Friday, November 21, 2008

Buy the Book

I read this article in Publisher's Weekly (further link to Editorial Ass a.k.a. Moonrat). She suggests, "Buy a book this weekend. Just buy one."

Most everyone's heard about how the economic crisis has affected the publishing industry. Many people will be reining in their spending habits and chopping gift budgets. But if you're buying gifts, why not make it a book? I typically buy the little kids books anyway. I love to share some of the titles my son asked for over and over (A Fly Went By, The Fraggle books, Go Dog Go, The BFG and one with the line, "Cheese it, the cops!"). If anyone remembers it, let me know!

Normally, unless it's an author I love to read, or a writing buddy, I check out books from the library. Or frequent Half-Price Books. Or Amazon used. I know, I shouldn't admit it. But if I bought all the books I read, I'd be serving paperbacks for dinner. (When you do go to the library, save a clerk's job and avoid the self-checkout kiosks!)

However, this year, everyone on my gift list is receiving books. I love B&N and Borders, but consider giving some of your business to an independent. Legacy Books has just opened in Plano. It's a huge store with a comfortable environment and knowledgeable booksellers. Hopefully everyone knows about Powell's Books in Portland, the largest independent in the country.

And if we all encourage our friends and colleagues to do the same, maybe we can make a difference. Push a publishing house into acquiring a new author's book. It might just be yours. Or mine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How A Lizard Sent a City Girl on a Writers’ Retreat

A 3-inch green lizard skulked in the corner of my bathroom this morning. It scared the pants off me (a horrible cliché that I promise will make sense later). My husband wouldn't turn around on the tollway and head back home, so I closed the door and shoved a towel in the gap, so he could catch the little guy later and take him to a nice place in the woods a few blocks away. I threw on some clothes, stuffed my files in my bag, and ran out the door. I was so scared, I forgot to brush my teeth and chomped on gum and mints all day long like a teenager.

If anyone in Plano doesn’t know, Haggard Library has a terrific writers’ reference section. I curled up in a chair and for 6 hours soaked in the wisdom of Elizabeth George (Write Away), Noah Lukeman (The Plot Thickens) and Orson Scott Card (Characters and Viewpoint). I had my own little spontaneous writers’ retreat. Now I’m rejuvenated and ready to apply what I’ve learned to make my WIP characters multi-dimensional and unforgettable.

I called Pamela and she asked, “You won’t pick up a lizard?”

I should have called one of my east-coast city-girl friends who could appreciate my plight.

On the way home, I called my husband and asked if he’d caught my lizard. He said, “You scared the tail off him.”

“Oh, ha ha, you’re so funny,” I said.

“No really. When lizards get scared they drop their tail. I found a lizard running around the bathroom—without a tail. His tail was on the other side of the room.”

Oops. “Poor little guy.”

“It’ll grow back,” my husband assured me.

Whew. As long as it grows back on someone else’s bathroom floor.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where's The Plot?

I’ve started a new project. Before I started writing, I thought I’d do some research first. Read for inspiration. Read for advice. Read agent interviews.

I picked up Susan Page’s, Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book, recommended by one of the agents. I don’t read every how-to book that comes along (this one was published in 1997!) but I started to wonder if in fact there was some big step I’d completely overlooked. Maybe I hadn’t put the right secret code word in my query letters.

I usually read non-fiction in the order it’s presented. The author had a reason for the order, certainly. But this time I glanced through the table of contents and Part II: Taming the Monsters, jumped out at me. Monster #2 is procrastination. Until now, I’ve never had a problem with this particular monster. But since finishing my last manuscript, I hadn’t been able to pin down my next project. I couldn’t focus. I began to wonder if I had some form of ADD. I couldn’t even focus on what to read. I’ve been in the middle of six books for a few weeks now and each day I pick up a different one depending on my mood.

I’ve been researching, writing snippets of ideas and scenes, but without a clear mission. Finally I wrote the first 20 pages. I even asked Pamela to read it. “Lots at stake,” she said. “But where’s the plot?” I knew she was right. If only I could read a little more, research a little more, it would come to me. I’m procrastinating, no?

No! I’ve got acedia. (Not a disease!) On page 218 of Page’s book, she notes that a friend told her about acedia. “Acedia, my friend explained, is the slow and arduous forward motion required to start a new project or to return to work after a break.” She goes on to explain that it’s a way to allow the creative juices to flow, to prepare for the next writing journey. Procrastination is putting off something you don’t want to do. Acedia is the process of getting ready to start a creative project that you want to do. Wow! Yes! I love to write! There’s nothing I want more. (Aside from a call from the perfect agent, the one who knows one of my books will sell immediately!)

As soon as I accepted this explanation for my lack of direction, I began to focus. I brainstormed. What would happen if… I jotted notes about my characters. What does he want? What’s in his way? Next thing I knew, a plot was forming. Now I’m so excited about it, I can’t wait to write. And I actually know what I’m going to write.