Tag Archives: Beverly Hills 90210

Today I Resign from Writing (well, maybe)

I’ll start by sharing a recent “brick & mortar” journal entry, dated January 18, 2013:

Geoffrey Whiteway → in Paper & Books

“…this publication and that publication and ebooks and agents and I’ve had it! What if I were to just stop? Give up on the notion of ever becoming an author? Get my manuscript back from [freelance editor’s name here], pay her, thank her, and then put the damn thing in a drawer somewhere. Forever.

 I could focus on teaching, creating a nice house, and preparing to become a mother. That’s it. No more nonsense. Would I be happier?

Would this writing dream chase after me anyway?

How much more satisfied would I be if I STOPPED writing?

Maybe I should consider this.

I’m serious. What if I were to simply…give up???

What do I really want anyway?”

I have been toying with my resignation letter of late. What I find puzzling though, is who would I address it to? My muse? My readers? My future agent? No one?

Yesterday I received my tenth rejection letter for a short story I’ve been sending to various literary magazines. I didn’t even care. I shrugged. Tossed it in the trash and set about feeding the cats.

Ed Davad → in Toys

What’s wrong with me?

I don’t feel discouraged per se; I know the writing business left and right—rejection and uncertainty come with the territory. It has more to do with my personal happiness. My identity. How much of myself do I associate with writing? What percentage of my brain is solely focused on “making it”?

If I were to strip myself from all writing obligations, what would I be left with? Is this why I push myself to write? To be something? As if I’m nothing without the possibility of becoming the next Jodi Picoult?

How many hours of my day would clear up? Suddenly doing laundry would be nothing more than doing laundry. A day off would mean I could climb in bed with a book or watch the entire third season of Beverly Hills 90210 without feeling guilty because I’m “not writing.”

Intrinsic Writer?

The term “intrinsic” suggests something that is built-in, inherent, natural. As in, I was born to write, no one taught me how (not initially anyway) and no one suggested that I write—I just did. As a kid I wrote stories abound, filling countless spiral notebooks with tales of haunted houses, conniving best friends, and handsome boyfriends. In fourth grade, I won the “Best in Storytelling Award” for my fictional piece about a talking vacuum cleaner. Back then I wrote because I liked it. It was organic. I had an idea, so I wrote it down.

Then I got caught in the fog of adolescence and forgot all about my talent.

But in college I rediscovered my insatiable need to write, only this time my priorities were different from my childhood days of scribbling stories and poems. I started using writing to identify myself, to impress others, to become something I never was before. That’s the way it’s been ever since. I push and push and practically delude myself into thinking that I’m already a New York Times # 1 Bestseller. The pain of it all occurs when reality hits: I’m still plowing through a sixth, seventh, eighth draft of my novel, quietly—by myself—in my upstairs office.

Maybe I’ve been doing this for all the wrong reasons.

So I hereby resign from this practice on the grounds of reclaiming my sanity, my morality, and my overall well-being…

Wait.

Nicolas Raymond → in Objects

I’m suddenly reminded of an episode of Mad Men:

Ken Cosgrove, an account man at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, is a fantasy writer on the side. He keeps it on the down low. He’s supposed to be focusing all his energy on the firm, and a side practice—of any kind—is simply forbidden, and many of his superiors have told him just so. So Ken, not be discouraged, uses the pen name “Ben Hargrove” to continue his writing and manages to find some success.

One day, Peggy Olson, one of the ad agency’s copywriters, spots Ken in a diner with his editor. She promises to keep quiet.

Later in the same episode, Ken is at a dinner party with some colleagues—including Don Draper, main character and one of the four partners of the agency. Ken’s wife accidentally spills the details of his writing, along with his pen name. Don eerily questions him on the plotlines, themes, and characterization of his fantasy stories. Ken answers respectfully and calmly, but it’s clear that he’d rather not be having the conversation.

In a later scene Ken admits to Peggy that after having dinner with Draper, he’s decided to “resign” from writing. Ben Hargrove is no more. He shrugs it off, chalks it up to a silly hobby and goes on his way.

