writing

Friday Writing Inspiration: Anthony Trollope Writing Quote

Anthony Trollope Writing Quote

One of my favorite authors, and now, one of my favorite quotes. I'm not sure why Anthony Trollope never gets taught in school. He's a British serial novelist who is, in my opinion, absolutely brilliant. His stories are so captivating and enjoyable, yet still very well-written, like a high-class old-time soap opera. But of course, Dickens get all the praise and attention when it comes to serial novelists. I actually only found out about Trollope through a bookseller in Williamsburg's recommendation. I owe to him a better lit education than I ever received from a college professor.

Anyway, anyone who's read Trollope (and please, read Trollope! Start with He Knew He Was Right. Plus, than you can watch the BBC miniseries.) knows that his writing appears effortless. His books are thousands of pages, and I've yet to come across so much as a turn of phrase that's awkward.  It's refreshing to know that what appear so easy for him, was actually quite labored.

So here's to lots of work--and lots of beautiful writing!

Happy Friday!

Leah

Friday Writing Inspiration: Jack London Writing Quote

Jack London Writing QuoteThat's definitely me this weekend, hiking around the frightening wilderness of my mind, club in hand and desperately trying to turn my novel idea into a full novel (coming up on the 1/3 done point!). Now that I've dramatically discussed my writing process, hope you can glean some inspiration from this awesome quote! Happy Friday and happy writing!

Leah

20 Awesome Quotes About San Francisco

Last Time We Were Us_REV SNAPMy two years in San Francisco has a special place in my writing career. After all, it's where I wrote almost all of THE LAST TIME WE WERE US. SF is truly a magical place, and while I doubt I'll be setting any books here in the near future (North Carolina is for the time being, my setting of choice), the energy of the city was awesome to soak up, only for a little bit. It definitely inspired me, and it was a wonderful place to compose my novel.

Here are a few quotes from writers--and non-writers--about the city by the bay.

“One day if I go to heaven … I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.’”~Herb Cain

“The Bay Area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I’m here.”~Billy Graham

“My San Francisco on her seven hills is smiling, beside an opalescent sunset sea.” ~George Caldwell

“I have always been rather better treated in San Francisco than I actually deserved.”~Mark Twain

“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.”~William Saroyan

“Perpetual spring, the flare of adventure in the blood, the impulse of men who packed Virgil with their bean-bags on the overland journey, conspired to make San Francisco a city of artists.”~William Henry Irwin

“I don’t know of any other city where you can walk through so many culturally diverse neighborhoods, and you’re never out of sight of the wild hills. Nature is very close here.”~Gary Snyder

“You know what it is? It’s a golden handcuff with the key thrown away.”~John Steinbeck

“San Francisco has only one drawback—‘tis hard to leave.”~Rudyard Kipling

“San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.”~Paul Kantner

“God took the beauty of the Bay of Naples, the Valley of the Nile, the Swiss Alps, the Hudson River Valley, rolled them into one and made San Francisco Bay.”~Fiorello La Guardia

“I’m just mad for San Francisco. It is like London and Paris stacked on top of each other.”~Twiggy

“San Francisco is poetry. Even the hills rhyme.”~Pat Montandon

“To a traveler paying his first visit, it has the interest of a new planet. It ignores the meteorological laws which govern the rest of the world.”~Fitz Hugh Ludlow

“San Francisco is a city where people are never more abroad than when they are at home.”~Benjamin F. Taylor

“It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”~Oscar Wilde

“If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco. If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life.”~William Saroyan

“Los Angeles? That’s just a big parking lot where you buy a hamburger for the trip to San Francisco.”~John Lennon

“Money lives in New York. Power sits in Washington. Freedom sips Cappuccino in a sidewalk cafe in San Francisco.”~Joe Flower

"I'm proud to have been a Yankee. But I have found more happiness and contentment since I came back home to San Francisco than any man has a right to deserve. This is the friendliest city in the world."~Joe DiMaggio

The Bad Writing Party and Why Everyone Is a Writer

bad-writing-partyAbout a year ago, one of my best friends in New York had a brilliant idea--throw a Bad Writing Party where everyone brings one or two examples of their worst writing: cheesy short stories, embarrassing cover letters, novels you started when you were eight, etc. Let's just say it was a hit.

