Wanna Ignite A Teen Reader?

EDIT: So, totes forgot about my own blog chain (whaddya want from me? I'm logging ten-hour writing days here). Anyway, what makes it really bad is that the question for this month's chain, answered already by Laura, Lydia and Danyelle, was my own. So this week's question is:

Got any weird writing habits? 

I actually only have one or two. Okay, maybe three. And they mainly have to do with helping me strap in and get started:

1. If the going's tough, I get a totem. Usually it's one or two rings for my right hand. Just a little silvery gleam, but it makes me become aware of my fingers, which equals a little focus. 

2. I muse. A lot. My favorite part of my daily writing process is all the freakin time I spend on my back porch, pondering. Isolation's key for this writer.

3. I hate laptop keys. While I can write on 'em, and have done quite a bit, I much prefer the thockity-thock of PC keys to the thickety-thick of laptop keys. So if I'm in a rough spot, I default to texture.
That's it. Huh, looking at it, it doesn't seem so strange. What about you? Got any funky little habits to make the words come? If not, then it's back to my previous post for today, which is:

UNDERSTANDING THE TEEN READER BRAIN a.k.a. SCOTT PILGRIM




Yeah, it's Scott Pilgrim and, yeah, it's a movie. Comes out next month. Know who've been TEARING THEIR HAIR OUT for it to fine-a-lee be released? My 13- and 15-year-old boys who've been reading, sharing, breathing and re-reading Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series for the last year. Yanno, these:




Nintendo power-ups. Epic fight scenes. A slacker bassist hero. Boss battles. Ninjas. Subspace portals. Hot chicks (and I do mean "hot" in the literal sense; my 15-year-old put a Kim Pine iron-on on his pillowcase and pines, please excuse the pun, daily for her mega-hot manga body), chicks with names like Knives and Envy. What's not to go all fanboy over like?

Srsly, each book is like an operations manual for the teenage boy brain (and a whole helluva lot of teenage girl brains, too). Use this intel wisely, my friends...

INCEPTION in 13 Words

Never have I wanted so much to see a freakin' spinning top FALL.

###

(First, don't forget to pop over to Danyelle's for her take on the writerly rituals that make up the subject of this week's blog chain.)

Okay. So, for INCEPTION, I'm only gonna add my quick two cents, since there are so many reviews already - Nolan's nifty dream-within-a-dream-within-a G.I. Joe snow fort has absolutely freakin buggered the critics. But I will say Christopher Nolan nailed it.

And my reason is simple (minor spoilage?): there came a point at which EVERY EYE IN THE THEATER felt like it was pinned onto that freakin spinning top. And at that point, we all had become grubby story urchins tugging on Nolan's coat-tails with the only question ever necessary in storytelling:

BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!?!?!?

But that's also the point where Nolan lost me -  because I'm not one for a Schrodinger's ending. I despise them. To me, you start a freakin story, it's your freakin job to end it. Don't be all coy and shit. Man up with the ending; it's your goddamned story.

Aside from that, I was hooked. Dudes: DiCaprio! Watanabe! Berenger! Hardy! Caine! Gordon-Levitt! Rao! Murphy! Cotillard!

JEEbus. The talent. Artists like that striving on a story like Nolan's always makes me want to strive better, reach higher, fall harder in my own work. And that, liebchens, is why I haven't been around so much in the blogosphere - I'm working like a mo-fo to craft this novel and end it. Hopefully, I'll pop back up within the next two weeks and get back to visiting blogs and commenting, etc.

Meantime? I luurrrvvee pop culture. Watching other artists freakin making it happen in different outposts of creative discipline just turn me ON. Especially movies. Especially movies. So I might just have to catch INCEPTION again - when I can take a moment from the work.

What about you? Seen it? Gonna see it? Love it? Hated it? Whatdja think?

Formerly, Education

Read an interview with Holly Cupala on Christine Fonseca's blog (great interview, Christine!), and one of Holly's answers, about how long she'd been writing, made me think about how long it takes to build writing chops.

For Cupala, it's been a ten-year span of craftwerk, some "dreadful picture book manuscripts," a few sales and other shenanigans until she wrote TELL ME A SECRET -- her YA novel that was published last month.

So I wanna know: how did YOU build YOUR writing chops? What experiences became the brick and mortar of your writing career to this point?

My story? Starts commonly enough: Wrote my first "book" when I was five. Yeah, that Newbery star was called THE GIRL WHO LOVED TO DANCE and you can bet your ass it was five electric pages of crayony drama.

Flash-forward to a performing arts H.S., where I skipped many rehearsals to write really shitty stories in the computer lab. Somehow scored college scholarship to play jazz piano. Dropped out (kids, please don't try this at home; if you do I'll come after you with spoons deadlier than whatever The Creeper used to cut Justin Long's eyes out) cuz the writing, it called me.

Several years lata (say it like Chris Rock, come on, do it, lata), I placed a few pieces in some national mags, became a newspaper staff writer, wrote first MS, took senior copywriter position and then managing editor gig, killed first MS, built a roster of clients.

