Sunday, July 27, 2014

Memoir Writing: Wrenching The Gut 2

Today, I wrote four more pages on the Traumatic Incident from when I was eighteen. Good news: I re-read the first five pages, and was able to work on it, too. I didn't get nauseous today. I cried a few times, but I don't think anyone in Starbucks noticed. It was silent tears, not sobbing. I'm now at a point in the story where I a feeling overwhelmed by the amount of backstory there is, and frontstory, for that matter. I'm calling it quits for today.

Yesterday's word count: 1724
Today's word count: 1291

Feeling accomplished.

Last night, I got home and watched a movie that had been recommended to me, called Stuck In Love. It stars Greg Kinnear, as a writer, and Jennifer Connelly, as his ex-wife that he's still in love with, and their two teenage children, who are also both writers. Lily Collins is the angry, cynical daughter who gets a book deal at eighteen, and Nat Wolff as her poet younger brother. Kristen Bell is Kinnear's "friend" and there is even a cameo appearance (voice only) by Stephen King. It is very well-written, and while it can be discouraging to see young writers be so successful when you are more than twice their ages and still struggling, I enjoyed watching it and would recommend it.

After the movie, I read for seven hours. I dug out Priscilla Long's The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. I had started reading it upon its purchase, three years ago, but somehow got sidetracked from it. I read a good half the book last night, and did a few of the writing exercises suggested. I'm in the midst of learning, from the book, how to separate the STRUCTURE of a piece from the content, and apply it to my own writing. For instance, let's imagine an essay on coffee. Perhaps, it is nine paragraphs long, which is a common form, or structure. This nine-paragraph form is the vessel for the content, which is liquid (and in this example, the content really is liquid!). This fictional essay on coffee can be broken down thusly:

  1. Paragraph One - Introduction to the topic of coffee, inc. facts about world consumption and popularity.
  2.  P. Two - History of coffee in ancient cultures
  3.  - History of coffee trade, importance in business and economy
  4.  - Personal anecdote - author's introduction to coffee and passion for it
  5.  - Metafacts -  Different kinds of coffee beans and growing practices
  6.  - Metafacts - Free trade and organic movement
  7.  - Metafacts - Different ways to roast and brew it. Coffee rituals around the world.
  8.  - Personal anecdote - author's own experience with rituals of coffee
  9.  - Conclusion - the variations in how coffee is currently important to both world economies and personal performance in life.
Taking this form, anyone can pour (pun intended!) their own content into this structure. 
  1. Topic X - introduction
  2. Historical significance of Topic X
  3. Historical development or discovery of Topic X
  4. Personal anecdote related to Topic X
  5. Metafacts about Topic X
  6. Metafacts about Topic X
  7. Metafacts about Topic X
  8. Personal Anecdote related to Topic X
  9. Conclusion about Topic X's relevance, application to the world, etc. 
So, now, I'm on the hunt for memoir structures in which I can pour my own content. I've started reading Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Wild, upon recommendation. I have a couple of other books in my queue to follow that, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Memoir Writing: Wrenching The Gut 1

I write in cafes. I have a few favorite locations. I have too many distractions at home, and the lighting is never as good.

But I'm writing memoir stuff, this summer. I would like to have enough for a book, and publish it, but I am also doing this to glean fuel for my fiction. If I can dig into the depths of my own motivation and character, then my written characters will benefit, as well. My goal is to write a Dave Sedaris style collection of essays, and I'm focusing on childhood tales. I'm going for funny, insightful, and unique POV stories. My family is full of characters, and these are the things that made me who I am.

But I am also a result of some hard stuff. It's been nagging at me, and I've been fighting the urge to write about the traumas. But, even if no one but me ever reads it, I've decided that I have to write it.

I sat down today to start. I wrote five pages, all about an event that happened when I was eighteen. It was hard. I really don't mind talking about it, when the topic comes up, and I'm not secretive about it. But writing it is a completely different animal. I have no idea whether or not I actually captured the feelings, and depicted it as best I can -- I doubt it, since it is a raw first draft.

I have been sitting here, writing, for two hours, and I have felt the urge to vomit for most of it. The nausea in my gut is a sure sign that I'm on to something, no? I'm fearless, I swear; when it comes to honesty and the search for meaning, anyway. But I am wondering how the hell to do this. I guess I'll figure it out as I go along.

I have no idea how to edit such a thing, yet. I can't even re-read it. I'm not going to worry over it at the moment. Today's work is done.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How To Pick A Title For Your Book

I'm in the midst of this process, now, so no spoilers.

  1. Think of possible titles that you like, that speak to your tone, style, subject matter, and potential audience.
  2. Google them.
  3. Cross off all the ones that are already taken, especially in book titles, but even in movie titles.
  4. Take your top available choices, and mull the over.
  5. Run the titles by friends and acquaintances, to see what they think. What would they think that titled book is about? Would it pique their interest? Does it seem appropriate?
  6. Make your final decision.
  7. Be willing to throw that one out at some future point, and re-title it, anyway.

When Is Busy Too Busy?

Hello, July! I trust everyone is having either a lovely start to their summer season, or their winter (for those on the other side of the world). Hopefully, you're not sweltering in insufferable heat, like that in which I grew up, in Maryland. I don't miss that hot, humid, brain-frying summertime at all, thank you very much. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, we are just dipping into temperatures of 80+F, 27ish C.
What does a working author do with her time? Well, I can only speak for myself, of course. And I must admit to a lot of hours sleeping... I am still catching up on years of sleep deprivation, and trying to build myself some sort of "schedule" - something I've never been very good at. 

But, my summer working goals are as follows:
  1. Await replies from agents I queried, regarding HISMZA novel. Respond as needed, with follow-up revisions, etc.
  2. Continue writing short personal essays and memoir pieces, to be compiled, themed, and titled.
  3. Find a working title for above-mentioned book that speaks to me and the work, and an audience.
  4. Pitch said work at the PNWA Writers Conference, in two weeks.
  5. Submit individual essays for magazine publication.
  6. Continue research for 1920's project.
  7. Begin research for TV project.
In addition to these goals, I have the following on my plate:
  1. Edit a children's book series, for which I've been hired, by another writer.
  2. Maintain my massage therapy private practice, at around twenty-six hours per week
  3. Research local businesses and write informative reviews and blogs for Jet City Emerald List, a start-up website that has just hired me.
  4. Maintain and facilitate the nearly weekly writers critique group meetup meetings we have at Seattle Writers Meetup.
  5. Keep my overworked husband from going insane or breaking down physically.
  6. Lose twenty pounds by September, mostly by walking 30-60 minutes five times a week.
I'll also be taking care of and enjoying my kitty cats, attempting to maintain and repair several relationships with friends and family, cleaning and organizing that damn cluttered spare room, and cranking up my level of commitment to a non-GMO, organic lifestyle. 

I think that covers the most important projects in my life this summer. But for now, I'm catching up on Doctor Who, on NetFlix. 

Happy Summer!