What is "Doom Eager"?

Lorrie Moore, from "Better and Sicker"
"Martha Graham speaks of the Icelandic term "doom eager" to denote that ordeal of isolation, restlessness, caughtness and artistic experiences when he or she is sick with an idea. When a writer is doom eager, the writing won't be sludge on the page; it will give readers -- and the writer, of course, is the very first reader -- an experience they've never had before, or perhaps a little and at last the words for an experience they have."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Less is More

I've started packing the house today. We'll be moving soon, and I am facing the terrifying fact that all our stuff has to go somewhere. Moving from a 2,400 square-foot house to a 1,600 square-foot apartment, we certainly cannot take it all. I keep thinking, how did we get all this junk?

Today's topic: Less is More

With my rambling ways, I'm not the person to give writing advice on scaling down the verbage. This article comes from the helpful folks at writetodone.com: The Elegant Art of Writing Less.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Voltaire!

Happy Birthday, Voltaire

Born November 21, 1694

Writer, Philosopher, Enlightened Thinker

Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.

And on that note ...
A short article on when plagiarism became a crime.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is Sarah Palin Going Rogue Against Non-Fiction?

Oh, Sarah, what have you done now?

Our little Alaskan rogue is making headlines with her new book. Top McCain advisers and staffers are claiming Palin's new memoir is "based on fabrications." Memoirs based on fabrications are more accurately referred to as fiction. Is Sarah going rogue against non-fiction? Is non-fiction associating with domestic terrorists?

Of course, she's in good company, along with other fake memoir writers who got sensational media coverage, to be outed as fictionalizers later. Remember James Frey's #1 bestseller A Million Little Pieces. Will Oprah chew Sarah out on national television later for lying? Will Oprah even get the chance? The word out today is that Oprah is leaving her show.

Oh, Sarah, you ruin everything!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Making Money as a Writing Mentor

Still suffering with a burned hand today and plagued with a bout of procrastinitis, it seems like a good day for a writer's quotation about the difficulties of writing. This one's from Thomas Mann:
A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

If writing comes easy for you and you'd like to mentor others in the craft, check out this EHow article, How to Be A Paid Writing Mentor.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Junot Diaz on Becoming a Writer

Last year, during the brief, wondrous year I got to own a bookstore, I fell in love with Junot Diaz's writing. I had never heard of him before his 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I had not found a writer I could love since reading Yan Martel's 2001 debut novel Life of Pi. Alas, I do not fall in love easily, but when I do, I fall hard and it's forever.

Writing coach Jessica Page Morrell posted this link to Diaz's article in O Magazine online on becoming a writer. I thought I'd pass it along. I was pleased to read Diaz speaking to the concept of "doom-eager" in the last paragraph.

Enjoy, and if you haven't read his work, give it a shot. I don't think it's for everyone, but what is? Fans of geek culture, Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons, and comic books will relate to the character of Oscar right away. Those who appreciate the craft of writing will fall in love. I know I did.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I did a foolish thing last night, and it has left me feeling like a doofus. In my rush to clean up the kitchen and get ready to watch The Amazing Race, Dexter, and Californication (the reason I spend much of the weekend looking forward to Sunday evening), I caused first and second degree burns on my left hand. I thought the cooking oil had cooled down. I was going to pour it into a mason jar over the sink and then take the oil outside to pour out. I once clogged my sink with grease and had to take the pipes apart to clean the gobbed-up mess, so now I find a place in a corner farthest from the house to dump it. It turns the grass brown in that spot but at least my pipes are clear.

Well, it wasn't cool. I bumbled the frying pan and ended up in the ER at 9:30 instead of watching Dexter Morgan hunt and kill Trinity, and where RN Jason, who, like myself, seemed miffed to be there slathered my red, swelling hand with antibiotic goo and wrapped it tightly in gauze and an ace bandage, so tightly I can barely wiggle my fingers. Luckily, my middle fingers are free enough to peck at the keyboard. My pinkie and thumb, however, stick out like popsicle sticks.

Having limited use of my hand made me think of my artist friends and how they would feel with a bandaged hand. They're a great bunch of guys into comic art. Today I thought I'd post a link to the Amazon's best graphic novels released in 2009. Stitches, by David Small, also made Publisher Weekly's the top 10 books released in 2009. When I had a bookstore, we specialized in comics and graphic novels. It's nice to see a graphic novel (besides Watchmen) getting its deserved respect.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thought for the Day and a Question

I usually need a can of beer to prime me.

Norman Mailer

I had a literature professor who once suggested to the class that the best conditions for writing were to be a little sleepy and on your second glass of wine.

I find I often write my best work between 1am and 3am (with or without wine).

Question: What primes you best for writing?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thought for the Day

An incurable itch for scribbling takes possession of many and grows inveterate in their insane hearts.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Our Obsession with Interesting Characters: Why America Can't Get Enough of Sarah Palin

This morning on MSNBC's Morning Meeting, host Dylan Ratigan posed the question: Why is America obsessed with Sarah Palin?

