friday writing inspiration

Friday Writing Inspiration from Neil Gaiman

neil-gaiman-writing-quote I'm finally back to doing my regular Friday afternoon writing inspiration. And boy, do I need inspiration, because between The Romantics coming out and getting married, I am way behind on all my deadlines.

Anyway, this one comes from fellow children's book author and storyteller extraordinaire, Neil Gaiman: “Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.” ― Neil Gaiman

Key word, sometimes! And we're really lucky when it does.

I really like this quote because it reminds me of what I was going for in The Romantics. It might not be my own love story, but there's elements of my own experiences on every page. And I'm hoping that even though it's all technically a "lie," that it will feel true to readers out there.

Happy Friday and happy reading!

 

Friday Writing Inspiration: Stephen King

IMG_8239.PNG It's Friday, and I'm hard at work on kicking off new ideas and getting ready to promote the hell out of old ones :D

It's a good problem to have: Over the next 2-3 years, I'll have 4 books coming out. It's an absolute dream, and I am so thankful every day to get to do this writing thing.

But dream or no dream, when you're working on this many projects, it means as soon as you let something go you're off to concepting and drafting once again. The good news is, I can't exactly get lazy--I have deadlines to account for, after all (even if I do tend to always get them pushed just a little bit). But the bad news is, with all the writing going on, I've been a bit remiss in holding up Stephen King's second (and just as important) piece of advice: reading.

I've long believed that reading--and reading voraciously--is the best thing a writer can do to educate themselves. Better than an MFA, better than craft workshops, better than obsessively reading advice on the internet from their author heros. I'm not saying that all of these don't have an important place in improving one's writing, but no amount of instruction is going to even come close to the sheer amount of learning a writer does by simply soaking up other writers' words.

It's why I am not a snob about reading. I read in most genres, literally and super-commercial, high-brow and low-brow (though I hate those designations).

But over the past few months, as the deadlines have loomed and the emails from editors have repeatedly showed up in my inbox reminding me of another deadline once one has passed, I haven't taken the time to make much of a dent in my TBR pile.

So here's to reading! Over the last week, I've gone back to my first love and have tried to choose reading over TV/Internet/insert-timesuck-here. Because I love TV, and I like the Internet, at least, but nothing is so amazing as a damn good book.

So here's to writing--and reading--and taking King's advice to heart!

Happy Friday, y'all.

Friday Writing Inspiration: Blake Snyder's Save the Cat

recite-2ivjg2 Save the Cat has quite a reputation in the writing community, both for screenwriters and novelists, and now that I've finally read it, it's not hard to see why. It lays out structure in such a clear, easy-to-understand way, and even if you've written lots of stuff before, it makes all the rules you know and rely on all the sharper.

Screenwriters live and breathe structure, but novelists and short story writers, not so much. At least we're not told to. Creative writing classes, from high school through college and beyond, often focus on the prose, itself. They tell you to show instead of tell, to make the dialogue natural and conversational, to avoid cliches and trite phrasing, to not be so heavy-handed, etc., etc. This is all well and good, but this is all part of polishing. Making the words themselves beautiful, engaging, honest. This all assumes that you know how to craft a story in the first place.

Which so many of us struggle with. In fact, many of us get the advice that we should just write the story as it naturally comes to us and not get bogged down in structure and rules. It's literature, after all! Art!

That's why I love this quote of Blake Snyder's. You can break the rules. You can turn them upside down and defy cliche. But it's a lot easier to do once you know and can articulate exactly what those rules are.

Friday Writing Inspiration: Joyce Carol Oates

recite-1152fz0 On this fine Friday, I'm honing in on an idea for my next novel. I'm talking, beat-sheet, spur-of-the-moment trips to Barnes & Noble to finally read Save the Cat, kind of honing. I've posted about this before, and I know there are two pretty divisive schools of thought on whether outlining does or does not stifle creativity, but I consider myself pretty solidly in the outlining camp these days. And books like Save the Cat only help me sharpen those skills. So I'm wondering if you guys agree with this quote from the awesome Joyce Carol Oates. I saw her speak at a reading in New York a couple of years ago, and she said something very similar. It struck me at the time, because I was a non-outliner then. Now, however, while I wouldn't go so far as to say that you have to have the ending fully planned out, I definitely recognize the benefit of having a solid game plan.

What do you guys think? Is this kind of advice stifling or simply practical?

Happy writing, and happy Friday!

Friday Writing Inspiration: Margaret Atwood and Questions and Answers in Fiction

Margaret Atwood writing quoteHappy Friday. After a bit of a hiatus (including sunning on Miami Beach and a lot of writing), I'm back to the blog. This Friday, I'm finding particular inspiration in the amazing Margaret Atwood. I'll admit, I'm rather late to the Atwood game. Though I've heard myriad good things about her over the years, I only recently read her work, beginning with THE HANDMAID'S TALE and ORYX AND CRAKE, and I'm just now finishing THE ROBBER BRIDE. I can't say enough about her style, the way she weaves words together, the way she explores metaphors to the Nth degree, the way in which language is important even to her characters. In her works, Atwood asks a lot of questions about science, society, sex, women's role in the home and the world, and so much more. She asks "what if" a lot, and what she gets back is often terrifying. It is in this asking, however, that she shows us just how important our own humanity is. Without it, these what-ifs could come true. In the case of THE HANDMAID'S TALE, many of them already have.