However…at the end of the episode, there’s a quick shot of Ken sitting in bed with a pad of paper, writing a story under a new pen name, Dave Algonquin.

I think the point comes across here. Can a writer ever truly stop writing? Is there a force that won’t let us resign—even if we want to? Maybe I’ll keep going for a while. See what happens (rips up resignation letter).

I think there is one line in my journal entry above that is louder than the rest: Would this writing dream chase after me anyway?

You too?  Tell me all about it.

Advertisements

31 Comments

Filed under The Writing Life, Uncategorized, Why We Write

Love Connection: Writing about romantic relationships in fiction

For centuries the world’s great stories have been built on romance. Petrarch wrote love poems for Laura. Romeo and Juliet defied and sacrificed to be together. Hell, the Greek Gods swapped partners more often than the cast of Beverly Hills 90210. Today’s realm of pop culture isn’t much different: Rachel and Ross’s dalliances kept us engaged through ten seasons. We swooned when, after years of torment, Mr. Big flew to Paris to claim his Carrie Bradshaw. And the movies? Forget it. Even the action hero has a love interest.

So we like falling in love. We like watching others fall in love. As bookish types, we like reading about love. And (drumroll, please) us scribes? We dig writing about love.

Rachael Towne → in Textures

It’s no big mystery. Writing about romantic relationships evokes feelings of our own. It can actually be a vicarious experience.When two of my protagonists hit it off, I get tingly inside; I ache, I yearn.  I know it’s serious when I find myself fantasizing about my own characters (don’t tell anyone). But that’s the effect it has. Writers are the luckiest people in the world: we get to fall in love over and over again.

Like most elements of fiction writing, the Love Connection can be a tricky endeavor. In romance novels there is often a formula to follow. From what I understand, at the end, despite all obstacles, the couple lives happily ever after. But perfecting the art of dangerous liaisons is not the sole job of the romance writer.  I consider my work ‘literary with a commercial bent,’ and regardless of genre, the passion needs to sizzle.

It’s all about pacing; the Love Connection must begin, develop, and (perhaps) end, at an optimal speed.

Here’s a quick guide to the process:

The Initial Meeting:

Whether its new love, old love, or love turned sour, every fictional couple should have a story. I listened to a webinar recently where speaker, Jerry B. Jenkins, discussed ‘situational clichés.’ He used the example of two characters literally “bumping into each other.” He suggested ‘finding more creative ways for characters to meet.’ Concerning the Love Connection, this is absolute truth. Tony and Maria from West Side Story also come to mind: two strangers lock eyes across the room, the backdrop becomes blurry, the sounds fade out…ick. It worked for the Jets and the Sharks, but for your novel, you may want to take Jenkins’s advice. There are countless ways to demonstrate the Love Connection. Go for something that’s never been done before.

The Exchange:

A few years ago I attempted to write a novel about two twenty-somethings who meet and fall in love. There were countless issues concerning the writing (i.e. zero backstory, vague setting, etc.) but one element I did nail was the exchange between my characters, Eddie and Ellie. My writing group loved the flirtatious banter, the suggestive gestures, and the obvious sexual tension. I was starting to think that they were falling in love with Eddie and Ellie as much as Eddie and Ellie were falling for each other. But after several weeks they started asking questions like, “When are they going to kiss? Have sex? Touch each other?” Then it hit me: I wasn’t going beyond the exchange. If they kiss, then they reach a new level. And I was lost at how to handle that.

The Outcome:

Just as in life, the literary romance will take some tumbles. The world that looked so shiny and new has returned to its regular dull hues, and now the sands of time are being tested. This is the hard part. But it’s also the most important part. It’s the bonding, the reckoning, and the agonizing. I feared for Eddie and Ellie in this stage. Would they make it? Lose their spark? I kept the witty repartee rolling because I didn’t want to find out. Hence, I never finished the novel.

