Friday, January 29, 2010

Five for Friday

Every Friday I shall post five things I’d like to share. Sometimes there will be a theme, sometimes not.

Five things I would like you to know, just in case you were wondering:

1. I have recently painted my toenails “Nuclear Ruby” by Sation. I always have to have my toenails painted; they look terrible without some sort of color. In the winter I stick to dark shades of red, purple, and sometimes even blue. But in the summer, all bets are off and I search for the most obnoxious shade of hot pink or orange or green I can, since it’s the only time of the year I can get away with it, because I am PALE…white-pale. 99%-Irish-ancestry-pale. I sunburn in less than ten minutes, no exaggeration.
2. There is nothing like taking a hot shower in the morning. Something about the hot water and the steam…it’s pure heaven.
3. I have a slight obsession with various things, but most of them relate to food and body care products, like lotion and shower gel. I will go through phases where I love a certain type of food, and eat it for weeks straight. My current food obsession? Crunchy Cheetos. Man, are those things DELICIOUS!
4. I have a highly sensitive sense of smell. This relates back to the body care products thing in number three. I have a lot of lotion, shower gels, body sprays, and candles. Working part time at Bath and Body Works only reinforced this obsession. I think smell is underused in writing, and I tend to focus on it a little more than I notice most authors doing.
5. The birds, specifically around here, are really fat. I am not talking about when they puff their feathers up, either. I mean, this robins flying around here break the laws of aerodynamics. I saw one the other day that looked like a red baseball with a tiny head on the top. I shall have to carry my camera around with me, and capture evidence of this.

I hope everyone has a great Friday! Feel free to share anything about yourself you thought I would like to know (and I do want to know. People are fascinating!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Heart of Everything

Quote: “If you want to write something that will move other people, you have to come to terms with the fact that the writer is by profession a squealer. He learns by starting to squeal on himself.”
~Sol Stein
Song Playing on Itunes: Coheed and Cambria: Welcome Home

I thought I would talk about the title of my blog today. It’s called “Myself, Without the Shell” because I believe the best writing comes straight from inside you, as cheesy as that may sound. But it’s true. Over the years, and many books later, I can tell when I pick up a book how close to the “truth” the writer got with their book. I believe there is a truth to every book, no matter how far away the subject is from the writer’s daily life (says the writer of urban fantasy…I spend most of my time straight making things up). But there is a kernel of truth in every story, admist all the lies we weave about the characters and the plot.

I believe this truth transcends all subjects and genres, fiction and even non-fiction. I think it’s what gives a book heart, the difference between reading something and forgetting about it immediately and reading a book that stays with you, leaves a mark on you. Have you ever read a book that was good, there was no discernable problem with it, the characters were fleshed out, the plot well turned, written with quality, but just didn’t seem to have oomph? It felt like something was missing? I think that is the truth, or the heart of the book, that isn’t shining through.

Now, I am not saying that the author who wrote a book that didn’t grab you is a hack, and only writing for the money, and so on. It’s possible you weren’t in the right spot emotionally for the book to resonate with you. It’s possible the writer didn’t really know how to tap into that core (since it’s REALLY difficult to do, there is a constant urge to cover up, and protect yourself). I do think the more you write from fear, the “People will think I am nuts for writing this out, so I am going to skip it over”, or “Mom would DIE if she read this in one of my books!” or “The Legion of Decency will send me hate mail if I use this word, so I will omit it” and so on, the more you will stifle these inner truths. Because you’re not writing to please everyone. You can’t please everyone. Go ahead and try. Do an experiment for a day, a week, a month, however long it takes to hammer the point home. You will never please everyone. One person might say you’re being too pushy, and another might say you need to stand up for yourself more. And the real result of this people-pleaser game is that YOU will never be happy, because you’re not doing anything for yourself.

Trust me, I know. I enjoy making people happy. I have a backbone, and I can be hell-on-wheels stubborn (just ask my fiancé ;) ), but it genuinely makes me happy to make other people happy. I love giving people presents and seeing their face light up, or helping them with chores and seeing their panic turn into relief.

But you have to draw the line somewhere. There’s a really funny t-shirt that says, “I can only please one person today, and you’re not it. Tomorrow isn’t looking so good either.” Picking and choosing your battles is important. I try to get as close to the truth as I feel it in my writing, and ignore my Inner Editor telling me that if my hard-as-nails main character Scud uses a curse word, people will think I am a bad person. On the other hand, if you have a character that wouldn’t use a four letter word, but you have them dropping the f-bomb every other word because you think it will make you seem “cool” or “tough” or “edgy”, that is just as disingenuous.

So, to bring my point home (you thought I got off on a tangent and forgot about the title of my blog, didn’t you? Tangents are going to happen, probably a lot knowing me, but that is not this day. That is not this day.) I have trained myself to write straight from the heart to the page. I try anyway. Sometimes it’s just a mess and I have to edit like crazy. Sometimes Self-Doubt and Inner Editor get together and gang up on me, and I squirm as I am writing a tough scene. But that let’s me know I am doing a good job, if I am sweating and bleeding on the page.

