Archives: July 2014

Writing: Pregnancy and Other Metaphors

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: July 29, 2014
Categories: Creativity, Inspiration
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2014-07, lithography - 2 childrenThere we were. Seventh-grade Health class, the section on sex education. I could finally ask the question I had puzzled over since I was ten.

 

COULD a woman be pregnant and get pregnant again? Meaning, could she, WHILE carrying a baby, get pregnant with a second one? So that she would give birth in nine months to the first baby, and, say four months later, birth the second one? COULD such a thing happen?

 

No, is the short answer. But our teacher clarified that simultaneous-serial pregnancies [my term] CAN actually happen. In very, VERY rare cases.

 

Ha! She knew squat about writers. We as a race carry multiple simultaneous-serial pregnancies all the time. For years, I thought of my books as babies, all lined up in the birth canal, waiting to be born. The second and third and seventh books, crowding behind the first, keep pestering it: “Psst! Hurry! Get out already, so we can be born too.”

 

So, though I have no physical children, that’s my first and longest-enduring writing metaphor: writing as PREGNANCY and GIVING BIRTH.

 

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More recently I thought of my writing as that magic trick (Danny, Scriva Nicole’s husband, told me how it’s done!) where the illusionist is PULLING OUT KILOMETERS OF RIBBON FROM HIS MOUTH, HIS BEING. That’s how I feel when I’m writing: that I pull out of myself mysteries that I never would have imagined all existed and fit in me.

 

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Or a similar, but more profound image, is that I am LIKE GOD, WHO SPOKE THE WORLD INTO BEING. By no means do I think I or any of us are gods. But I believe that humans were created in God’s image (check out Genesis 1:26-27), so we share some of the Creator’s qualities: a desire for relationship, a sense of infinity, of right and wrong, and the ability to create, for a start.

 

God spoke a universe that didn’t exist into being. I, on my end (though with much more travail) write into being a story and world that didn’t exist beforehand.

 

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The next metaphor I got from a new writing buddy, Carl. He spoke of writing as BUILDING A HOUSE. Everything that goes in a book must serve the building we’re trying to raise. The house can have interesting add-ons, but it must have the basics, and balance. We can keep an open mind and explore interesting paths, but must continue to refer to the blueprint to end up with the intended house.

 

The written house though is malleable, like something out of a Diana Wynne Jones fantasy. I can set down the rooms as they first come to mind. Then I give them a shove, bump them with my elbow, nudge them this way and that, and the rooms change position. Or  size, or shape or function, whatever is needed… All through the wonderful power of revision.

 

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The current image I hold in my mind? Writing as LITHOGRAPHY. In chromolithography, separate stones (or plates) are prepared for each color. Each color is applied to the paper separately, one on top of the other, lightest to darkest. You need all the colors (plates, layers) for the full color image.

 

That’s how I see my writing right now, though in writing one starts with the strongest color. In this first go-through, I’m setting down the main story line. Of course I’m trying to do it perfectly, to put in everything needed from the beginning. Of course I fail, which is why I need a critique group. In future passes, I will add the additional colors to create perfect shape and shading: more sensory details (per Scriva Mary), more geography (per Scriva Amber), more motivations (per me), more likeability (per Scriva Ruth), and so on. The other week the Scrivas offered wonderful suggestions for my current novel. “Thanks!” I said about one of the changes I need to implement. “Though it will take a few passes before I get there.”

 

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So what are your metaphors about writing?

 

-Sabina I. Rascol

 

What’s Your Mission?

by Addie Boswell
Published on: July 24, 2014
Categories: Other Topics
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Every company has a mission statement: a clear and succinct representation of the enterprise’s purpose for existence.You may find yourself nodding along when you read the missions of these recognizable brands.

So what about you? What’s your purpose as a writer? Making a mission statement can be a powerful way to clarify and enforce your work — and referring to it is useful when deciding what books or projects to take on. Only one sentence long, it is harder to make than you think! While you can dive in, brainstorming words and phrases that describe your writing, I think this method is even faster: Find a partner. For three minutes, talk to that person about your writing. The listener ONLY takes notes, writing down words or phrases that seem especially great or relevant. The listener then takes a few minutes to craft a mission for you, repeating: What I heard you saying was…..   Voila! You have a first draft.

Here’s our example: Viva Scriva is a tight-knit group of children’s book authors and illustrators in Portland, OR. We believe effective critique can make your writing sing and your career soar.

And my example: My mission as a writer is to always stay in child mind. My characters transform their realities using their unique strengths and perceptions.

Celebrate!

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: July 20, 2014
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Scriva Amber recently sold her wonderful YA novel THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN in a two book deal (YAY!) and I asked her what she was going to do celebrate. The conversation went something like this:

Amber: Well, I’m not sure when to celebrate.

