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|Wednesday, April 25th, 2007|
|A million words of crap
You’ve probably heard this writing truism: “you have to write a million words of crap...” before, I guess, “...writing something worth reading.” Or maybe “...writing something worth publishing.”
Really? Where does that come from, that bit of writing advice?
And what does it assume? That if you write for long enough, that eventually you will produce something publishable? That if you write a lot you will certainly improve?
What happens as you write that million words of crap? How does quantity of words help a writer to improve? How does thinking about your writing as crap help you to improve?
How long does it take to write a million words? Years?
Is this a gatekeeper saying? A way for ‘pro’ writers to dismiss people just starting out? “Well, you haven’t yet written your million words, so it must still be crap.” Or a way for newer writers to dismiss their own efforts? “Well, this can’t be any good, because I’ve only written 250,000 words so far.”
I haven’t yet written my million words, just so you know. How many words have you written, and what difference has it made?
|Monday, April 23rd, 2007|
|Why I love writing, #325
It's like a snarly tangled knot and you have to pick at it, and pick at it, and then you find the right end and pull gently and wallah! A piece of string.
Yes, I've finally worked out the ending of Book Two. I wrote the very last scene on Friday, on my day off, and it is just right, and
it sets up really nice tensions for the beginning of Book Three (the Book With Dragons In It, as it will henceforth be known). But I still had a plot snarl leading up to that last scene to deal with. How to get protags from one place to another, with the bad magic doing its bad thing, culminating in big climax scene? I knew what
had to happen, I just didn't know how
, exactly, it was going to play out.
Maybe the subconscious has been picking away at the knot. I've been worrying at it, anyway, since January, and hadn't been making much progress. I was writing around the tricky bits, leaving them tangled. Then, last night, a blinding flash, and the tangle unknotted itself, and the last 10K of the book is laid out there, ready to be written. Yessss!!! At this point, it's just a matter of filling in the blanks.
I can't wait to get home from work today to write. Can not wait.
|Friday, April 20th, 2007|
|Flying the flag
The Unnamed One is now set up (*loves Mac and the firewire cable and the instant transfer*).
I took it home to show, and the Unbeliever laughed at it. I showed the nifty widgets. "Freak feature," he said. I showed the sleek remote control. "Freak feature," he said. Beautiful clicky keyboard, magnetic plug thingy, matte black surface, little camera, hidden speakers.
All freak features.
He and Theo also had a long discussion about whether the Black Adder reference should have been The Black Mushroom or The Black Vegetable. And he
calls me a freak!
My stealthy black MacBook has arrived! Alas, the firewire cable has not, which means I have to be patient and not even switch it on until I'm ready to transfer everything from Heart of Gold onto the new computer.
Lo, the stealthy black MacBook is a beautiful thing! But it is yet unnamed.
Me: "John, help me think of a name for my beautiful stealthy MacBook!"
John: "What about...the Black Mushroom."
Me: "No, what about the Black Adder?"
John: "I know, let's call it the Black Adder!"
[that was just for E!]
John also suggested "The Black Hole," for it will suck me in...
Theo suggested "Ninja," but I pointed out that a ninja is not a name.
The Maud suggested "Nazgul," but lo, though it is stealthy and black, it is not evil.
|Friday, April 13th, 2007|
I know, this is two entries in one day, which is weird.
One is that I have that cool Google analytics tag on my website, so it shows where people are coming from who visit www.sarah-prineas.com. Why does somebody from Reykjavik, Iceland keep looking at my site? And who do I know in East Haddam, Connecticut? Anyway, the analytics tool is fun.
Two! Some of y'all were hugely helpful when I was picking out my laptop, Heart of Gold, because I know basically nothing about computers. My lovely tax person is advising me to spend money on writing-related things, so I'm going to get a brand-new laptop! Yay! I love the Mac, so I'll probably get another one similar to the Heart of Gold, but lighter and with a brighter screen. Any recommendations, o ye Mac users? Anything I should definitely include in the order? Should I consider something other than the iBook? Jessie, I'm looking at you, as you've just added a new member to your family...
|Room of Your Own
So my house is being remodeled, and has been for the last month, and will be for the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile my family and I are living in a tiny
rental house a few blocks away. Our house is Our House, and the rental is Baby James's House (because a baby named James used to live there).
At Our House, I write on my laptop, Heart of Gold, in a comfortable chair with footstool in the corner of my bedroom. While I'm writing, the door stays open, so the kids can come in and chat with me, or sit on the bed and read. If I'm at a point where I can't be interrupted, I close the door and tell them to go away until I'm ready to deal with them.