Literary love comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are ongoing, some are ending, some are unrequited, and yet others are inevitable. Capturing love the right way can do wonders for your book. It can encourage someone to take to take the plunge, get engaged, or leave an unhappy marriage. But one thing I know for sure? As long as we live, read, and write, we most certainly will love.

Do your characters fall in love? Tell me about it.

26 Comments

Filed under Characters, Plot & Structure, Writing Details, Writing Process, Writing Tips

Was I born to do this?

I’ve always been in a fog. Even as a kid, my mind was half in fantasy. I’d hear all those proverbial comments from relatives and such, that I was on “cloud nine,” or a “space cadet.” I’ve been called quiet, shy, taciturn. Well, yeah, I am. That’s because I’m deep inside, thinking, creating, speculating, observing. Is this what makes a writer? A real writer? An organically innate, intrinsic writer?

This past year, I completed a novel. In January, I plan on using it as my graduate thesis–talk about killing two birds with one stone. The revision process scares me the most. The writing comes easy, the cuts, revamps, and edits…not so much. I’m getting better, though. I may be an ‘intrinsic’ writer, but I’m still inexperienced. Nonetheless, I won’t call myself ‘novice.’ Not after completing 108,000 words from start to finish with a well-crafted plot, and characters who jump off the page–no, not novice, intermediate. Getting there. On my way.

Writing this book–which I cherish–made me realize how naturally this stuff comes to me. I’m not claiming it isn’t difficult, because it is–very difficult. But the ability to tune out, listen, and effortlessly create (an initial draft, anyway) has really been with me my whole life. I remember laying in bed as a teenager, and imagining what my life in college would be like. I literally concocted boyfriends, friends, and acquaintances that had names, personalities, backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. For example, my ‘boyfriend’s’ name was Dylan Posimann, he was from Connecticut. He had two brothers, Owen and Craig, his parents were Ned and Laura. He was tall, had dark hair, green eyes, was a football player, and accounting major (interestingly, I’m engaged to an accountant). Dylan had quiet confidence. Loved James Bond movies. He was even-tempered, knew how to have a good time, but not the life of the party. He hid his emotions, though. His smooth surface masked issues with anxiety. He never knew what kind of man he was supposed to be. So he quieted himself down, and allowed his rowdier, more gregarious friends take center stage.

There were more where that came from. Tina Nirtio, my sarcastic roommate from Buffalo; M.J. Peterman, the bad-ass from Upstate New York; Jon Saoerlly, a Ferris Bueller type from Vermont; Sandra Buturo, rich, prissy, girl with a good heart from Manhattan; Glenn Biasz, dumb-ass football jock from Florida; Roscoe Posimann–Dylan’s more outlandish cousin, actually; I think based him off Ducky from Pretty in Pink. Then there was Shelley Landolo, feisty red-head from Pennsylvania.

I didn’t just generate imaginary friends (wow, I can’t believe I’m admitting this) but these people interacted with each other, stirred up drama, formed love triangles, dumped emotional crap on one another. Of course I gave myself a star role in all this. Some idealized, slightly-altered version of myself. I remember thinking, wow, Beverly Hills 90210 in my head! Every night I’d add more to my mental script. Oh, in case you were wondering…I never encountered these people in college. And I did have my own real life friends…still do.

But I was essentially forging plot lines and characters; it wasn’t until I started actually writing, composing my novel that I remembered how easily all this came to me. All I did was the initial fabrication. The rest developed on it’s own. Freaky, but that’s really how it works. I did this from very early on too. I was constantly envisioning imaginary worlds. I can remember, very distinctly, one night when I was maybe twelve, sitting at my Nana’s dining room table while my family was over there for dinner and having this thought. It went something like this: My whole life is a fantasy. I’m going to spend my whole life imagining that something else is taking place.

So is it true? Was I born to do this? I certainly have that “calling.” Will I be “chosen” though? I can’t really say. I wish I could. I’d like to be further along at this point, but it’s OK. I am on my way. Getting there.

1 Comment

Filed under Inspiration, The Writing Life, Why We Write