Liz: I know. If you do it when you get the offer, what if it doesn’t work out?

Amber: We both know that happens. I don’t want to jinx it.  Maybe when I accept the offer?

Liz: Or sign the contract?

Amber: But that’s just paperwork.

Liz: Yeah, kind of anticlimactic…

But we both agreed that we MUST celebrate these successes because we face so many challenges, frustrations, and yes, even failure along the way.

With that in mind, I want to invite you all (especially Portlanders!) to join illustrator Mike Lawrence and I to celebrate the launch of our first ever graphic novel Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek on Saturday, August 2 at the Fremont Fest outside A Children’s Place bookstore at 4807 NE Fremont, from 12 pm-4 pm. Festivities will include:

  • * Tubs of mud for kids to dig through to discover what is in mud.
  • * Squirt guns for kids to test their demudifying skills on mud dunked dolls
  • * Temporary mud tattoos
  • * A raffle of original Muddy Max art

Good dirty fun for the whole family! Join us! Celebrate!

Scriva Liz

 

Good Advice Then; Good Advice Now. Thanks, Amber!

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: July 16, 2014
Categories: Challenges, Craft, Creativity
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Bad advice isn’t worth a second look. Forget it. Done. Over with. But good advice deserves an encore, particularly when I could use some tactics for getting unstuck. Here’s good advice from ScrivaAmber in a post first published a couple of years ago, and presented to you once more with feeling. Thanks, Amber!

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IMG_0533Being stuck sucks!

We’ve all been there. A critique partner has made a good point and no solution is obvious. We know a scene is not working but are not sure what to do about it.

This is not the “I-can’t-write-a-word” kind of stuck.  It’s the “how-the-heck-do-I-fix-X” kind of stuck. Sometimes what we need is some experimentation.

Here are some ideas that you can use to change your writerly point-of-view on a scene (or a whole book).  They are also ideas that can help you self-edit more effectively.  Employ whenever a section gives you that gut feeling: “this isn’t working.”  In no particular order:

1. Change the point-of-view.  Literally.  Rewrite a scene from a different characters point of view.

2.  Try reworking the scene by hand (if you are mainly on the computer) or verbally by “talking” it into the voice memo function on your smart phone.

3.  Get someone (or your ereader) to read your scene out loud to you.

4.  Change the format dramatically and print it out.  For one example, check out this great post via Molly Greene and Christine Nolfi.  In it, they explain one technique:

“The key-line layout creates a paperback version of your novel. The end result is a landscape, two-column format. It’s an alternate way to review your manuscript that provides a fresh perspective after months (years?) reading in the traditional, vertical format.”

5.  Use scissors.  Print the scene and cut into pieces.  Rearrange.

6.  Highlight!  Use different colors for different POVs or for sensory details or for backstory or for showing vs. telling.  If you know the problem is voice, for example, get your critique partners to highlight the places where they best “hear” the voice.  That gives you something to work towards. Or highlight in three colors: active sentences (stuff/dialogue moves plot forward), flashback, and character’s thoughts.  You want more of the first than anything else.

Well that should get you started…  Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them!

Sabina’s Style

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: July 4, 2014
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Sabinas-styleI’ve been a member of Viva Scriva for years now, and each of the Scrivas is dear to me. Scriva characters invade my brain. Scriva works-in-progress tickle my editor’s fancy. Scriva nonfiction research becomes part of my dinner table conversation. No surprise, then, that when I saw this sign I immediately thought of Scriva Sabina Rascol’s latest draft. Sabina’s Style is a dress shop? Really? No. Sabina’s style is intricate, cultured, and poetic. Kind of like the sign.

It’s a given: I respect and admire Sabina’s writing style. Recently, however, instead of critiquing a portion of the draft Sabina submitted to Viva Scriva, I rewrote several hundred words in Ruth’s style. I wanted to show Sabina exactly what I meant, and so I showed her rather than told her. I showed her word by word by word in my way. Totally my way. Hardly a Sabina syllable in sight. Oy! How could I have done such violence?

The story ends happily, folks. Sabina received the make-over in the same Scriva-esque crazy humor with which I sent it. I got to edit someone else’s words at a time when I was finding it particularly difficult to work on my own book. I also got to examine Sabina’s style down to every word of every sentence I “critiqued,” which meant that I got back into the guts and sinews of the writing craft. I’d wager that it would be a productive exercise to rewrite Hemingway in John Green’s style and vice versa. (Would that I could write as well as either guy.)

The truth is that I never want Sabina to write just like me. She knows that (thanks for understanding, Sabina). I know that. One Scriva Ruth is enough!

 

 

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