So I finished my novel in January and I'm working on revisions. I keep running into articles and comments on the web that, frankly, are frustrating me. Mainly because I view many of these conversations as opinions on style preferences, and not as infallible "rules of writing".
For example, there is a school out there that believes dialog tags should only ever contain the words "said" or "ask". We'll call this School of Thought 1 (ST1). As in...
"But it was always blue," she said.
"No," he said, "It was wet."
"What about dinner?" asked the dog.
This school believes that in general dialog tags should be fairly invisible or eliminated when possible. ST1 does not believe words like "insisted" or "commented" or "complained" (like I'm doing) should be used.
Then of course, there is another school of thought (ST2) that thinks these tags are fine. Language is rich! Use it to its best advantage!
Still, a third school of thought thinks that dialog tags should never be used AT ALL! All indication of the speaker should be shown through action. For example...
"But it was always blue." She yanked down the ostrich feather.
"No." Mark lobbed toilet paper at the ceiling. "It was wet."
"What about dinner?" The dog made a jump for the feather, knocking one of the toilet papers awry.
(Now my problem with ST3 is how do you know the dog just asked that? It could have been the woman. This is where "he said" could be really useful in letting us know the dog is a genetically enhanced pooch with the ability to communicate. Or you could use "he woofed" and then we know the dog is just thinking about his dinner and the stupid humans can't understand him. Again. Poor puppy.)
In my writing I use a combination of all of these methods, depending on what's happening and the pace I want to set. It's just how I've always written. It's even... dare I say it?... how I was taught! (GASP! You mean, you were taught more than one method?! Yes, yes I was.) Because, truth be told, NONE of these methods are INCORRECT.
I just want to put that out into the universe.
This would be an incorrect use of dialog tags.
"But it was always blue," she shimmied.
"No" He gnashed "It was wet."
The dog, playing the flute, said, What about dinner?
Not to say I don't need to edit or eliminate my own dialog tags. That's what revision is for. We all know that reading is completely subjective. But for other writers out there who might be confused by conflicting advice, I just want to say... sometimes style preferences are subjective, too.
So I've been working on my novel. I know, right!? Finally! And this is where I start blogging again so I can blather about nonsensical shit for fifteen minutes or so while my brain reboots. I am about 30,000 words in, or about a third way through the plot. I'm not exactly sure because I'm halfway between a pantster and a plotter. (Those are writing terms. Impressive huh? It's like I know what I'm doing!) Like I've got most of the story living in my head, where it's been living for about five years and I tend to write when a certain scene or dialog just grabs me. That's the pantster part, aka by the seat of your pants. But I'm too anal retentive in real life to not go over accurate details (thank you google) and perfect timelines (a plotter specialty) and stare at hastily drawn maps, write out notes, etc. etc. So the bottom line is... I write slowly. I'm trying to get faster. I'm trying to write every day. I'm trying to separate writing time and editing time. I'm doing all that shit.
Oh, but did I mention how we had a water leak and now we're renovating much of the bottom floor of our house? No? Yeah, there's that. Oh, and a whole bunch of other stuff happened because it's been like two years since I've really maintained this blog. Anywho, moving on.
But... I think the biggest news that has happened in the last two years is that the fricking voices in my head are now MANAGED! Meditation has made such a difference. Any breaks or journeys or to be continues it took to get to this point in my life and this state of being have been totally worth it.
Lately insects of varied flying ability have been swooping into my face for unknown reasons. They have done so with forceful persistence and periodic consistency. This is not an affliction I've been burdened with in the past. Like, you know that brother of a friend of your cousin's who everyone says attracts mosquitoes like a zapper so you can never invite him camping. I cannot for the life of me think why my face is suddenly so appealing to bugs. I've gotten hit in the cheek, the forehead, my neck, several times! I've narrowly avoided swatting them down my shirt. Because who wants a moth in their bra? (You know that's going to smear.) No one else in my family seems to be experiencing the love dives of gnats besides me. It's utterly baffling. And kind of creepy. I have been taking a meditation class for the last few months and the only thing I can think of is that my chakras are now so blazing bright that I am like a beacon in the dark for small winged creatures.
So just in case you were wondering what the downside to enlightenment is... it's learn to keep your mouth closed or you might inhale a moth. - wg
I wrote this as a note to myself. I forget for what exactly, clearly I was irritated, probably something distracting me from the task at hand. But now I feel this should be emblazoned on a t-shirt and/or needs to be the mantra of my life. Sadly, my first thought was to put it on facebook or twitter, it is so utterly twitterable, and I wanted to remember it and share it and nod sagely at it, but that is just feeding the chimes. Then it occurred to me that I could put it up specifically and with intention on where the bell tolls... except I really don't hold truck with the younger gen's notion of doing things, big and small, "ironically".
Call me old-fashioned but I think we should stumble ignorantly and spectacularly into our irony, the way it was meant to be. Flames shooting from our tresses, ashes on our shoulders.
