Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Madness Is Over

Well, I did it. The first draft, a very VERY rough draft of Street Walk is officially completed. There are scenes missing, scenes that need to be cut, subplots that need to be elaborated, but nevertheless, I have typed "The End". For the next few weeks, the novel will be marinating in my laptop and I will be catching up on much needed sleep, reading and movie watching.

The whole process was wonderful. It really showed me what I am capable of as a writer. Writing 3,000 words a day, sometimes in one sitting, seemed impossible, but now I know I can do it. And hey, if I can do it, anyone can.

So many times, I have heard writers, or any artist for that matter, say that they have to wait for inspiration, that the mood has to strike them or else the words seem forced. Well, when you have a deadline, you don't have that kind of time. You have to turn in a product, a good product, whether you were inspired to or not. In my stage of the game, I don't have an editor or publisher telling me when my next manuscript is due. I have to create my own deadlines, or in this case, NaNoWriMo did it for me.

I once asked my uncle about writer's block, asking if he ever got stuck in the middle of a manuscript. He gave me the answer that I later heard him give at an interview. He said that writing is a job. Does a truck driver get stuck? No, he just keeps going. I've always considered that a good motto to live by. If you are serious about your writing, you do it every day, treating it like every other job. And if you keep writing, whether it's a page a day or 5,000 words, eventually you will finish. You will able to sit back at your computer, pop open a beer and type "The End".

Today was my day to pop the beer and type the two words. And even though I know that there is much work that needs to be done to get it to that final draft, the act of completion, of telling a full movement in over three-hundred pages, feels damn good.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Latest Article

The December issue of Curve Magazine should be hitting the stands very shortly. Pick it up and turn to the back page for my article, "Top Ten Reasons We Love Lisa Myers". Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Destined for Spinsterhood

Okay, so NaNoWriMo has officially kicked my ass and things such as laundry, grocery shopping and maintaining my blog have been seriously neglected. Fortunately, I have skipped passed the 50,000 word mark and can relax a bit, although not too much. I still want to get at least 20,000 more words done before the end of the month.

But today, as I have sat in front of my computer for about four hours, I was thinking about the life of a writer. Aside from the writing, there is a lot of brainstorming, reading, researching, all of which is done solo. Writing is a solitary life and most of the writers I know are perfectly content to be by themselves for hours, sometimes days at a time. What surprises me the most though, is that most of the writers I know have significant others.

I am not an easy person to deal with: I am neurotic, anal, cranky, scatterbrained and stubborn. Throw writer on top of that and you get a person who is destined for spinsterhood. It amazes me that I have been in a relationship for over two years and Nicole hasn't either left me for good or had me committed to a mental institution. We are not easy people to deal with, so how is it so many of us have people who stay by our side as we spend hours in front of our computers, project these massive egos when really they are just blankets covering the insecurities, and need alone time like runners need water?

At Thrillerfest, Gayle Lynds said that there should be a book called, "How to Live With a Writer". I completely agree. We are, by far, the most difficult people to live and have relationships with. A manual of some sort, wouldn't hurt. So here is my contribution, both for writers and their spouses.

Things you should know about dating a writer:

1) Know that writer's write all the time. Even when they are not putting pen to paper or plowing away at the keyboard, they are still writing. When they are watching TV or doing the crossword puzzle or staring blankly at a white wall, they are writing. They are brainstorming, mentally outlining, plotting, and there's pretty much nothing you can do to stop them. When they say, "I'm working," even though all they appear to be doing is playing spider solitaire, just trust them. They're working.

2) Know that your writer is insecure. They may act like they are G-d's gift to the literary world, but deep inside, they think they are a hack. When a rejection letter comes or the editor is unhappy with their latest draft, give them a pat on the head and tell them they're brilliant. There is a time for constructive criticism and there is a time for ego stroking.

3) Know that writing is their job, a job that they love. Whether your significant other has published ten novels or is still finishing the first, if they consider themselves a writer, then that is their job. Writers don't keep normal hours, the computer doesn't shut off at five o'clock. There are early mornings, late nights, and often weekend writing sessions. Just because it's not always paying, doesn't make the job less legit.

4) Know that your writer needs you. They want you there for support, because they enjoy your company and because they care for you. Writing is such a solitary life, that if they have let you into their realm, it means they must really love you. So don't get offended when they want to go to a cabin for a week by themselves or spend Sunday mornings at a cafe. It doesn't mean they love their laptop more than you. If they did, you wouldn't be in their life.

