Archive for May, 2012

Don’t Encourage the Ceiling Turtles

I had several friends over yesterday. There’s a room upstairs where I’ve painted sharks and squid and fish and seagulls, and one friend said I should have painted turtles on the ceiling.

Two problems: One, I have popcorn ceilings. It would be the lumpiest ceiling turtle of all time.

Two, ceiling turtles need very little encouragement to move into your home. We’ve talked about how they like french fries, but the truth is that ceiling turtles are kind of dumb. If you place fake turtles on the ceiling, painted or no, real ceiling turtles think there are already ceiling turtles there.

Sometimes this works in your favor. Ceiling turtles have occasionally been known to be territorial, and sometimes if they think you already have an infestation, they will move on, looking for a free home in which to wreak havoc.

Mostly, however, when the “resident” ceiling turtles do not react aggressively to the new arrivals, the new ceiling turtles will assume they are welcome and make themselves at home.

Be wise, my friends. Ceiling turtles are not to be messed with. Do not give them a reason to enter your house or take up residence on your ceilings.

And popcorn ceilings suck to paint.

The Lure of Alpaca Poetry

One of the nicest things about having a wordpress blog is that it tells you what search terms people are using to end up at your site. I get a lot of people looking for information on specific subgenres, quite a few hits on the Grammar Week articles, people looking specifically for me (blog name, my name, book name), and the writing craft ones seem fairly popular as well.

But the search term that gets people here most often? Alpaca poetry.

I admit this amuses the heck out of me. (The Landsquid is less pleased with this turn of events. Though admittedly “landsquid” is pulling in a substantial amount of hits itself.)

(Although, the search term that is currently amusing me the most is “fear of plesiosaurs.” I don’t even what.)

So what is it about the fuzzy and evil Alpaca (and their poetry) that not only makes the Alpaca Poetry post one of the top three most viewed here, but makes people actually search Google for it?

Is it that their propensity to steal top hats? The fact that they look dashing in a monocle and an evil mustache? Their ability to wreak havoc with their sheer adorableness?

I vote for their innate ability to be hilarious in almost all situations. The Landsquid thinks the Alpaca is merely googling himself. (If so, he does it an awful lot.)

What do you think, Squiders?

Evil Laugh Alpaca(P.S. My tablet is working again.)

Are Writing Conferences Worth It?

It seems like a lot of people have been living somewhat vicariously through my writing conference experience. I am one of only a few of my writing friends who have ever been to one.

That part’s not rocket science. Writing conferences are expensive. It’s hard to justify spending so much money all at once. Well, maybe not if you’re a millionaire. And if you are, we should be friends. Yeeees.

(For those of you who are wondering how much writing conferences cost, well, it’s in the multiple hundreds of dollars, not including hotel or airfare if it’s not in your home town.)

So, are they worth your time and money? The answer is: maybe.

1. Beginners
If you’re a beginner writer, I would tell you to save your money for later. The conference may have panels aimed at beginners, with explanations of how plot or characterization work, but I’ve found that until you’ve got at least a completed first draft under your belt, a lot of it goes over your head. Writing is the best teacher at this point, figuring out how your personal writing style works and where your problem spots are. Wait.

2. Intermediate
These are people who have a few books under their belts, perhaps have sold a short story or two. If this is you, you will probably find a conference helpful. You know where your weak spots are, so you can attend workshops aimed at helping those areas. Plus, if you’re getting ready to start submitting, you can learn how to write or have your queries and synopses critiqued.

3. Those Who Are Submitting
The single most-useful thing about a conference is it allows you to interact with agents, editors, and published authors, all of whom are willing to give you a hand. And, in the cases of editors and agents, listen to your pitches. It gives you the opportunity to either bypass the query process or, when you do query, maybe have made an impression before hand so the agent/editor kind of remembers who you are.

4. Published Authors
I am not traditionally published, so I cannot tell you if attending a writers’ conference (as an attendee, not a workshop-leader) is useful or not. I’m going to lean towards no – you already have an agent and/or editor, and they probably tell you where your weak spots are.

5. Indie Authors
I’m going to go on “depends” for this section. Self-publishing and indie publishing is generally becoming more accepted, so whether or not you run into militant traditional people varies. It is a good way to network, but it might be easier (and cheaper) to find a critique or writing group in your area. But if you’re looking to improve your writing craft, it’s probably worth it.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

Learning to Write

Over lunch this past weekend, my stepmother mentioned to me that she’d been talking to someone in college who had decided he wanted to be a writer and wanted some advice on becoming one.

Well, there’s really only one way to become a writer. You have to write.

You can read writing books, take creative writing courses, and plan out stories all you want, but until you sit down and start writing on a regular basis, it’ll never happen.

You may understand, on some level, how putting together a story works, but until you try it yourself, you won’t get it. And sure, some of the stuff at the beginning will probably be terrible. You may look back in five years and want to burn everything.

As Stephen King said, it takes a million words of crap before you get any good at it.

So, if you want to be a writer, just start writing. You don’t need an English or a creative writing degree. (Some people even say that you shouldn’t get a creative writing degree if you want to write fiction, but your mileage may vary. I have two engineering degrees so I have no opinion on the matter.) You don’t need to read every writing book known to man (of which there are more than you can read in one life-time anyway) – and you shouldn’t, anyway, since they don’t work for everyone. You don’t need to deconstruct your favorite novels to see what makes them tick.

What you need to do is be able to sit down and complete a story, start to finish, without getting bogged down by details and frustrations that can be fixed in rewrites.

If you want to be a writer, write.

End of story.