(maybe I'll do another blog entry at some point on parenting and writing...)
The bedroom is always neat and tidy, the bed made, no clutter. I have a little table next to the chair for my teacup, with a shelf for writing-related books; there is a cozy blanket in case I get cold. The cat often sits on my legs. It is quiet--no music, no TV in the background--except for the clickety-click of the computer keyboard.
Altogether, it's a very good Room of My Own, even though it's really just a Corner of My Own.
At Baby James's House, I have no Room. We're all living on top of each other, and nothing is in its proper place, I don't have my own corner, and my head is all out of whack.
Not good, obviously, as I'm supposed to have Book Two finished by May 6th for the Blue Heaven workshop. But I'm having a terrible time trying to find the headspace for writing when I don't have the physical space for writing.
What about you? Do you have a room of your own? What's it like? Is your writing headspace contingent on your physical writing space? And if you don't have a Room or a Corner or your favorite table at a coffeeshop, what do you do? How do you find the space to write?
|Monday, April 9th, 2007|
Theo, my sweet seven-year-old, is obsessed with pirates, ninjas, samurai--anything dangerous with a sword. So we're walking down the sidewalk yesterday, and he's sort-of sneaking along (while holding my hand).
Me: "Theo, what are you doing?"
Theo: "I'm walking like a ninja."
Me: "Ah, I see."
Theo: "Ninjas walk enjoyingly
We have two cats, Sparkle and Feather. One is smart and the other is stupid; we call them The Smart One and The Stupid One. The Stupid One, you open the door for her and she goes over to the hinged side to get out. The Smart One wishes for opposable thumbs so she could open the door herself.
The mountain lion in a tree? Turns out it's a sculpture made out of knitted sweaters.
Why is it still winter? Why!?
|Sunday, April 1st, 2007|
Your usual Sunday afternoon host, jennreese
, is on the road, so your virtual online coffeeshop writing and chat session is here this week. Usually Jenn and her writing group get together at a hip L.A. cafe called Lulu's Beehive, where they work on screenplays and other writing gigs, and drink coffee. The less hip version is at the House of Aromas here in Iowa City. I hope to be joined soon by rachel_swirsky
(go read his story in the April Lone Star Stories!), diatryma
, and possibly some others.
The deal is this: You're welcome to join us in the virtual coffeeshop. We write and chat. If you feel like it, do post your goals (!) for the afternoon. And your coffeeshop drink of choice.
My goal: to write 500 new novel words. Also to not get rained on when I walk home. My coffee: cafe au lait, one sugar.
|Saturday, March 31st, 2007|
This is one of those random catching-up-on-stuff posts.
We're under a tornado watch here. You may recall that last year, on April 13th, Iowa City was hit by a massive tornado that went right through the middle of town, about a half mile from our house. So we're a little anxious about the beginning of tornado season again...
I had a wonderful piano lesson this morning. The latest pieces are a Chopin waltz and a Rachmaninov prelude. You get to be my age, and you think you can't learn anything new. But I've made a breakthrough in piano during the last few months--I'm playing more expressively, I'm learning to relax more, and I feel like I understand the music on a deeper level. Very satisfying. Surely there's a lesson about writing in there...
The house remodeling continues. Dust, destruction and drywall, 'nuff said.
Book Two is due to my Blue Heaven colleagues in 38 days. Much work to do!
And in other writing related news, the usual host of Virtual Lulu's (online writing and chat group) is out of town, so I'll be hosting. Tomorrow, here, starting at 1:00 central time. Locals, that'll be at the House of Aromas.
|Wednesday, March 28th, 2007|
|Setting Goals: A Machete Post
Way back in October 2006, my buddy stephanieburgis
wrote a blog post on goal setting
Of course writers have goals. Every time we submit a story for publication, we do so in order to achieve a goal. Heck, every time we start a story we intend to finish it...
I'm an organic writer, which basically means I write stories and novels without much planning or outlining. They just "grow" until they have become what they are supposed to be. As such, I also approached my writing career organically; that is, I didn't set very many goals for myself, at least not long-term ones. Things would just happen when they were supposed to. So as I went along for the first few years, my goals looked like this:Write a story and submit it to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Get a story published.
Get a story published in a pro magazine.
Get a story published in a pro print magazine.
Sell to the same magazine more than once.
Get an honorable mention in a Year's Best.
Pretty good goals, because they were attainable, and they made sense for a just-starting-out writer.
The next big goal to come up was this one:Write and finish a novel.
Took me four years, but I did it. (That novel is now trunked; more about that in another post).