Among Ratigan's top ten reasons were: She's hot, she's not Bush, she can wink, smile, and cut an opponent down at the same time, and the drama in her life makes you feel better about your own. I love this last point, which is primarily why I watch shows like Intervention and Hoarders on A&E. My problems end up seeming small and manageable by the time the show has ended. I do feel better when, at the end of the show, the subject has gone to rehab and is in recovery or cleaned up their home and is no longer in threat of being evicted.

But I digress . . . America is obsessed with Sarah Palin because she is an interesting character. Not a flat, one-trick pony like Joe the Plumber (where is he now?) but a rounded character complete with conflict, emotional, sexual, and (dare I say it) intellectual appeal. As a character, Palin embodies the myth of small-town America. She is "Mrs. Palin goes to Washington," which some read as wholesome and couragous, while some (myself included) read as naive and dangerous. Either way, the character taps into our collective imagination. She is a character wrought with conflict and complications. Hero-maverick or temptress-villain, we want to know what happens to this character.

With the launch of her new book, which is already #1 on Amazon.com, Sarah's PR people would do her well to continue to shape her into a fully-realized character for the America public. Too much emphasis on limited aspects of her as a person or political figure will relegate her into a stock character role: the dippy pageant queen, the small-town soccer mom. In a political party that wants to kick out moderates and narrow the views of the party, Sarah needs to broaden her image/character, or risk us becoming bored with her before 2012. Maybe her book will help; though, I hear it's only five chapters, so excuse me if I'm skeptical.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Complications vs. Situations

Fall has come to my sunny Florida, and it looks like it's here to stay, after a few false starts this year. The sky is overcast and gray. I am fighting letting its gloominess drag me down. I've been thinking about the change in the weather all day today and realized, after much grumbling, I am reacting to a situation (a perfectly normal one for mid-November) and not a complication. The chill in the air and the sky's dreariness is not keeping me from doing anything I want, after all. I still went out and ran errands, enjoyed a quick lunch at a favorite diner, got my hair colored (bonfire red). In fact, the cooler weather made my hot coffee even more of a treat.

Thinking about the weather has made me consider complications versus situations in plot development. I am reading Monica Wood's essay "The Plot Thickens" in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, which contains a thought-provoking section on the subject. Wood writes,
Remember this: A complication must either illuminate, thwart, or alter what the character wants. A good complication puts emotional pressure on a character, prompting that character not only to act, but to act with purpose. If the circumstance does none of these things, then it's not a complicaton at all - it's a situation.
Reading Wood's essay makes me question to what extent I have complicated the lives of my characters versus just creating interesting situations to place them in. As writing coach Jessica Page Morrell insists, writing good fiction is about saying "no" to your characters. Am I saying "no" enough? How can I complicated their lives in order to stir them to act with purpose, rather than merely react to a situation as any one else would.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting Published and Publishing "Deal Breakers"

When I'm feeling particularly blocked creatively, I like to go to the bookstore and scan through the books on writing and publishing. Most of the time I find advice books that appear to be written to the complete novice with lots of time-soaking exercises that, although I'm sure have some merit, seem mostly included to beef up the page count and rather skimpy advice.

On my last visit, I found Jessics Page Morrell's Thanks, But This Isn't For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected. Written in a genuine and frank voice, Morrell has produced not only a useful guide to writing the best novel one can but, also, a practical handbook to understanding the mind of the publisher and what he or she is expecting, including what Morrell referrs to as "Deal Breakers," those absolute no-no's that will cause your manuscript to be rejected.

After reading through it, I saw many mistakes I needed to fix in my first draft and wanted to start revising right away. However, I was happy I read to chapter 13 first, "The Final Edit: Fixing Your Manuscript Without Losing It." With Morrell's helpful advice, I realized that if I didn't finish the first draft before going back for a major revision, I might trip myself up and lose momentum. In this chapter, Morrell lays out step-by-step the process for revision, from the larger issues of structure and plot to the more detailed, fine revision work of language clarity, cohesion, and resonance.

Check out Morrell's blog: The Writing Life Too and her website at www.writing-life.com.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Doom-Eager" and Why I am Writing this Blog

I'm not sure where I even read the term "doom-eager," perhaps in The Best Writing on Writing edited by Jack Heffron (1994), but I cannot push it from my mind, as of late.  I decided to write this blog partly because it would give me another writing project to focus on besides the novel draft I'm currently working on, but also because I fell in love with this term, "doom-eager." What better, more concise, way to express that feeling, so often decribed by writers, that heavy blend of trepidation and anticipation we face when we sit down to write.

I believe for some our own doom-eager fuels us. We cannot imagine a life without writing. Even when we try to push it away, images, words, characters impress themselves upon us.

Personally, I left a teaching career after seventeen years to devote myself full time to writing. When I sit down to write, I am doom-eager and embrace the struggle and the joy, realizing more and more each day that putting myself in front of the page is my greatest battle. So far, I am winning that battle.

With this blog, I hope to connect to other involved with the writing life, share ideas, and work on the craft. Please comment and share your thoughts and feelings on any aspect of writing.