Friday, March 22, 2013

4 Writerly Tips From Hemingway

Writing is a private affair. Everyone has a personal style and what inspires you might be downright distracting to another. That's why I usually take every 'how to do' list with a grain of salt. However, reading this insightful work of Hemingway's stroke a cord with me in several different ways. His personna came alive to me and I could feel him, also there were a couple of points that I think I should follow. They work with my style and would help improving my connection to my stories, therefore improving my ability (however reduced) to tell them better.

So, hoping you will find your own discoveries in his words, I share with you just a few of my favorite tips in his own words.

1. To get started, write one true sentence.

"Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, [...] I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written."

2. Always stop for the day while you still know what will happen next.

"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that everyday when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck."

3. Never think about the story when you're not working.

"That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start."

4. When it's time to work again, always start by reading what you've written so far.

"The best way is to read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go on from where you stopped the day before. When it gets so long you can't do this every day read back two or three chapters each day; then each week read it all from the start. That's how you make it all of one piece."

So there you go. There are much more words of wisdom in this book but I cut it to the four that spoke to me the most. Which has been the advise that has touch you the most? Doesn't have to be Hemingway, it could be your hubby, friend, or mom. Share it if you like, I'm always open to wisdom no matter the form.

Enjoy the first weekend of spring! However cold and frozen it may be... =)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Great vs Outstanding

February was a hell of a month with tons of projects and deadlines, and I'm super proud of myself for having met all of them. I now have four stories submitted to different magazines and anthologies, I'm attending a creative writing class in my local college, and yesterday I finished the translation I'd been working on. What's left of May promises to be just as busy but completely focused on my writing, which makes me even more happy.

Part of what will keep me on my toes is that writing class. At first I wasn't too happy with it, thinking it looked more like a group therapy session than actual writing do's and don'ts. It kinda broke my heart a little. Then we started reading our assignments in class, which in itself is terrifying because I hate my accent when reading, which lead to me being completely unable to finish a sentence without stuttering, even if I knew by heart the lines on the paper. Agh!

Then, there were the other writers. In contrast with every one else, I'm in a whole different league! And I don't mean a better or worse one, just TOTALY DIFFERENT. There are a couple of poets but most of them write more literary and dramatic stuff... and here I am, sharing my bloody horror stories, what even Stephen King calls 'the McDonalds of literature.' Awesome.

Last class, this guy is telling us how he had a very complicated relationship with his dad, inspiring him to write a touching, hilarious, and poignant story on child abuse. Then it's my turn and I 'read' (more like babble) a story about the end of the world. Granted, my story deals with the existence of God and our deep faults as humans, but it's not personal. New assignment for next week, write about something that has happened to you that affected you or made you think. That brings the ball home... I don't really write about myself. Why?

King uses his experiences, takes them to the worst possible conclusion and there you go, next month's bestseller. And he isn't alone, most people use their inner demons as fodder, so why not me?

After giving it a though (and quite a few hours of my sleep), I realized that I have but two stories that come from my sadness, my pain, or my fears. One is currently in submission, I couldn't finish the other because it was too depressing. So I guess there's my answer. I write because I love it, because it makes me feel alive, because I can let my imagination free and turn my back on my problems. I don't want to prod in too deep because it hurts, it makes me sad, and it isn't fun. But most of all, because the ride terrifies me.

When my oldest daughter was two, she almost asphyxiated with a huge chunk of ice she was eating. I had nightmares for days! Now, say I write a story where she actually dies and what would be my life like. Hell no! I don't want to deal with that kind of pain for months in order to get a decent story out there. Not when I can write a decent story that has nothing to do with it. Still, I guess that's what would make a good story exceptional. Raw pain bleeding into the ink...

So I've decided I'm going to meet the challenge. I don't know if this will become a new direction for my writing, but I'll try. First order of business is finishing that truly depressing story. We'll see where it goes from there.

What do you think, is it really that the only way to be outstanding is to write about yourself? Or is it possible to deal with deep, yet less personal problematics and still be a great writer? Food for thought, indeed.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Creepy Places Where Inspiration Hides

L'Inconnue de la Siene.

This is an eerie, weird, and somewhat twisted tale where reality proves once more that it can be stranger than fiction.

The story of L'Inconnue de la Siene (translated from French, "the unknown woman from the Sienna") started in the late 1880s, when the body of a young girl was found floating on the River Sienna. Her identity remained a mystery but the Parisian pathologist in charge of the body, awe-struck at her beauty, decided to make a plaster-cast death mask. And so, where the earthly life of the unknown girl finished, the bizarre, immortal existence of L'Inconnue began.

Soon, more plasters were made of her and the bust became a fashionable, morbid fixture of bohemian Paris. The beauty of L'Inconnue inspired world-renown artists and writers, such as Albert Camus and Richard LeGalliene. People wondered, based on the mask's tranquil features, what in death the girl had found and who she might've been in live. Whole generations of women shaped their images on the young girl's (dead) face, and she became the Mona Lisa of the time.

Creepy much? Wait, it gets better.

In an ironic twist the pathologist could have never foreseen, in 1958 the first CPR doll, Rescue Annie, was created using the drowning victim's cast as a model. These days L'Inconnue is also known as "the most kissed face of all time."

Books inspired by this story: The Worshiper of the Image by Richard LeGalliene, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke, The Recognitions by William Gladdis, The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, among many others.

But the question is, where will inspiration catch you?