I read from a few overly descriptive and indulgent stories for an introductory creative writing course in college, a friend read from her middle school journal, another girl read her child fantasy novel (along with a story inspired by her love for Ryan Gosling); one guy even played for the group a recording of him singing a song he'd written for his high school girlfriend. I'm sure it was enhanced, at least a little, by the wine, but it was hilarious (there I am, above, trying to keep a straight face).

One thing we started to notice was that all the bad writing wasn't really all that bad. Sure, they all needed a good edit, and each had at least one or two cringe-worthy lines, but for the most part, each piece was pretty engaging. I'm not saying any of them would have made The New Yorker, but they all had something to say, and given that most of the pieces were written when we were younger, we were all saying it rather honestly (if not also terribly awkwardly and embarrassingly).

I've been calling myself a writer for awhile now, long before I had an agent or a publisher. I went to a reading once and the author said you just have to start saying that, because if you don't believe it, no one else will, and worse, you won't push yourself to actually be one. A lot of times I felt silly telling people about my books (No, they're not published yet. Working on that), but I still think it was important to say.

So many people I know wind up telling me these great stories and how they'd love to write a book but: "I'm not a writer." They say it as matter-of-factly as, "I have brown hair." I'm not a "writer" any more than they are, apart from the fact that I write regularly. I'm not saying that everyone has the potential to be the next Hemingway (most of us don't), but I also don't think that every respected author is a genius. They're just people who write often and even when they don't really want to and listen to the stories around them, in their pasts, and in their heads. They're hard workers.

The funny thing is that, as evidenced by our Bad Writing Party, no one says "I'm not a writer" when they're a kid. Instead, they just write.

Cover Debut, Catalog, and Amazon Link (This is Really Happening)

The After Girls Young Adult Novel Friday was a good day. A day when it really finally hit me. I have a book coming out and it is really, truly going to be published ... on paper ... with a cover and everything ... with my name!

A lot of things happened at once. A good friend of mine requested a catalog from my publisher to see if my book was featured. We were both surprised to see that it not only was in it, but it was on the front page! You can see it here.

About an hour later, I got a text from another good friend saying he saw my book on Amazon--another pleasant surprise! I knew it was all coming up soon, but I had no idea it would be available for pre-sale already. That's the cool (and at the same time trying) thing about  publishing your first book--you really have no idea how it works and are just along for the ride. Needless to say I was thrilled to see it actually for sale somewhere. It really made it feel real.

All that led me to the conclusion that my cover, which had been through some back and forth, was finally ready to be shown to the world. There is it up top (and on the side, and in the header, as well--don't judge me). I really love it and hope you guys do, too. When I first saw it, it wasn't what I expected, but I instantly knew that it conveyed the mood and the heart of the story perfectly.

I think one of the coolest things about all of yesterday's revelations is that I got the news not from my agent, not from my publisher (they're busy doing about a million things to get it ready), but from my friends. It's so encouraging to have people in my life who are so invested and supportive, they're discovering developments about the book before I even have a chance to look for them.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for all the support along the way. Much love from the West Coast!

Book Deal!!!

I've been meaning to announce this for awhile, but between being superstitious/paranoid about telling too early and the little matter of driving across the country, moving into a sublet, and setting to work finding a new apartment, I've been a little preoccupied.

That said, the contracts are signed, the revisions (which I completed--I kid you not--in the passenger seat of a 16-foot Budget truck) are in and accepted, and my first official novel, The After Girls, will be coming out from Adams Media/Merit Press Books in hardcover in spring 2013!

Even after getting and accepting the offer, talking to my editor, the talented Jacquelyn Mitchard (of The Deep End of the Ocean fame--good book, if you haven't read it already), and embarking on a light revision, I don't think the news really hit me until I saw the cover, which was the exact thing I never knew I wanted, and I will share it here as soon as it's ready and I'm allowed to. As my editor said, seeing the cover of your book for the first time is like meeting a child--you feel like you've known them forever even though you're seeing them for the first time.

Well, all I can say was that she was right. I'm thrilled that this thing I've created is going to be real and on paper, but mostly I'm just thrilled that so many people decided to take a chance on my story, from my amazing agent, Danielle Chiotti, to my friends, family, and boyfriend  who supported me the whole time I was writing it, to my Mediabistro writing group who gave me amazing notes, to the editor and publishing team who are putting it on the shelves.

More than that, I'm blessed to be embarking on this new phase of my writing life in a beautiful new city with my wonderful boyfriend, and in a new apartment (we sign a lease next week)--I only have to figure out the little matter of finding a new job.