Today, I'm a freelance copywriter tromping through a second novel. After 10+ years of wood-sheddin', I'm inching closer to the right track. But I'm still not there. Gah, the work. It makes me philosophical.

So I want to hear from you. How did you sharpen YOUR writing chops?


(Man, this woulda been a fun blogfest :/)

Midnight Drive-By

Okay, guys, listen up. This is a drive-by (literally; tomorrow's post is set to publish at 8 a.m.) It's 12:58 a.m. and I'm wired. Since the introduction of Adderall, whose Dextroamphetamine Border Patrols have put the fuckery of my mental back nine on lockdown, I've been writing like it's my full-time job.

See, I'm whipping a zero draft into an acceptable first. But my Inner Editor keeps chasing me down rabbit holes (she's ultra focused, see: Border Patrol). I shoulda knocked out three chapters today, but only got through one because I was being, yanno, all precious with the words.

That, my darklings, is what second drafts are for.

So right now, to keep my fingers fleet and my Muse accountable, I'm gonna note the time I finish jotting down this post. Within 60 seconds of clicking "publish," I'm going to open my MS. Tackle chapters 25 & 26 - overwriting, weak motivation, missing facts and repeated words be damned. Then I'm going to report back in within an hour. Timed writing, y'all. Timed writing.

Okay. *takes breath*

1:01 a.m. (Ach, the stalling.) I'm goin' in.

UPDATE: It's 2:24 a.m. Yeah, so it's past an hour. And, yeah, I wrapped Chapter 25, but not Chapter 26. But it's still over 1K's worth of new words, and two chapters down for (technically) the day, and I wrote past my Inner Editor. Think I've just found the trick to silence that critical punk. Starting Chapter 26 after I get some sleep. Helloooo, momentum!

Two Words To Ignite Tension

Checked out PREDATORS Friday night and dug it. One, cuz it's freakin PREDATOR (and, dudes, Adrian Brody gives American Action Hero a solid turn).

Two, I love producer Robert Rodriguez, who's still hungry for stories and always comes with a rack of killer actors (hello Danny Trejo!). (Have you checked out the trailer for MACHETE? Here's hoping the tiresomely aggro Michelle Rodriguez doesn't bork it up.)

And three, director Nimród Antal gives the franchise plenty of warmth and love for the original PREDATOR, with all kinds of judicious ass-kicking and this buzzing, god-awful tension that snatches you up and doesn't let go until shit is smashed, bleeding, wrecked up and on FIRE.

What made that movie? It was FULL of the please don't, the two most important words when it comes to building palpable tension in a story. I turn to those two words any time I need to ratchet it up in the MS.

It's easy to do: just open up your scene, drop yourself into your character's head and then ask yourself what's on the other side of that please don't for your character:

Please don't...hurt me?
Please don't...be what I think it is on the other side of that locked door?
Please don't...tell me to open that fucking door, because I don't think I can do it?
Please don't...be dead?
Please don't...let me be alone in this dark place?

Then take it just a little further and drop yourself into the other side of that please don't coin, into the head of the antagonist, into the machinations of whatever's hurling obstacles at your MC like freakin ninja stars, and into the thoughts of your supporting characters in that same scene. What are their please don'ts? What do they know of your MC's please don'ts?

Now things are starting to feel tense. (Which is another little Jedi mind trick that works for me: Where my MS needs more tension, I don't use the word "tension" in my notes. I drop a single word at the beginning of said passage: tense. That makes me think of locked up muscles, lips drawn up tight, jumpy reflexes, eyes snatching glances, etc - suddenly I know what to do to keep tightening that wire.)

Works like a charm. What about you? Got any simple tricks for making things tense?

It's ALIVE! (And, yanno, an invitation.)

First, mosey on over to Laura Diamond's blog to check out her blog chain entry on quirky writing rituals. It's a good one!

Okay. So you remember that post from way back in which I waxed poetic about being a brown recluse? Yeah. So I've been a TOTAL recluse for the last week or so. I just tend to have moments days when the outside world is just too...exhausting to participate in, and sometimes that outside world includes the online world.

BUT. I'm back from outer space, and, in case you were wondering, I'm still alive like GlaDOS:



So I'll be back to popping in and out of the blogosphere and reading and commenting on everyone's blogs, but a little less regularly on account of three things:

1. I'm in the home stretch of this damned novel and it's all systems GO! I have a handful of shiny shiny short story ideas I want to play with before the summer's out. And I can't do that until I have a "the end" posted at the end of this draft.

2. Adderal. Got-BLESS mind-focusing drugs. Seriously, y'all. Turns out my industrial-grade procrastination is a product of adult attention deficit disorder. Which, considering my sib and other fambly members are thus afflicted, should have been more on my radar. But, yeah. Anyway - so I'm ZOOMING along on this MS like never before.

3. I'll be absent at least ONE day next month (I hope!) - due to my open invitation:


That's right!! I've "met" so many cool ass writer/bloggers based somewhere in Georgia, so I'd like to issue an invitation for any Georgia writers (with reasonable proximity to Atlanta) to get together one night in August for dinner, socialization, beer and support, support, support. And did I mention beer??