Massive writer's block. Just stymied. Or I've got too much floating in my brain and I can't organize it. But I did decide to shut off my syndication feed. I'd rather throw my words out into the black emptiness and see if they coagulate into something more defined. Let the remnants of gravity and cosmic attraction mass elements together. Besides there are too many audiences in the public eye with the potential to be offended. I.e. I don't feel like I can talk about what I want to talk about. And I haven't felt that way for a long time.
(Except to those who I know will come find me. You know who you are.)
I have been told that I keep myself busy, so busy that I avoid the things I really need to do. And I do do that sometimes. But that is not always the reason. Sometimes I'm just stumbling around looking for the path.
A writer once told me that the way she got through her first novel was to take felt tip pen markers and write on big sheets of paper, which she hung all over her walls. That is the only way she could get started. If I could start with something that visceral I would. I suppose that is why I flounder around doing other creative tasks; a hope for a trigger point, for flow. I constantly feel writing in my gut. But it keeps getting stopped up, clogged in my throat before it gets to or out of my head.
At least that's what it feels like. Here you go darkness.
We installed a Little Free Library in our front yard! I fell in love with this program when I heard about it. I asked for the library for my birthday. I guess we could have built our own; there are some crazy cool libraries out there. But I just don't trust my rainproofing skills. Plus, it's so pretty!
I distributed flyers around the neighborhood and only had one person look at me like I was crazy. But not for the library, just for handing out flyers. I mean, we do get a lot of flyers in our neighborhood so I kind of get it. But I'm not all THAT suspicious looking! (Although, I'm not a professional flyer hander-outer so perhaps I was breaking flyer etiquette somehow. Apologies, good neighbors.)
Anywho, we've already had a few visitors and some donations! The kid's books are very popular. Must get more. (Or make Chance clean through his bookshelf. He'll love that!) - wg
It's only been sleeping. It's not like I didn't have anything to talk about, but I was sort of really tired of all I had to talk about. You know? But that's OK, it's time to wake up now.
We have been doing a major overhaul on our yard. The problem with our yard is that our house is a hundred years old and the backyard has been ladscaped to death. Literally. There are spots where nothing would grow anymore. I figured at some point treated wood had wreaked havoc with the soil. And the last time previous owners had landscaped they had rendered everthing in shades of grey and brown and sort of woodland-like but reallly just kind of dead looking. It was like a zombie forest back there, minus the moaning. We also had either a ton of shade or the withering glare of too much sun. So let me introduce you to our new artificial lawn! (the crowd roars)
I'm horrible about before and after pictures but I'm GREAT at right in the middle pictures! This is our new wonderful lawn, and behind it is a patch of nothing-will-grow dirt, and our ugly cement pad. Why am I so excited about plastic grass? Because IT IS AWESOME! So much nicer than the roll out hurt-your-butt-when-you-sat-on-it turf carpet that I remember fed-up grown ups used in the 80s. And you know, this is California and we're in a drought again. And ALSO, most importantly, this...
That patch was previously covered with flagstone. No child could lie there and play with Legos. Seeing Chance on the lawn was worth the purchase right there! We also had the cement pad stained and it looks a million times better. To the point of, people keep asking us when we put in the concrete! (Le sigh, it's been there. It was just blaaaaaand.)
See the offending flagstone, accesory to ants. My dad is happy to take that off my hands, btw.
We've also been working on a million small projects while the garderners are transforming the space into a wonderland. Keen wants an outdoor kitchen so he painted an old picnic table and added sheet metal on top to created a prep table.
I've been painting a metal table set and a bunch of other outdoor items. And because it's me it's totally bright colored.
We're not done with everything yet, but we're getting there. To be continued!
I do this thing when I'm sick where I sit on the couch and plague myself with guilt. I look at what needs to be cleaned, I look at all the emails I should answer, I think about my To Do list, I think about what's critical and what's not critical, I think about my overall life goals and I just berate myself for not having the energy to get up and do any of it. It's like a tenfold mid-life crisis every time I'm sick. I could be feverish and dizzy and it doesn't matter. I could be pathetically tied to the toilet. I tell myself that if I was truly driven, that if I really wanted to get somewhere, that if I was adhering to the habits of highly successful people (I don't remember how many habits there are because I didn't read the book... ALSO on my To Do list!) then I would be working even when I'm sick! I would be pushing through. Because that's what the successful people do. I'm not doing aything else while I'm stuck at home so why am I NOT writing the great American novel?! I mean how sick am I really? Not that sick! Stop messing around, you slacker!
Then after days of that going through my head, one morning I'll wake up and start doing dishes or answering emails and it's not even a question of when I'm going to poop out because I have energy and I just get to work. Clear-headed, motivated, and (relatively) guilt-free. (It's never totally gone, you know.) And that's about the time I realize, "Yes, I WAS sick." I wouldn't have been quite so depressed and tired otherwise. I probably WOULD have had some energy to do something. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. But then how would I motivate myself when I do have energy? And there the voices go again.
So my real problem is... figuring out when to listen to the voices and when to tell them to just shut the hell up.