5) Know that you have to keep them in check. They may think that a deadline means they have the right to abandon all other household and relationship duties, but this is not true. If they are slacking around the house or not spending enough time with you, you need to call them on it. When writers are wrapped up in a project, everything around them seems to fade and it's your job to bring the clarity back.

For Writers, How to Keep Your Significant Other:

1) Be understanding. Know that you are a pain in the ass to deal with. You are needy, stubborn, insecure and often times inconsiderate. Know that your significant other must really love you if they are putting up with all your idiosyncrasies, so you better love them back.

2) If you are dating a non-writer (which I think is highly recommended since two egotistical basket cases would have a difficult time cohabitating), know that they may not always understand what it's like to be a writer. Let them into your world. Tell them about the publishing industry, talk to them about your writing process, it will help them better understand what is going through that crazy head of yours. Don't blow them off with a you-just-don't-understand line, and know that it is hard to sympathize when they aren't sure what exactly you are going through.

3) Show that you care. If you've been slaving away at a novel for six months, celebrate it's completion by taking your significant other out to dinner. Clean the house, pick up some flowers, buy a present for no other reason than you love them. When you spend so much time writing, it's easy to think you love your characters more than your partner. Show them that this isn't true.

4) Balance your time. You spend so much effort creating a writing schedule and juggling deadlines, make sure to factor in your significant other. Create one day a week, or an hour a day, when you put the writing aside and dedicate yourself to the relationship. This is difficult in any dating situation no matter the occupation, but it is extra difficult for writers because, (as stated in the previous section) we are writing constantly. Turning off your author brain for a little bit each day goes a long way.

5) Quit being so damn anal. If you're like me, you want your work station to be just so and the writing conditions have to be perfect to have an effective work day. I need my morning coffee, I need to not speak to anyone for an hour after waking up, I need to have just the right amount of background noise, and I need to not be interrupted. Do not get angry if your partner didn't pick up coffee at the grocery store or calls you when she knows you are writing, or was trying to be helpful by organizing your desk but instead, according to you, ruined your system and now you can't find anything. Know that none of this is her fault or the end of the world. It will save you a lot of stress and quite a few fights to turn down the anal retentiveness level just a notch.

Again, I'm not the expert. Feel free to leave comments if you have any other suggestions. But hopefully everyone will find these suggestions helpful.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's depressing...in a funny sort of way

Last night, Nicole and I went to see Running With Scissors, a fantastic adaptation of Augusten Burroughs's memoir. After I let the film digest on the walk home, I went to the computer and, like the nerd that I am, searched for interviews with Burroughs to see what he thought of the film. This is what I found on the Book Standard website:

"I never was going to option Running With Scissors for film because I felt it would be too easy to make a really bad, cheesy movie out of it. But this person, Ryan Murphy, kept pestering me and my agent over and over again, so I finally decided to have lunch with him, just to explain to him why I was not going to option it. But he had an understanding of Running With Scissors that I felt only the author of the book could have. It was really remarkable how deeply he related to the book. And by the end of lunch, I had made a 180-degree turn in my feelings...When I saw it [the film], I was just absolutely blown away. On the one hand, it was like watching a home movie, where everyone is, like, gorgeous. But of the other hand, I was able to step back and disconnect emotionally from it and look at it just as a movie. And I was able to realize, this is so fucking cool. This is a great movie. In one minute, it's absolutely hysterical, in the next it's heartbreaking, in the next it's shocking and in the next, it's just weird. All through it, it maintains a real huge heart and it's not pretentious and it's not arty for the sake of being arty. Running With Scissors is amazing when I consider that it's Ryan Murphy's first movie. It's a triumph. I feel lucky to be associated with it."

First of all, I was shocked at the fact that he didn't want to option the book. Isn't that every author's dream? But he didn't see the money they were throwing at him, he saw the possibilities of what could go wrong. I think that most authors are really quick to jump on the Hollywood bandwagon and get their movie check without thinking about the what could possibly happen if they movie was actually made.

The comment about the movie being hysterical, heartbreaking, shocking, and weird all at the same time was right on point. Newbie authors hear time and time again, make sure yoconsistentonsistant tone throughout your work; don't have this violent gritty narrative throwthen thow a dash of humor in. It's jarring. But Burroughs mastered this in his novel, being able to maintain a sense of humor throughout, while conveying the underlying darkness and depression that was plaguing the characters. There were moments, in the theater, when half the audience was gasping and the other half was cracking up, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. When I'm reading a book or watching a movie and I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry, it speaks to the talent of the artist. Really, the events in the story were dark and depressing, but were told in such a humourous way, that I actually caught myself, "Wait, this 35 year old man is having a relationship with a fourteen year oThat's...that's not funny!" But would I go to see a film about pedophilia and mental illness? Probably not. It's too depressing. The humor allowed him to tell this heartbreaking tale in a way that would get people to pay attention, laugh, be entertained, while still receiving Burroughs's message.