And then I did it again, and knew that the novel I'd written was good enough to sell. So my new, attainable goal became:Get an agent
Which, serendipitously, I did. And then along came Steph's post. About not just setting goals, but setting big
goals, five year plans--thinking about CAREER stuff. Dreaming, even. Well, this took me aback, because I'd always thought in attainable steps, and never dared to think beyond them. And with the new novel and the agent, it looked like maybe it was time to start thinking bigger. As Steph pointed out, "concepts shift from feeling like impossible ideals (which feel kind of safe, in a twisted way) to feeling scarily possible--which means they now have to be worked for instead of just daydreamed about..."
So I sent myself an email, listing a new kind of goal. Not attainable ones, but dreams:
(*takes a deep breath, because sharing them is scary, too*):Sell Magic Thief and two sequels to a major publisher.
Write another book or two in that world and sell them
Go on a book tour (five year goal)
Do a reading at Prairie Lights and at the Iowa City Public Library
Be recognized as a writer in Iowa City.
Write a book NOT in the Wellmet world.
Be nominated for the Newbery Award (this way in the future).
Make the children's NYTimes bestseller list (holy crap, are you crazy!)
Dedicate a novel to [certain friends]
Make my parents and family proud of me.
Work halftime in order to have more time to write.
Continue to love to write.
Learn to deepen my characters, develop more plot complexity. Write a
The parenthetical comments are part of the list. Looking at it laid out there like this is still weird and a little frightening.
I still have one big giant secret dream-goal which I'm not going to tell you about because I feel crazy for even considering it. If it ever comes to pass, I'll let you know.
So what about you? Do you set goals? What kinds? Do you feel weird about setting dream-goals? What happens when you achieve your goals? And what happens when you don't?
|Tuesday, March 20th, 2007|
|To Neep or Not
So in the past two weeks I've gotten three emails plus two board comments suggesting that I blog more about the writing and publishing process.
As I said recently to my mentor, melissa_writing
, it's great to have somebody hacking a path through the jungle that is publishing, shouting directions over her shoulder. Up to now, this blog has been mostly a way to keep in touch with friends, but I'm thinking it might be fun to pick up the machete once and a while.
So what do you think? Do you want more writing/publishing neepery? What kinds of details do you want, exactly, about the writing and/or the publishing? You want me to tell the agent/publisher search story (a lot of those entries are friendslocked at the moment)? What sort of 'insider' information would you find helpful to know (not that I have much...)? What sort of writing-related posts would you find interesting?
Of course, I'll decide what I think is appropriate, but what do you think is appropriate to share, or not?
Heh. And if nobody comments, I'll just assume nobody's interested!
|Friday, March 9th, 2007|
I feel like Theoden, up on the ramparts of Helm's Deep. What is it he says again? "And so it begins."
Our house remodeling project starts today. We're gutting the kitchen and both bathrooms, taking out a big closet in the middle of the downstairs and also a bunch of walls. Supposedly the "demo" team will be working today--I don't know what I'm going to come home to. Dust and destruction, I expect. Maybe a dead orc or two.
Theo keeps talking about how they're going to bring in a wrecking ball.
Our house is fairly small (1700 square feet) and it's fairly old (built in 1926). The current (as of 8:00 this morning) layout is small kitchen, big underused closets, small dining room, tiny bathrooms with big unused closets next to them. The space feels compartmentalized and inefficiently used. So we're just ripping it all out and putting it back together so it's more open, with smaller closets. Plus the kitchen and its ratty old linoleum and flimsy cupboards and scary 40-year-old stove desperately needed updating.
We're going to try to camp out upstairs this weekend, then we go on spring break, and when we get back we're moving into a tiny
house down the street for 4-6 weeks, until the project is done.
I will post some before
Also doom: I have had no coffee for the past three days. Ow, the caffeine headache.
|Monday, March 5th, 2007|
|February was so long...
...that it lasted into March.
Grey, grey, grey, cold, cold, cold.
This is the time of year when I find myself listening to Dar:And then the snow,
And then the snow came, we were always out shoveling,
And we'd drop to sleep exhausted,
Then we'd wake up, and its snowing...
Except that I haven't bothered to shovel the driveway, and it's covered with snow and crusted ice.
On The Plus Side!!! Spring break is next week, and we're going to Florida, a visit to my uncle and aunt's beach house at Shell Point. Last year I finished Magic Thief
there, on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, and when I'd typed "The End" my uncle brought me a vodka tonic and we all celebrated.