Just let me know if you're interested either in the comment section or via email (zoe.courtman AT gmail DOT com) and I'll find a location (maybe Apres Diem in midtown??) and get a date set. Come on, y'all! Writing's a lonely sport. So let's get together, drink, and bitch - it's just one night!!

Hope everyone's holiday was terrific. See you all online soon! (Promise I'll get to everyone's blogs this week. After all, you guys are the ones who get me through it!!)

Zee Magical Writer-Type Nook

So, back on June 25th, everyone's beloved Rejectionist waxed poetic about her special authorly-type place, i.e., where she writes, or, yanno, where the magic happens. As per her guidelines for joining in (that you put up your photo and link to it in her comments section), here's what I see when I:


Look right!

Um *in best tour bus operator voice, with bonus distortion*, so here we have Zoe's writing space. On our right is the much-vaunted wall o' tomes and her Great Notebook of Chaos....

And, if you'll look left, you'll see the portal to the great, terrifying abyss of clutter family room, and my best left-desk-corner accessory, Wampa. *slows tour bus so's everyone gets the shot*

 And, right chere, an oldie but a goodie: my letterless keyboard, once again on display for a FINAL (or, yanno, not so final because my spiffy new LED keyboard isn't here yet) SHOWING!

So, I lurves my little writing nook because A) there are arches. Dude. Everyone needs arches. B) there's an entire WALL o books breathing at me from the right. And C) it's where Wampa, my fluffy-little-yeah-he's-cute-and-all-but-the-little-fucker-can't-kill-a-spider-to-save-his-LIFE Wampa, hangs out all a-purr for most of the day.




As does Little Face, who's all legs in this photo, cuz he's busy STANDING ON TOP OF THE BACK OF MY CHAIR and yanking me off balance. (No, seriously. It sucks when the stocky little bugger leaps up and WALLOPS the chair with his considerable weight.)


Anyway, so I'll leave you with what you've been DYING for: MORE WAMPA!



WITH his Wampa!:









Anyone else sharing their authorial type places today???

Mmmm...the booksies...give us the booksies...

You know what's more fun than your berfday? Getting bookstore gift cards for your berfday!! This year, I got some good ones from Borders and Barnes & Noble (and an Amazon gift card from the uber-cool Shannon Whitney Messenger, whose contest I won a while back. Thanks, Shannon!) Consequently, I just spent the BEST MORNING EVER, luxuriating amongst the virtual stacks. I'M SO EXCITED!!! (Srsly, dudes, the booksies make me do awesome and terrible things. I loves them.)


So these are the booksies I'll be mainlining diving into soon:

KRAKEN: When a nine-meter-long dead squid is stolen, tank and all, from a London museum, curator Billy Harrow finds himself swept up in a world he didn't know existed: one of worshippers of the giant squid, animated golems, talking tattoos, and animal familiars on strike.


 


THE LITTLE STRANGER:
Called upon to examine the housemaid, Dr Faraday finds himself strangely drawn to the dilapidated house. What begins as mild fascination transforms itself into something more pronounced as Dr. Faraday scrambles to make sense of the strange happenings that begin to haunt Hundreds Hall.



NAOMI:
The man who loves Naomi must descend into the labyrinthine subway system to find her and bring her back to a world where a New York brownstone holds a burial ground of those accused of witchcraft, where the secrets of the living are within the ancient diary of a witch, and where a creature known only as the Serpent has escaped its bounds at last.





FINGERSMITH:
In Victorian England, an orphan girl, Sue, is sent to a country estate to work for its young heiress, on behalf of a mysterious benefactor known as Gentleman. Sue is raised by Mrs. Sucksby, den mother to a family of thieves, or "fingersmiths." To repay Mrs. Sucksby's kindness, Sue gets involved in a scam but soon regrets it.




STORIES (Gaiman! Joyce Carol Oates! JOE FREAKIN HILL!):
This collection of 27 never-before published stories from an impressive cast sets out to shift genre paradigms. The overarching theme is fantasy used in the most broad-sweeping sense, rather than signaling the familiar commercial staples of elves, ghouls, and robots.
AN EXORCIST TELLS HIS STORY:
Renowned exorcist of Rome tells of his many experiences as an exorcist doing battle with Satan. Fr. Amorth allows the reader to witness the activities of the exorcist, to experience what an exorcist sees and does. He also reveals how little modern science, psychology, & medicine can help those under Satan's influence.

Yip! I'm so excited. *squirms* But I have to finish THE PASSAGE first. Cronin slammed me into a brick wall of BLEH when he opens the story WIDE open in the second section. Was not feeling that. At. All. Sigh. (Then I'm all, yikes! What must that feel like, to hear your readers complain about your work?) Course, plenty o folks luurrved it. Ah, well. The story's starting to go full circle now, at the beginning of the last third, so I hope it picks up.

Anyway. So what are you SO. FREAKIN. EXCITED. to read this month???