In the midst of these larger questions, Atwood tucks in smaller ones, and maybe those are even the most enchanting. Why is their no comparable word for "fraternize" is one of my favorites. In THE HANDMAID'S TALE, Offred says: "Fraternize means to behave like a brother. Luke told me that. He said there was no corresponding word that meant to behave like a sister. Sororize, it would have to be, he said. From the Latin. He liked knowing about such details."

It is the role of all of us to ask questions, writers and otherwise, and while we may not yet be adept in asking the types of questions that Atwood does, we may also not be meant to ask these same questions. This is why I love her quote so much. It's not so much that there are right and wrong answers, but rather that we all have our different questions. And by posing those, we hopefully share some glimmer of truth with our readers and ourselves.

Writers, what questions do you ask? Do you find answers as you write?

Friday Writing Inspiration: Zen Pencils

Ralph Waldo Emerson Zen Pencils Quote

Happy Friday! I usually post a quote that I find inspirational, but today, I'd rather share an Australian artist who does the same as me, but does a much much better job. I first discovered the work of Gavin Aung Than when a fellow writer linked to this incredibly inspiring post on Facebook. Gavin explores, among other things, the struggle artists creators (and hell, humans) have in adapting to a corporate life. As a fiction writer with a day job, I can definitely relate.

But more than exploring the corporate world, Gavin turns some of my favorite inspiring quotes about things like making art, being kindrespecting others and making the most of here and now like no one else. While these are other people's quotes, Gavin creates his own story around them--and in this case, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Above is one of the free posters Gavin shares when you sign up for his newsletter. I definitely recommend it!

 

Friday Writing Inspiration: Robert Graves Quote, Money and Writing

robert-graves-writing-money-quote

 

Happy Friday! Today, I'm enamored by this quote by poet and novelist, Robert Graves. It reminds us that money can never be the end-goal of writing, but that that's okay.

Sometimes, I think it's almost easier to say you're not in it for the money before you get published, because even if it's a long-shot, you can always dream of your book going to auction, of that huge deal, of being the next J.K. Rowling right out the door (p.s. not even J.K. Rowling was J.K. Rowling right out the door), but once you get your first deal, you're faced with a number, a paper, a contract. You have a dollar amount that says: This is how much your art is worth.

While I'm working hard towards a time when that dollar amount is enough to be my sole income, it's important to remember that that is not the goal. The goal is to write something beautiful and of value to others--and to yourself. Some art will be rewarded monetarily, some won't. Some works that are not authentic hardly truly valuable will earn money in droves. It's a lottery ticket. But for now, at least, I feel very thankful that some people, during these crazy economic times, are willing to shell out a few bucks for The After Girls, something that is very special and important to me.

So here's to writing, and here's to day jobs, eating in, and all the other things that are a part of a writer's life.

Friday Writing Inspiration: Stephen King Quote and Why Fiction Rocks

Stephen King writing quote--fiction Happy Friday! I am blessed this weekend to have a lovely friend in town, so it's unlikely that I will do quite as much writing as I really should. But either way, how true and awesome is this quote by the great Stephen King?

I once explained to my boyfriend (a great lover of non-fiction) that I thought, in a lot of cases, fiction has a greater impact than non-fiction. Essentially, it is truth (at the least good fiction is), just delivered in a package we can all relate to, connect with and understand.

News and opinion and 24-hour cable and Twitter updates may make us a little crazy, it may make us all un-friend each other on Facebook and argue about the events of the day. This week has proven more than anything that it may polarize us, and that when we're in news mode, we are often unable to see things in a new light and be open to other points of views. Not saying non-fic isn't incredibly important, but in some instances, I think fiction and drama can be far more powerful, and instead of dividing us according to issues, it unites us through emotions and relationships and pages and pages of mini-truths that we can connect with.

Those are my thoughts, at least.

Happy Friday, and happy writing!

Friday Writing Inspiration: Nature and All Its Wonders

Mt. Shasta, Northern California I'm a day late for my usual "Friday Writing Inspiration" post, but in lieu of posting a writing quote that gets me (and hopefully you) inspired, on this lovely holiday weekend, since I'm in glorious Mt. Shasta, where one of my good friends from New York, Blaire, grew up, I thought it a bit more fitting to post something from here. Above is the view from the living room at her parents' house, where Thomas and I are staying until tomorrow. We've spent the last two days eating good food outside, participating in the town's Fourth-of-July festivities (only in NoCal would the town fun run include belly dancers), swimming across lakes, discovering underwater trees, drinking watermelon beer on a barge, and playing games with her whole family.

Today, we're off to do rock climbing, a long bike ride to a brewery, a drive up to the mountain, and possibly indulge in some waterfall action. Needless to say, in the midst of all the activities, I'm not getting much writing done. But that's okay. It's good to have a mini sabbatical from my morning routine of exploring the inner workings of my crazy head (writing a novel), and to be with the mountains and the trees and the leaves and the sky and remember why we all write in the first place--to capture just a hint of the beauty and the struggle and the truth of the world around us.

Since I usually share a quote, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorites from Emerson.

“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship."

Happy holiday weekend, and happy writing.

Leah