Stuff in the ‘Writing tips’ Category

15 December, 2015

Where I Write: Carol Masciola

Carol Masciola 2This edition of WHERE I WRITE is from Carol Masciola, author of the Young Adult novel  THE YEARBOOK published by Merit Press

“I write just about anywhere, on notebooks of the lowest possible quality, with cheap pens. I find that pens discovered on the sidewalk or stolen from the bank write the best stories. If conditions are too perfect, it makes me feel like I have to write something perfect, and for me, nothing is as debilitating as striving for perfection. It took me a while to figure this out. When I first set out to write fiction some number of years ago, I set up a picture-perfect writing studio. It had a new computer, the right chair and a wide, pretty rosewood desk with three drawers. I was living in Bogota, Colombia, then, and my writing room had an inspiring Andean view. There were green hills and moody, rain-splashed bricks.

But the room was no good. I didn’t understand what was wrong with it, or with me. I just sat there frozen and tortured and would either slide off my ergonomic chair and fall asleep on the carpet oCarol Masciolar end up down in the living room watching reruns of The Nanny in Spanish. I reacted to these failures by imposing greater self-discipline in the form of a strict schedule; I had to spend X number of hours each morning in that fantastic Andean chamber, creating. I couldn’t see that it was all hopeless folly—that my paralysis would continue as long as the quality of my writing could not hope to live up to the quality of my workspace. In the wake of this experience, after we had packed up and left Colombia, I found myself thinking a lot about my twelve years as a newspaper reporter. I had written hundreds of articles in imperfect conditions, in newsrooms full of the most outrageous loudmouths, on tight deadlines. Once I worked in a satellite office of a big newspaper in California, and when they remodeled our building, they put the floor in slanted by mistake. I had to hold onto my desk while I was writing to keep from rolling away. And yet I finished every single thing I ever started. How had I done all that? I didn’t know.

TheYearbook

And then I had two kids. By then we were in a tiny apartment in London. I no longer had time, or a workspace, or a clean shirt on, but miraculously, I was writing again. I would steal ten minutes here or thirty minutes there, at my now-squalid kitchen counter, or sitting in bed, or wherever I happened to be, writing on miscellaneous available surfaces. My infant son ripped the “T” key off my computer keyboard, so I had to press very hard on the space where the “T” had been every time I needed a “T”. I gave myself a blister, but I finished my first screenplay, Baghdad Bureau. I felt very proud of myself and bought a new “T” to celebrate. I went on to write two novellas, a children’s book, five more screenplays and my novel The Yearbook in that haphazard way, just grabbing at those small moments in imperfect rooms and remembering not to make writing too sacred. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone, but that’s what I do.” — Carol Masciola
 
Follow Carol on Twitter and learn more about her and her book on her website.

12 November, 2012

I Believe in NaNoWriMo

A Guest Post from Melissa F. Olson, whose debut DEAD SPOTS was just published by 47North

For thirteen years now, a small non-profit organization based out of SanFranscisco has transformed the otherwise boring month of November into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short), which is, as they put it, “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” The idea is very simple: first, sign up online. Then, over the course of the month, write 50,000 words. If you make it to 50,000, you “win.” If you don’t make it, you’ve likely still managed to jump-start your writing ambitions with the support of the NaNo organization, which has grown from 140 participants the first year, to over a quarter of a million last year.

That’s it. There’s no hidden agenda, no contests or prizes, no fees. This is simply a program for anyone who has wanted to write a novel, but needed a kick in the pants. And that’s what I love about the whole enterprise: it’s for everybody. You might be a professional author, with a long list of bestsellers under your belt, or a lowly office assistant who had this idea a few years back and never got around to making notes. NaNo is all about people from all walks of life saying, “Yes. I’m doing this. I’m writing a novel, and here it goes.” All are welcome.

It’s such a refreshing attitude for the writing profession, which is probably the first or second most intimidating career plan in the world (along with acting). It can be so difficult to get yourself published, especially in these changing times. Professional writing has long had the stink of elitism all around it, an oppressive sense of failure that can push you down before you’ve even begun. NaNoWriMo is all about throwing those anxieties aside and embracing the fun, crazy parts of writing: not just the joy of creating a story, but also the caffeine overdoses, the sore typing fingers, the giddy sense of accomplishment when a scene comes together, the way a certain line of dialogue can seem so hysterically funny at three in the morning.  Not to mention the sense of community: you’re working with a whole online group, of course, but many cities now have NaNoWriMo get-togethers, giving novelists the chance to hang out with maybe the only people in the world who understand their desire to write.

As much as I love NaNoWriMo, however, I myself am not a NaNoWriMo winner. A couple-three years ago, I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo, and ended up a NaNo loser. I think I made it to something like 30,000 words, far short of the 50,000-word goal. I didn’t just walk away from what I’d written, though – I kept going. After all, how could I abandon a project that had occupied my thoughts for a full month? And those 30,000 words grew to eventually become DEAD SPOTS, my first novel, which was just published last week. DEAD SPOTS took a total of eight months to finish, and eventually weighed in right around 90,000 words. Now, math has never been a friend of mine, but I believe that means I wrote about a third of the book in about an eighth of the time, thanks to NaNoWriMo. And if that’s being a loser, well, you can sign me up to lose every year.

Check out Melissa’s website at www.melissafolson.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.