I am now attempting to be more literary.
  • I’m moving in two weeks time, which only adds to the fun of working, reading, and writing–with packing!
  •  I think this is one of the coolest blog names ever!
  • There are a million and one things to do to this blog–I hope you stay around long enough to see me at my best
  • Yes, I realize I spelled “copyright” wrong; that was intentional.
  • This blog, at the moment, will be about me as a writer, reader, and literary thinker. However, due to chronic random-itis, I may digress into random observations that have nothing to do with any of the aforementioned things.
  •  Does anyone else feel like Paul Sheldon in Misery sometimes?–Not that some crazed fan is breaking your legs and holding you hostage, but that writing, while slow at first, sort of becomes a rabbit hole for you, to get away from all the pressure and stress of the everyday? I also feel like writing is something I can’t afford to not do–albeit for a different reason.

Enough of my rambling. Welcome. Kick of your shoes and stay a while. Pardon the mess.