Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't Quit at the One Yard Line

Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success. They quit at the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown. -- Ross Perot

I've always written, and always will. Even if it's just poetry, love letters, or in my personal journal. People outside my family don't read those words, and for the longest time, I was okay with that. When I mention the idea of quitting, this isn't the writing I'm talking about.

When it comes to writing fiction and pursuing publication, have I considered quitting? Yes.

Am I proud of that? No. But I'm keeping it real on the blog. I'm not one of those bulletproof writers who says, "I'll never quit." Believe me, I've considered it, especially after a punch-in-the-gut rejection. I've wondered why in the heck I'm doing this to myself. But I've learned to nurse my open wounds for a few days, then gather courage and move forward. Why? The "what if" factor.

Whether you're pre-published or published, have you ever asked yourself, What if I'm 50 yards from the end zone? 20 yards? 10? What about one yard from the end zone?

What can be worse than the pain of rejection? The pain of regret. Always wondering, If I hadn't quit, what would've happened? How close was I?

In case they're helpful, here are some important points to remember:

  • Many people say they want to write a book, but never do.
  • Many people start writing a book, but never finish.
  • Many people finish writing a book, but never edit.
  • Many people edit their books, but never have them critiqued.
  • Many people have their books critiqued, but never submit.
  • Many people quit after rejections pour in.
If we keep going, even when times are tough, we set ourselves apart. If you're pre-published, and you're thinking about quitting...don't. You may be at the one yard line, and don't even know it.

Rachelle Gardner wrote a great post, 8 Ways to be a Happy Author. It'll definitely put a spring in your step, and remind you why we do what we do.

Confession time: have you ever considered quitting your pursuit of publication? What kept you in the game? 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Scene details from Whiskey a Go Go

There's a popular music venue in West Hollywood, California called Whiskey a Go Go, or as the cool people call it, "The Whiskey." My son's good friend plays guitar for a teen band, Gravity Hill, and they scored a gig at The Whiskey (Scored? Gig? The Whiskey? Am I cool yet?).

We went to see this super talented group of kids sing and play. As most writers do, I took mental notes of the scene. In case you've never been there, and in case you can use these scene details, here's what I remember:

The Venue

  • Small brick building with neon sign. 
  • Horns honking on Sunset Blvd. as more than one accident almost takes place.
  • Entry tickets: red with black writing. No band name printed on the ticket, but hand-written on the back.
  • Inside...black walls and floors.
  • Red semi-circle booths in back, reserved for $100.
  • Stairs with pipe railing leading to the second floor, where the bar is located.
  • Mid-sized stage angled in the corner.
  • Band name on stage banners and also on the big drum.
The People
  • Folks of all ages standing in line before showtime. Teens, young adults, older adults *ahem*.
  • "Bouncer" at the door checking bags, patting down guys, stamping the right hand of adults only (he threw away my bottled waters...*angry face*).
  • Inside, teens clustered together talking and texting before the music begins.
  • Teen guy with a green, yellow, and red beanie cap.
  • Teen girl with short shorts, high heels, loose tank top, studded belt.
  • iPhones held high during show, taking still shots. No video taping allowed.
  • My son's friend's band was clean cut and wore simple jeans and T-shirts. The second band was older, edgier. More piercings, less parents in the audience.
The Sounds
  • Band members warming up, saying, "check, check" in the microphone several times.
  • Screaming fans.
  • Audience members singing along to old favorites.
  • A trio of girls talking during the show instead of listening. 
  • Loud guitars, keyboards, and drums. 
Have you ever heard of Whiskey a Go Go? Have you ever been there? Are you uncool like me?

photo credit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Grammar, Social Media, & Kids

Ready for some useless musings about grammar, social media, and teens?

I heard that these days people place grammar high on their list of attractive qualities. One man wondered if this is because many people meet and get to know each other on line, and grammar is the new first impression.

My soon to be sixteen-year-old son (OMG!) has a Facebook and Twitter account, and I monitor (stalk?) it regularly. It was one of the conditions. Here are some of the benefits of keeping an eye on kids and social media:

  • We can be a fly on the wall without being in the room. It's easier to keep an eye on friendships, drama, and social interactions.  
  • We learn what matters to kids--what frustrates them, what makes them angry, and what makes them sad. We learn if there's a school project that's troubling them.
  • It's a teaching opportunity--we can teach kids what is or isn't appropriate for the World Wide Web. Social media is a fact of life these days, and we can guide kids through it.
While monitoring a teen's social media, here are some things I've noticed:
  • Kids share WAY too much information on line.
  • Some kids don't yet realize the consequences of negative online behavior, such as foul language and bullying.
  • Their grammar needs...work.
But fear not. There is hope. 
  • My son is a beat cop on the Grammar Police Force. Two of my favorite tweets of his were... People! You're = you are. Your = possession. And Proper spelling and grammar today. #respect. He's annoyed by poor spelling and grammar as much as any writer. He gives me hope that the next generation is not a lost cause.
  • I saw a story about second graders who corrected NFL players' tweets. Click here to check out the quick story and photos. It'll make your day. 
Another benefit of social media? Tweets and Facebook posts help kids get to the point quicker, which is helpful in English class :)

There you have it. My useless musings about teens, grammar, and social media. Tell me, what have been your observations on the subject? The good the bad and the ugly, I want to know!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Writing lessons learned from WORLD WITHOUT END

"World Without End" is the sequel to Ken Follett's bestseller, "The Pillars of the Earth." I read Pillars, but cheated with World Without End and watched the series on Netflix. The books are huge, but if you like historical fiction, these stories are juicy and fun.

Here's the blurb for World Without End from Amazon:

In this epic sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, it is now two centuries after the townspeople of Kingsbridge have finished building its exquisite Gothic cathedral. On a cold November day, four children slip into the forest and witness a killing--an event that will braid their lives together by ambition, love, greed, and revenge.

Follett is a master storyteller, and he's brilliant at conflict. Here are some of the writing lessons I learned from watching World Without End:

  • Show good vs. evil--Lines are drawn early in the story, and we're shown, not told, who is good and who is evil. Siblings kill each other, the queen hires a henchman to kill the king, and lovers are kept apart by cruelty. Story events push the good guys further to the good, and the evil guys further into evil. 
  • Let villains win--In this story, the good guys can't catch a break. A traitorous lord gains power. A murdering rapist gains favor with the king and is given land and a title. A vain religious man and his wicked mother kill their way to the top without consequences. It's frustrating yet fascinating to watch.
  • Revive Biblical premises--There's a Cain and Abel storyline that threads through World Without End, beginning with an opening scene and following through to the climax. Brothers are torn apart and forced to fight from opposite sides. Bible stories are packed with built-in conflict and tough choices.
  • Keep lovers apart--Two of the main characters love each other, but can't be together. First, the girl is married off to her beloved's cruel boss. Then she's accused of being a witch, and is forced to become a nun to save her life. The guy tries living his life without her, but he's drawn back to her time after time. It seems they'll never be together.
  • No way out--The town of Kingsbridge will battle the king's army, and there's no way they can win. Their backs are against the wall. Community leaders muster the courage of the townspeople, and they figure out A Plan. The storyteller did a great job of making me think there was no way these simple people could win against royalty and his mighty army.
  • Character traits during the climax--The story comes down to a battle of freedom vs. tyranny, and all the character work that had been done before comes into play at the end. What seem like flaws for the good guys become their strengths. What made the bad guys seem invincible now make them vulnerable. I love it when that happens.
What's your opinion of these writing lessons? Have you used any of them before? And have you read or watched The Pillars of the Earth or World Without End? Any of Follett's other stories? 

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