If you haven't already, read the book and see the movie, you disappointed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Write Obituaries

Anyone who has had the nerve to call themselves a writer, has heard this question:

"What do you write?"

Being who I am, I often come back with, "I write obituaries" or "erotic novels for children". It depends on the audience, but it's a great way to get rid of people that you don't want to talk to.

But it's an interesting question, and something that most writers deal with. Because of how the industry it, it seems that genre crossing is never recommended. If your debut novel is a romance, then you sure as hell better write at least three more romance novels in order to build up your audience. If you want to cross genres, you better get a pen name or else the readers will most likely crucify you.

The problem I have had is that I am a genre crosser. I've written literary and genre fiction, short stories and novels, magazine articles and book reviews. It's not because I have ADD and it's not entirely that magazine articles pay and short stories often don't. I truly believe that each form of writing improves the other, and sticking to one median is limiting your writing potential.

For instance, in a novel, you have 90,000 words to play with. That's a lot. And I have read too many books that meander through the plot because they have so much to work with. When I have to write a 500 word magazine article about a person that has accomplished enough to fill a book, I am forced to be more selective. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but it would do a lot of novelists a lot of good to be more selective with their words, only putting in the passages which are essential to the story. The same goes for genre and literary. As Michael Cunningham so beautifully stated, "I get tired of reading books about people sitting in rooms talking about people sitting in rooms talking." If more literary writers tried their hand at a mystery or horror novel, they could learn a lot about plot and tension. Conversely, a genre writer could learn a lot more about character development and emotional drive by writing literary fiction.

The other question that is often asked is, "What do you write about?"

And I look at the asker like a deer in the headlights. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

I can tell them what my novel is about, I could give them a one line synopsis of my short stories, but would those be accurate answers? Is what I write about judged by what I have already written? Like I said, I'm a genre crosser. Different things interest me and there's no telling what I'm going to be drawn to tomorrow or a year from now. Thou Shall Not is about the ultra-orthodox community in Israel while the project I'm working on for NaNoWriMo is about a reformed prostitute living on the north shore. Yes, I know there was a prostitution sub-plot in the first book, but that doesn't mean there is a connection. My short stories range from coming of age tales, to a girl getting the wrong zodiac sign tattooed on her hip, coming out to my Jewish grandmother or beating up a kid on the playground because he said thought I was a boy. If I only wrote about one thing, I would go nuts. To me, it's the equivalent of going to the office Monday through Friday from nine to five. It get's real dull, real quick.

To please the publishing industry, I have my answers about what I write and what I write about, the two line pitch and my platform. But the truth is, I write. That's it. And I wish it was a sufficient answer to the frequently asked questions.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Chill Mag article and Nanowrimo update

Due to the intensity of NaNoWriMo, the blogging hasn't been as frequent. So far, it has been a very interesting experience. Although it makes total sense, I was amazed at how easy it is to write 3,000 words a day if you just say, "I'm not leaving this chair until I make my word count!" You want to go to the bathroom. You want another cup of coffee. You want to watch bad day-time television. You will write those 3,000 words! Yes, chores are being ignored, laundry and dishes are piling up, I haven't seen much of my friends, and I'm becoming slightly sleep deprived...But it'll be worth it in the end (and if anyone wants to volunteer to clean my house, that would be great. Just think of it as a donation to the arts). As of right now, I'm at 14,500, almost right on schedule. But hopefully, I'll crank out another thousand by the end of the day.

The other aspect that has been amazing to me is how much your own writing can surprise you. When your streamlining the story, the thoughts coming faster than your fingers can type, it seems that the characters take on a life of their own. I heavily outlined the major plot points, but let the connecting scenes write themselves, and I found myself saying, "Shit, I didn't know that was going to happen." I think this is the good part of the writing, when your own story can surprise you, when, just like the reader, you're unsure of what could happen next. Whether or not I'll end up writing myself into a hole, it's too soon to tell. Right now I'm enjoying the experience, especially when I run into other sleep deprived writers at some cafe and I ask, "NaNoWriMo?" and they just give a zombie like nod and reply, "NaNoWriMo."

On another interesting note, I was featured in an article for Chill magazine, written by the very talented Alicia Eler. After years of writing about other people, it was a cool experience to be on the other side of the interview. Check it out, e-mail it to your friends, get this girl a little press to feed her ever growing ego!