Letting yourself write uncensored will also develop your writing voice. I know it’s how I hone mine, between emails, and now this blog. It lets you cut straight to why you, and anyone else, should care about what you’ve written. Now, when I say “honest” I don’t mean “over-sharing” since there is such a thing on the internet, especially on public blogs. This blog is my virtual representation, and even though it might be “honest” for me to say that I absolutely hated this book, and think the author is a hack, the blog is not necessarily the best place for that sort of thing. I don’t want anyone out there worrying that since they aren’t blogging about their bowel movements, they aren’t being honest enough.

But if you find your interest waning in writing project after project, if nothing seems to catch your eye, consider what it is about that book that interests you? Why are you bothering, when you could be doing so many other things?

I bother because it’s what I do. I have always been a writer. I have always told stories, and then written them done. I read everything I could get my hands on as a child (no much has changed, I am just a little more picky now), and always had a head full of people who weren’t real. I would be a writer even if it was illegal, even if I never get published, even if a terrible accident severs both of my hands and I had to learn how to type with my feet. And at the heart of every book I am writing, thinking about writing, or have an idea for is something that matters to me, some theory, or issues, or thought. The book IS about the characters (I am a character driven writer, btw, so definitely about the characters), and the plot, and setting, of course, but it’s also about something else, some question or answer or subject that I need to know about, or experience.

If you’re looking at me suspiciously, that theme crap never sat well with you, and you think it’s pretentious, think about it again, why are you bothering? What about this book interests you?

Is it the character? Do you just love your rouge-with-a-heart-of-gold Scud who doesn’t take crap from anyone?

Is it the setting? Can you see the rolling fields of Provence, and taste the wine from the vineyards? Have you create a world so real every time you take a vacation, a small longing settles in your chest that you can’t go there?

Is it the plot? Do you just squirm, thinking about how plain TERRIBLE it would be if that happened to you or someone else? Can you not wait to see how the characters claw their way out of this predicament?

I would wage a bet that what you love about your book is very close to what you feel is your “truth”. And if you stall out on something, go back to what made you fall in love in the first place.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hello out there!

Hello all out there in cyberspace! It’s nice of you to stop by. No, really, it is. Sometimes writing it like talking to yourself in an empty room, so it’s nice when people actually read your musings. Keeps you out of the loony bin, and it’s much easier to have a conversation with other people around, in my humble opinion.

I should introduce myself. My name is Elizabeth Poole, and I am a writer.

No, before you rush off to the bookstore to buy my latest stand alone novel, or the next novel in my sprawling, epic, groudbreaking series (but thank you, kind soul, thank you), I am not the published kind of author. Yet. I know, I know, it’s an oversight I am working on fixing. Namely, I am stalking agents, authors, and publishers on the internet, reading every book and article about writing I can get my ice mittens (an affectionate term my fiancĂ© and I refer to my hands as) on, and writing. Lots and lots of writing. And some editing too, since it’s kinda hard to sell a rough draft.

I am currently in the process of editing what will be the first book I start to shop around and try to get people to represent, and then buy. I have written tons of stuff over the years: poems, and short stories, and novels, and things that were certainly LONG enough to be novels, but had no clear ending, but I have never been able to make it all the way through the process. Think of a book. Develop book. Write book. Edit book. Query book. Land Awesome Agent. Awesome agent sells book. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Right now I am at the ‘Edit book’ stage, and it’s coming along nicely. It was harrowing in the beginning, but I think I am starting to make sense of what I was trying to say. I am also working on the query letter, so that way I have something closer to ready when I am ready to send the book out.

I have always wanted to be a writer. My mother tells me that when I was little I wanted to be a “doctor-nurse-dentist”, but that dream quickly changed to writing when I discovered that real, live PEOPLE wrote the books that I read so frequently. Around tenth grade I realized the Hard Truths about writing, and decided I needed a day job to support my writing habit, so after high school I became a massage therapist. I know, strange profession for a writer. But I didn’t want to be a journalist, and though I LOVE teaching, I saw how much goes into it.
I wanted a job I could leave at the office, so to speak, so when I came home I still had energy for my writing. It’s worked out well; I am a licensed Neuromuscular therapist, and work at a posh spa. I get to help people feel better and relax, the hours are flexible, and I meet all kinds of interesting people.

I write mostly urban/high fantasy, but I have ideas that dabble in all genres. I have a fascination for the supernatural elements, but love a good, well plotted, well characterized mainstream fiction novel, so my books wind up reading like hybrid between Real People doing Real People things, with a splash of magic and faeries.

I love to read, and some of my favorite authors, in no order are: Stephen King (read just about everything that man has written), Jim Butcher, Neil Gaiman, Janet Evanovich, Holly Lisle, and a bunch of others I am probably forgetting about right now, but I will wake up in the middle of the night and remember, and thus feel guilty for ever forgetting about how their book touched me, and neglecting to mention them on my blog.

But enough about me, what about you?