Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What I Learned About Writing From Reading a Blog Post

This week I was so moved by something that I have little to say about it, but wanted to post anyway. It's a www.makealivingwriting.com blog post about writing, but if you're an artist in any medium--or even if you just love something so intensely that your life revolves around it, no matter what that thing is--you'll find a lesson in this post. Check it out and let me know what it does for you.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Are Classics Age-Proof?

Today at work we threw some chain-smoking, borderline skinny-dipping college kids out of our pool. As they lurked away from their wet t-shirt contest and tossed their (still lit) ciggies in my freshly-laid pine straw, I narrowed my eyes and shook my fist and said "Be gone, you whippersnappers!"

Okay, so that last part's a fib. I did narrow my eyes and glare as they stormed off, one young lady cursing at me over her shoulder for daring to throw them out of a pool they'd taken so much trouble sneaking into. And I'll admit I felt a tingle of glee watching them slide into their cars and drive out of my community. There, I thought, puffing up like a bird. I've protected my residents from these ne'er-do-wells.

And then I thought, When did I get so old? It hasn't been all that long ago that it was me sneaking into apartment pools and glaring at the old farts who had the nerve to tell me to get lost. Barring some stretch marks and a few extra pounds I'd rather keep hidden, and a 9-to-5 office job paired with a 5-to-9 parenting job, oh and a mortgage and a car payment and a 401(k)...where did my youthful carelessness go?

We all outgrow our youth eventually. And apparently we fiction writers outgrow the youths before ours, even. According to a Dartmouth College study of literature (reviewed by The Guardian), modern writers are starting to sound more like their peers, and less like their 18th and 19th century ancestors (aka the writers of classic literature). This isn't surprising. As much as I love Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and many of their peers, I can totally see why they have a hard time competing against the siren of today's primetime television and summer blockbuster films. Modern readers want action, drama, suspense, intrigue...and all of it at warp speed. The fiction of yore just can't keep up.

Are we losing something by ignoring our literary ancestors? That remains to be seen, although I'd venture to say we can never learn enough from our past. As long as we keep a broad-minded approach--appreciating the past, studying the present, preparing for the future--we can maintain a careful balance.

It's okay to grow up. To get old. As long as we don't forget where we came from.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fiction's Fabulous First Lines

Here I am, with a sliver of time to work on my novel, and what am I doing instead? Cleaning out my Gmail inbox. (My characters and I are fighting.)

That's where I came across this article from the Observer: The 10 best first lines in fiction. What better way to avoid my own work than to study that of others? (Counts as work anyway, right?)

The list includes a spectrum of writers, mostly classics with some modern-ish stuff sprinkled in here and there. It's interesting because by the standards of contemporary mainstream fiction, many of these first lines wouldn't be great first lines at all. They wouldn't catch a reader's eye, much less an agent's or editor's. Readers are too technology-driven, too fast-paced, to slow down for the likes of Jane Austen and James Joyce, no matter how beautiful the writing. Today's readers are inundated with visual and auditory stimuli, which means books have a lot to compete with.

So slow down. Read the list. Study the antique-y photos. Enjoy the slideshow. Revel in the complicated sentence structures of yesteryear.

At least for a few minutes.