I'm hoping to finish the as-yet-untitled Book Two there this year.
|Saturday, February 24th, 2007|
|Norton Award Ballot
The jury members for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and
Fantasy were impressed by the number of outstanding books published in 2006, far too
many to give all of them their proper due. We found that many of the books marketed to
young adult readers were not only appropriate for that age but also satisfying in every way
to us as old adult readers. We considered well over a hundred novels total, and even our
first short list contained almost twenty books. Although we eventually narrowed our
choice down to three books, in addition to the three excellent novels already on the ballot,
we want to point out that the Young Adult category of fiction is currently rich and varied,
and includes some of the best science fiction and fantasy books being published for any
The three novels we added to the ballot are:
DEVILISH - Maureen Johnson, Razorbill (Penguin Young Readers Group), 2006
THE KING OF ATTOLIA - Megan Whalen Turner, Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2006
LIFE AS WE KNEW IT - Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt), 2006
The jury was charmed by Maureen Johnson's DEVILISH, a contemporary fantasy set in a
Catholic girls' school in Providence, Rhode Island, surely a place where weird and
supernatural things seem likely to happen. Jane, the narrator, is a smart girl who is not a
cliche. She has a sharp and compelling voice that is a pleasure to read from the very first
page. The pervading sense of weirdness sets up the escalating revelations of the fantastic
without ever losing the elements that keep the novel grounded. We also liked what the
novel has to say about the nature of evil, despite being so much fun to read.
THE KING OF ATTOLIA is the third book in Megan Whelan Turner's trilogy that began with
Newbery Award winning THE THIEF (1996) and continued with THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA
(2000). It's a riveting story full of twisty characterizations, action, romance, political
intrigue, and the meddling of the gods in human affairs. At the center of the books is Gen,
the Thief of Eddis, who is both an obnoxious boy and a brilliant political player in
countries that are gearing up for war against the Medes, who have imperial ambitions. Gen
is a wonderful character: he's irascible and conniving and smart, and he's completely
compelling. Turner shows exactly what can be done with YA fiction by trusting her
readers to be smart. This is a book that will reward rereading.
Susan Beth Pfeffer's LIFE AS WE KNEW IT is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel about
the effects of a meteor strike that drives the moon closer to earth's orbit with disastrous
effects for the climate. It stands out for us because it features a parent figure who isn't
absent, incompetent, or stupid. Equally significant, Miranda, the main character, isn't
someone with amazing special powers or even someone destined to save the world, but
just rather an everyday person who learns that she can survive a catastrophe. Along the
way she makes sacrifices she could never have imagined and grows in ways that resonate
far beyond the surface of the page.
Submitted on behalf of the 2006 jury for the Andre Norton Award:
Charles Coleman Finlay, co-chair
John G. Hemry, aka Jack Campbell, co-chair
[posted quickly, before the power goes out again.]
|Sunday, February 18th, 2007|
|Quicker than a squirrel!
Did you realize that Tarzan of the Apes
ends in Wisconsin? And that Tarzan doesn't get Jane at the end? He swings through the trees (in the forests of Wisconsin) to save Jane from a forest fire, but Jane's betrothed to John Clayton. He could reveal that he's Lord Greystoke and have Jane for his own, but he doesn't because he's the Noble Savage.
Or so I'm told. J just finished reading it to Theo. Who said, "Mom, can you get the next Tarzan book from the library?" After listening to J read about half the book, my answer was an emphatic NO
Is it still February? I'm ready for it not to be February any more. Grey-grey-grey, cold-cold-cold. We got more snow this week and expect a little more today, and I still have an earache and sinus infection.
Hardly any writing this week; instead the kids and I have been watching Fruits Basket
, which I thought was funny and cute.
Today The Maud and I (at her request) will attend a piano recital at the University. Our recital last week went well, and I have a new piece to learn, a Brahms waltz, and coming up (Steph, check it out!) a Haydn sonata.
In other news, John tells me his physics has kung fu. (Context: he was comparing his lab's results to another lab's work: "My kung-fu is better than his kung-fu.").
You see why I haven't been updating? It's all random!!
|Friday, February 9th, 2007|
|Friday Night Roundup
Jeez, I haven't written a word all week, since virtual Lulu's. Been sick, that's part of it. At the mo', I have an earache and can't hear much. An earache! Good grief.
This will add a special challenge to tomorrow's fun. I'm playing in what my music school calls "Musical Achievement Week," which means instead of our lessons, Maud and I play in a recital. She's playing Bach and will play perfectly, I'm sure. All the piano faculty are there, like a panel, and they say only positive, reaffirming things, and after the recitalists play we get candy.
So last year, my kind and affirming comments from the piano faculty were: "Oh, we hadn't heard that piece before" (quite likely), and "Nice recoveries!" (argh!). Then I got a tootsie pop.