It's weird how the good and the bad always seem to come together. My boyfriend and I moved out of NYC literally two days before Hurricane Sandy hit. And even though the coverage has waned in the wake of the election, there are still so many without power, without homes, mourning loved ones, eager to get back to work, having two-hour commutes each morning. I've been hesitant to talk about all the good things happening to me during this time, but all I can say is, I'm incredibly blessed--and incredibly grateful--and I'm thinking of the brave people of New York every day.

Can TV Watching Be Good for Your Writing?

Writing Inspiration: Breaking Bad

It's Saturday morning (pushing afternoon), and I'm sitting on the couch with coffee watching AMC's Breaking Bad. I have three writing projects I should be currently working on--reworking an article for a news site, completing an edit test for a potential gig in SF, and finishing revisions on my novel--and I am sitting here watching TV (well, technically, I'm taking a break even from that to blog).

In my defense, I did work on writing all day yesterday and a good bit this morning, but I'm telling myself that my TV indulgences (at least this one) are kind of like research. It seems to be common agreement that watching too much TV is lazy, non-productive, etc., whereas, reading is not. I definitely recognize that your mind is doing a lot more work when you're reading than it is when you're watching TV--plenty of studies have come out saying that TV numbs and even shuts off your brain--but my question is, if you're watching something with great writing, is it possible that you could get something out of it (besides just an escape from your to-do list)?

Given that I tend to write contemporary YA fiction, I'm mainly talking about realistic dramas. Some of the ones I've found most inspiring for their writing include Breaking Bad (shown above), Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Friday Night Lights (a clear winner). It's not even about the story or exact dialogue--with plots centering around meth dealing, advertising, and 1920s England, apart from FNL, what these characters are worried about has little to do with what any of my characters would be thinking about. That said, in all these shows, the writing feels very natural and real--it's not what they're saying so much as how they're saying it--the cadence, the choice to confront someone or not, the right silences, the difficulty they find in expressing themselves, the nuance when they say one thing and clearly mean another.

A great moment in this episode (Breaking Bad Season 4, Episode 3) comes when Jesse asks his older partner, Walt, "You want to do something?" after they've just finished a day of highly illegal drug-making. Walt asks him what he means, and he responds by describing a Go Kart place down the road. In the show, Jesse is dealing with guilt and depression after a lot of really heavy stuff, and the fact that he asks his partner to go Go Kart-ing is, to me, far more powerful than any breakdown, argument, or explanation of his unhappiness would be. It's just good writing.

What do you guys think--can I really be learning from TV, or am I just procrastinating?

To Outline or Not to Outline: Writing a Novel Starting in the Middle

The last couple of months I've been brewing ideas for a new novel, and I feel like I am finally ready to start something new. After a sad attempt at starting at the beginning (the writing was feeling really forced and just not there), I jotted down the first scene that came to my mind, and I loved it--it felt really natural and got me really jazzed about the project. The only problem is, I'm not sure where I'm going from there, whether this is now the beginning or somewhere in the middle, or possibly even the end.

I've read a lot about the writing process and there seem to be two major camps, Camp One: Outline, Outline, Only Geniuses Don't Outline, and Camp Two: Let the Characters Lead You and Enjoy the Ride (Even if You Have to do a Million Revisions). I'm not sure where I fall--for the first novel I wrote, right out of college, I stuck to an outline religiously, adapting and re-outlining if there were even small changes. I had a calendar of events, a list of scenes, detailed character descriptions down to what magazine each player read--everything. I wrote it in four months with about a year of revisions. For the second, I tried outlining again--I wanted to so badly--but it just wasn't working. It was like one of my favorite quotes about writing was truly playing out: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way" (E.L. Doctorow). It took me a good two years to write, plus probably six months of revisions, though I'm not sure if that is even accurate, as there was so much starting and restarting and jumping back and forth that it's hard to even remember. But it had a plot that I just don't think I would have been able to come up with in outline form. It came together in a way that I don't think it would have if not for the crazy, hair-pulling process.

All that said, I now feel like however I write number three is going to define my process. I really want to be the organized writer in Camp One, dutifully sitting with my characters, world-building, and letting an idea bounce around until I'm ready to write The Perfect Outline, but I'm starting to believe that that's just not me.

Fellow writers--do you stick to outlines or prefer to just go where the keyboard takes you?