Posts Tagged ‘analogy’

Why You Need to Break the Mold

We’re doing a sewing analogy today, Squiders. Sorry.

So, at the end of last week I finally managed to get my patterns together. (Which was a pain in the butt–one pattern had to be traced off a sheet included with the book that included ALL the patterns on the same sheet, and the other one had to be printed off an included CD–in 21 pieces which then needed to be trimmed and taped together. Worst ever, why would you do that? The tracing is highly superior, in the end.) And I got all my pieces together, laid them out and realized…

…I couldn’t use them.

Well, I couldn’t use them as is. I remembered, as I stared down at all those pattern pieces, that I have to modify the patterns, usually extensively, because I am 9 inches taller than the average woman. I have to length everything. I have to change where the darts go. Sometimes I have to completely reshape a pattern.

And then I realized I probably hadn’t bought enough material for one of my planned shirts and had to go make myself some tea.

The same thing goes for writing. Have you ever read a book where parts of it felt derivative? Like, instead of spending any time on a character, the author just used stereotypes? Where, instead of focusing on a good-fitting setting, they just grabbed the status quo, even in places where it didn’t make sense?

It can be tempting to take shortcuts sometimes. To use the default setting, because it’s expected and familiar. To grab the usual bag of characters, because you know how they fit into a plot and why invent the wheel, right? And sometimes it’s okay to use the pattern. There are reasons patterns exist. They do work.

But it’s important to make sure you’re using the right pattern for the story that you want to tell, and if it’s not fitting right, it’s okay to modify it. The fit is what’s important, in the end. If your story ends up too long, too short, lumpy in odd places, too tight, too loose–all things that can be fixed with a little modification–your readers will notice. And next time they’re looking for a well-crafted, good fitting story, they’re going to go somewhere else.

Have you ever tried to use a standard bit of plot/setting/character and found it just didn’t fit? What ways do you employ to fix the fit?

(In regards to my shirt without enough fabric–because it turns out I need to lengthen it almost four inches–I think it can be salvaged by doing a sleeveless version. I had planned for elbow-length sleeves. I suppose I could go back and get more fabric, but the likelihood of the store still having the same kind in stock seems low.)

The Mountain Won (and a ROW80 Check-in)

Time for more mountain analogies, Squiders. I think we’ve compared writing to climbing mountains before, but the fact of the matter is that you have a lot of time to think while you’re trudging uphill.

So, last Friday, my family and I decided to attempt Mount Evans, one of Colorado’s famed fourteeners (mountains higher than 14,000). My husband and I were supposed to go by ourselves, but babysitting fell through. By ourselves, my husband and I would have owned that mountain so hard.

But we weren’t by ourselves, and people didn’t like the altitude, or wanted to be carried, or climb rocks, or play in alpine lakes (very cold, fyi). And eventually we were forced to retreat (we did make it to 13,800 feet) and it hailed and snowed on us.

But climbing mountains, like writing novels, isn’t all about the end goal. Yes, summiting (and finishing a novel) is an awesome high. But part of climbing (and writing) is the journey.

We may not have made it to the top of the mountain, but we saw some awesome vistas. Mountain lakes with steam curling off of them, their surfaces as flat and still as glass. Alpine meadows with a myriad of wildflowers, yellow and white and purple. Rocks covered in moss and lichen, and the sharp, jagged peaks looming into the sky. And we literally hiked up into a cloud. (Or the cloud came down to meet us.)

There’s something very interesting about being inside a cloud, where the landscape on either side of you drops off into empty, white space.

Writers write. And sometimes stories don’t work. Sometimes stories get dropped in the middle, never to be picked up again. And that’s okay. Writing–any writing–is good, even if it never goes anywhere.

And next time, who knows? Maybe the mountain gets conquered. Maybe the story gets finished. But you don’t know if you don’t try.

On the ROW80 front, I’m participating in an August consistency challenge, doing 30 minutes a day on my editing. Thus far this has really helped, and the story is finally moving. I’m probably about 20% done at the moment. I’m also trying a short story a week challenge. I haven’t really started that yet, but it should be an interesting exercise.

Diversity is Good, But It’s Okay to Stay Home

Are you wine connoisseurs, Squiders? My husband and I watched Bottle Shock this weekend, which is the story of how California wines rocked the world by beating out French wines in a blind taste test back in the 70s. (In as much as any Hollywood “based on a true story” is based in actual truth.)

Which got me to thinking, because nowadays the California wines are pretty full of themselves. When we lived in the San Francisco Bay area, it was lovely because we were halfway between two major wine regions: Napa/Sonoma to the north, and the Central Coast to the south. We drank a lot of very good wine. But then we moved home to Colorado, and you can’t get a lot of those wines here, and what you can tend to be their lower end, more generic stuff.

So we looked into Colorado wines.

Let me tell you what California wines think about Colorado wines. (I bet you can guess.)

But the thing is, Colorado wine isn’t worse than California wine, it’s just different. Sure, the big red grapes–zinfandel, cabernet (sauvignon — the franc’s pretty decent, actually), syrah, and pinot–don’t grow well here. I’ve yet to have a really good Colorado big red that didn’t import their grapes from California. But Colorado excels at gewurztraminer, reisling, fruit wines, mead and a ton of grape varieties I had hardly heard of out in California, like petit verdot, carmine, frontenac, mourvèdre, and lemberger.

(Mmmm…lemberger.)

I could go on all day about wine, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the point of this blog, so I’ve created an analogy for you.

Good wine comes from all over–Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, California and, yes, even Colorado. Picture each type of wine as a genre of book. You can try a multitude, get a full experience out of them, see the world, as it were.

But it’s okay to stick close to home, to become intimately familiar with what those that are local. And each of us has a genre that they return to, time and time again, that means something special and occupies a place in our hearts.

And, you know, sometimes what we need changes, and it’s okay to change that “home” as well.

Snow: A Nano Analogy

I’m not sure why every time it snows my blog post is late. It makes no sense. Anyway, my brain is in strange analogy mode, so off we go.

I was out for a walk (yes, in the snow) and I got to thinking that snow can be a bit like Nanowrimo.

No, I don’t know what’s wrong with my brain.

Specifically, it’s like the excitement of Nano. It comes down light and fluffy and, even though you know you’re going to have to drive to work in it tomorrow, it gets you all excited.

And then it covers everything up and makes everything look pretty, much like Nano excitement is wont to do. You don’t notice that you don’t have enough plot, or that your main character has no personality, because hoorah, Nano!

But then it keeps coming, and keeps coming, and while you’re pretty sure you still like it, you may be getting a little tired of it. Also, it gets in your shoes, and damp socks suck.

And when it melts away, you find that underneath there’s rotting leaves and dead grass and last week’s newspaper. Everything that was hidden is now visible again and, even worse, soggy.

But oh, while it’s white and pristine, it’s so very pretty, and each time it starts, you can’t help but fall in love with it all over again. And get out your cocoa.

Am I crazy, Squiders? (We’re a week away, and I’ve yet to outline, eek.)