This year I'm playing a Chopin mazurka in A flat minor, the opus 59 #2. A few tricky spots, but I'm keen and I've practiced the hell out of this piece. In order to deal with the shaky-hands nervousness that overcomes me at these things (audience! panel of teachers! ack!), I have broken the piece down into small sections. At each section, I have a specific thing to remember--a tricky chord, a place to remain 'free and relaxed,' a big jump to nail, a little accent note. Hopefully all these little things will distract me from the big picture freakout and counting how many times I mess up.
In other news, I made lovely, colorful soup tonight. Eight beans, veggies, onion, whole cloves of garlic, chorizo cooked up in olive oil, broth, and I splashed in some red wine. A separate pot sans sausage for the vegetarian in the family. That with bread and red wine, and we're all set for dinner, nrrrrm.
So local Iowa Citians, are we on for real Lulu's this weekend?
|Sunday, February 4th, 2007|
Here's the plan. It's zero degrees outside with a windchill of -18. A very good day to stay inside and write while drinking cup after cup of hot coffee. Usually, on Sunday afternoons, jennreese
hosts the virtual Lulu's writing group on her blog, but she's busy with a party and other carousing, so today Lulu's is here.
So if you're not watching the Super Bowl and you're like me, staying home in your pj's to write, or schlepping your iBook to a coffeehouse to write, or closing the door to your office to write, you're very welcome to check in and say hi and note your progress as the afternoon goes on. We begin now, at 11:00 Iowa time and end sometime tonight. You could note your goals for the day, too, if you want to.
My goals: to write 1000 words on Book Two; to futz with the third-person story that is killing me; to figure out some dragon stuff.
Turn on the coffee maker! Fire up the iBook! Bring on the dragons!Update
: Okay, Gwenda called it! Time to kick back and have a glass of wine. How did you do? All I got was 450 words. Darn!
|Wednesday, January 24th, 2007|
|Samurai Car Rescue!
John is off to a conference in San Jose (I do know the way to San Jose; it's via the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport). He'll be back very late Friday, so until then it's just me, the kids, and my pint of Ben & Jerry's Vermonty Python. mmmm, the fudge cows
Getting lots of writing done on the novel. Up past 42K. Got some worldbuildy things to figure out, and then I can go on with it. Yay, organic writing! Never know what's going to happen next! jennreese
is suffering from ennui, so I offer this story.
Last night, picking the kids up from shinkendo/aikido, my car got stuck in a snowbank in the middle of the parking lot. So I got the kids to sit in the front and we all bounced up and down in our seats while I hit the accelerator, but no, we were still stuck. Maud got out and pushed. Still stuck. So Maud went back into the dojo for help. A moment later, twelve martial artists, wearing their gi's and their black hakama, came swarming out the door, raced across the slippery parking lot and--ich, ni, san
--heaved the car out of the snowbank.
The samurai car rescue!
|Sunday, January 21st, 2007|
Thanks to jennreese
, I have a new website. It's at sarah-prineas.com
If you've got a minute, would you mind looking it over and telling me what you think?
It's sort-of a placeholder site. I made it using the google page creator, so it's pretty basic. At some point, I'd like to jazz it up, maybe get Dreamweaver or something, to make a new, snazzier page.
What's a website for, anyway? What should a good website have on it? I'm thinking I'd like it to be more dynamic, so repeat visitors would have other stuff to look at when they visited, but I can't think of what else I'd put on there.Update
: Okay, I implemented a bunch of changes suggested by y'all. Thanks! Please suggest anything else you can think of
|Saturday, January 20th, 2007|
|This will never be resolved...
The setting. A quiet, snowy Saturday night at the Prineas house. John and Sarah sitting on the couch; the kids in bed. Lemon zinger tea has been served.
John is reading abstracts of scientific papers on his Dell laptop.
Sarah is writing lame emails to her friend and working on her novel on her Mac iBook, Heart of Gold.
Sarah hears a loud whirring sound. "Is that your computer making that noise?"
"Yeah," John replies. "It does that when it gets hot."
"Boy, that's noisy. I can hear it from all the way over here. Don't you wish you had a Mac?" Sarah asks. "It never makes any noise at all, it's so sleek and quiet."
"No, I don't wish I had a Mac. Mine's better," John says, without looking away from his ugly-ass computer's screen.
"No, Macs are best, obviously," Sarah says. "Computer programmers, musicians, writers--they all use Macs because Macs are the best."
"Yeah, because they're all freaks," says the physicist, with a sneer. "Anyway, I don't think my programs will work on a Mac."