29 October 2012

Gardeners and Achitects

There is a great thing called the internet.  Maybe some of you have heard of it.  I was using this great thing called the internet this weekend and found a writing class taught by Brandon Sanderson (a well-known sci-fi/fantasy author) at Brigham Young University, and you can watch the whole thing for free.  I admit to geeking out about this.

According to Mr. Sanderson, there are two kinds of authors: Gardeners and Architects.  

A Gardener, gets an idea and then sits down to create a story out it.  They usually have no idea where the story is going and each page ends up surprising them.  They are great starters, but the ending gives them trouble, since they don’t know how it’s supposed to end.

An Architect is great at world building and outlining the story.  They spend a good amount of time doing the background work, and know exactly how the story is going to go before they start writing the first page.  The downside to this type of author is they often get stuck in the details of the world building or outlining and never actually write the story.

Most authors are somewhere in between these two.

I have tried my hand at writing outlines and have lost interest completely in the story before I write it, because it’s already been told.  So, I guess it’s safe to say I am a Gardener.  

With “Uneasy Fortunes” the thing I started with was the idea of a young man who stuttered, so he refused to talk, and he worked with horses. I saw him in my mind’s eye standing in a stable with sunlight slanting through the doorway and dust motes in the air.  From there, I built the story.  Needless to say, the finished product was worlds away from the rough draft.  And that’s pretty typical for me.  The one Architectural (some would say redemptive) quality I have, is that before I begin writing, I already have in mind exactly how I want the story to end, so I have no issues with ending.  

From what I understand, scary man Stephen King never writes an outline.  Whereas, many others (I just don’t know for positive who) write such extensive outlines that the story is almost done when the outline is.  They just have to take out the bullet points and fill in the blanks.  I would guess that Cinda Williams Chima is an outliner.  I would also guess that J.K. Rowling is an outliner.  Anyone who has that much detail that all fits together would have to outline at least a little.

And now, here’s the question I’ve been wresting.  Which do you think the better way to write?  I mean, which makes the better stories?  Which type are you?  

20 October 2012

The Big Question

I had a lovely book signing this week on the corner of the bread isle and the refrigerated blackberries.

It was in a grocery store.

Yes, I was embarrassed, but we’ll move past that.

I had a high table and chair situated close to the front, just behind the place where they display the store specials.  I was the special that day, I guess.  The special before me was the caselot sale, and I spent the three hours I had there watching a young man shift the leftover caselot goods to a different location.  He wore a white shirt and tie, with jeans.  An apron covered the front, and an official-looking walkie-talkie dangled from his holey back pocket.  Poor guy didn’t know he’d have an audience when he went to work that day.  I found myself wondering if he ever got backaches from lifting boxes into a cart only to take them back out again somewhere else.

Since my chair was barstool height, I looked into most customer’s eyes as they tried avoiding me.  To be fair, not everyone tried avoiding me.  Some gave me shy smiles, or apologetic ones.  Some stopped to ask “What’s your book about?” before moving on.  And then there were the chosen few who bought.

I met a woman from France on a backpacking tour around the Americas.  She started in Guatemala, then came North.  She was in Utah staying at a Hare Krishna Temple just up the road from the grocery store and took pity on the freezing girl in front of the blackberries.  We talked for a good twenty minutes or so, and I’m sure my inner wanderer was showing.

I had a redneck stop and tell me he used to be a writer too, but he only wrote country songs.  He hadn’t written anything since getting out of the slammer.

But the customer that really threw me, was a young-ish man who stopped by to tell me was a writer.  He then asked, “In your opinion, what should I do to become a better writer?”  I don’t know if I looked as nonplussed as I felt.  I hope not.  Without stopping to consider, I stammered a few seconds, then said, “Read a lot.  Read in the genre you want to write.”

I think that was good advice, but maybe I should have said, go to such-and-such website and take their courses, or take a class, or practice, practice, practice. (I always hear that with a rolled r, as in prrractice.)

I really hope that was the advice he needed to hear, or that I needed to give, or both.  I think everyone who finds joy or creative release in writing (or in anything really) should be encouraged.  Creativity is such a big part of who we are as human beings.

I thought about him as I watched more customers pass or stop or avoid.  Perhaps with the next person who asks (if any soul is brave enough) I’ll be more confident in the answer they need to hear.  

15 October 2012

Stuck is the Word

I’m stuck.




I’m only about a page and a half from finishing a novel and while I’ve been pleased with the beginning, middle and even the end, I’m second guessing myself and can’t bring it to a close.

I read an interview by Gale Carson Levine once where she said that every author asks themselves if they have another book in them.  I would add the word “good” to that.  Do I have another good book in me?

Now, I’m not confessing this because I want everyone to reassure me that they’re sure I do have another good book in me, because in another day or two I’m hoping to snap myself out of these mopes and get back to work.  I’m sincerely hoping I have more than one good book in me.  I’m sincerely hoping that somewhere in the far reaches of my being there is a brilliant book.  

But until I find it...

I’m stuck.

08 October 2012

Beehive Books and More: A Book Signing

I'm sitting on My Sister's white carpet (yes, white) close to Seattle, Washington.  My Sister is cleaning her already-clean kitchen.  My brother-in-law is driving the lawn mower around outside, doing something nebulous.  And here I sit, as unbothered by my lack of participation in their worthwhile activities as could be.  The carpet feels nice.

I am here in Washington for a purpose, however.  My Sister owns an LDS bookstore in the area and asked me to come up here for a book signing.  Every six months, their book store hosts a girl's night out in conjunction with General Conference and I got to be a part of it this time.

Can I just say that My Sister is amazing?  For the delectation of the attendees, she made a *huge* pot of chicken noodle soup, homemade bread rolls, and about a dozen other little nibbles.  She gave out a lot of free prizes just for coming.

I had a sweet set up on a pair of leather couches with a display of my books on the coffee table.  Lots of nice women came by, asking me about my book and when I started writing.  I got behind the microphone for a minute to show them all what a scatterbrain I really am.  I would have gladly changed places with my Other Sister who was manning (womanning?) the food table.  And knowing my Other Sister, she probably wouldn't have minded too much.  Am I right?

But for any of you that have ever seen me at a book signing, you'll probably know why I'd prefer to be womanning the food table. I do much better at that sort of thing.  At least, I feel better doing that sort of thing.

Anyway, my industrious sister just told me that she wishes she were June Clever so she could work around the house every day in a skirt and beads (which is what she's wearing now as she mops the floor on her hands and knees.)

On that happy thought, I'll leave you to your own carpet sitting, or mopping, or driving lawn mowers.

01 October 2012

The Ultimate Turn Off

Thank you for the condolences for my grandmother.  I think of her daily and enjoy those thoughts.

I wrote this blog post while at home, where I don't have internet connection, and the kids were running amok.  So, if it's a little jumpy, jittery, jivey you know why.  It's because I'm a Mum.  (I'm just now wondering what excuse I'll use when the munchkins are older.  Hm.)

And now... 

When you’re reading a new book, what is the ultimate turn off?  What does it take to get you from quietly reading, to throwing the book across the room faster than Superman flies? (That is, if you throw books.  Many people are against this practice, for good reason.  But I find, sometimes, it’s cathartic.)  Perhaps there is something about the writing that you can’t force down.  Maybe it ends for you when a character does something inconsistent with what you’ve come to expect.  

The thing that turns me off a story the fastest is obscene/crude language involving sex.  Honestly, I’m not a prude, but perhaps I am when it comes to the books I read.  Too much detail in written sex is offensive to me in a way nothing else is.  It makes me feel like a peeping tom.  Like a dirty voyeur.  I have been known to drop a book like it has scorched me, never to pick it up again, except to force it out of my house.  It is this aversion, more than anything else, that keeps me wary in the general fiction section of the library.  I rarely pick a book off a shelf at random unless I’m in the Young Adult area.  I feel a little safer in YA.

Another item on my list of annoyances is bad editing.  When I, who have had little formal training in editing, can point out things on every page that the author, proof readers, editor, or various other people have failed or neglected to correct, there is a problem.  Occasionally, it bothers me enough to keep me from finishing.  Almost certainly stops me when the story isn’t good. (This only applies to a story that has been published.  Bloggers, emailers, and note-writers are safe from me.)

I guess I really only have one other thing that bothers me enough to keep me from finishing a novel.  I hate stupid characters willfully making stupid choices.  When a character does something even though they know it’s a really bad idea... it drives me nuts.  If I can’t see an immediate end in sight to their idiocy, I put the book down and step away.  If I’m in a tolerant mood later, I might pick it back up, but it’s doubtful.  

I don’t appreciate excessive swearing, but it didn’t stop me from reading “I Am The Messenger”, which I really liked.  (The writing is so superb, I couldn’t fault any of it.  It was like nirvana for writers. So, so beautiful.  But like I said, lots of swearing.)

I’m not a big fan of scary things, either, and usually don’t even pick these types up.  So, while I did read “Forest of Hands and Teeth”, it traumatized me enough that I refuse to read the rest of the series.  However, if you’re not sure if you like thrillers, and are wondering what to read, I would recommend “Forest of Hands and Teeth” so quickly it would breeze the hair from your face.  It’s one of the best.

Other than that, the only other thing that will get me to stop reading a book has nothing to do with the story itself, and everything to with me, the reader.  Quite often, halfway through a story, I’ll decide I’m not in the mood for that story and switch to something else.  Fickle.

So, have I covered what bothers you?  Or would you care to share your peeves with the class?