Stirling is, Apparently, A Boy's Name (I Am Not A Boy)

Hi. Remember how determined I used to be about not going by my real name because of how it's like nails down the chalkboard of my soul when it's mispronounced (which is, like, most of the time for people who don't really know me [which = entire internets])? Well, I've stopped being such a baby and I'm just going to correct people from now on--I just did tonight, when someone called me Americus!--and everything will be fine.

I have to go to sleep now. Please come be my friend over where I have my real name now! amarisglass


In Which There Are Many Television Links

Is anyone watching V? I finally caught the pilot yesterday and I'm totally in. This can be one of my four* shows I'm allowed to watch regularly now that Dollhouse is ending *sob*.

So V totally got me in my stomach, made it all fluttery and nervous and stressed out. That's good television–and good writing. I want to analyze it and figure out why and how it affected me that way, so I can also do such things to my readers. One thing I noticed was that the suspense was drawn out and split up over two different storylines, going back and forth between them. I think the main stresser for me was waiting to see what Bailey would do with Inara's suddenly sinister demands...I wonder if there had been just enough doubt laid in the scenes leading up to the interview that you were already half-wondering what the frack was up with these aliens so that when the facade began to crack, it was just confirming what you had been subconsciously thinking all along, but because most everyone and everything else seemed to be pointing at the Visitors as being wonderful you were maybe not allowing yourself to fully entertain that fear/question/hesitation and that was even scarier–because you had been falling for it? Did that make any sense?

That is only a half-baked theory because I found myself strongly identifying with the priest guy who was like, um, smells like Kool-Aid? (even though his inability to reconcile aliens with God is RIDICULOUS; nowhere in the Bible does it say we are the only people/sentient beings/kids God has ever created; God could have dozens of universes out there and it wouldn't make Him any less God, or the Bible any less true) I kept wondering why and how everyone was just swallowing their presence, their talk of sweetness and light with such ease and eagerness–I would think, based on the number of alien movies I've seen, that people would react with much more hostility, or at least wariness.

ANYWAY. V did its job well, and I will continue to watch. And analyze. Who's with me (or who am I with, as I'm totally late to the party)? Any ideas (better than mine, please!) as to why that first episode worked so well?

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ETA: Okay, I watched it again and, in addition to some annoying dialogue and the fact that I hate the kid, I've come to the conclusion that my half-baked theory is mostly wrong and actually my *real* theory is the complete opposite: Precisely because we have doubts about these visitors, because we don't trust them, that makes Inara/Anna's casual, matter-of-fact adjuration to do as she says all the more chilling.

* The others are
Bones (usually excellent writing and the best characterization of any crime procedural that I've ever seen)
The Mentalist (Patrick Jane is charming and nearly unflappable and smarter than anyone you know)
Life Unexpected (this hasn't started yet but I am positive I will love it; it has Liz from Roswell [who puts a K at the end of her ing words and it is super annoying but whatever] and Jesse's reporter friend from that one sitcom episode of Roswell and I can't wait to watch it)
–ahem...for the record, ANTM and Tough Love do not count in my four shows because they are cyclical; they aren't full season shows. They are shorter. They are not real.

Conclusion: I Can Write, But I Need An Editor*

*an awesome editor. I mean, who doesn't?

So there's this indie bookstore sort of near where I live, and I'd never been–or even heard of it–until a semi crashed into it (it's at the bottom of a hill) (it was really a tragic accident and I don't mean to make light of it) and it was reopened a few months ago. Yesterday they had a First Pages panel with two agents, something I'd never been to before, and it was SWEET. They read my page (I played it cool) and basically said good first line, but overwritten and where'd the story go? And they were so did I not see what they saw before when I see it so clearly now? (Is that 'before' in the correct place? It's reading kind of funny to me...)

Anyway, they pointed out really good strengths and weaknesses of everyone's work and I came away with a few notes I thought maybe I should share. With people who care about what agents have to say. Which maybe is you.

Oh and plus it was Jill Corcoran and Kelly Sonnack (of Herman Agency and Andrea Brown Literary Agency, respectively) at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse (organized by the delightful and energetic Catherne Linka, a very present member of the kidlit world here in SoCal). Jill was just getting over a cold so Kelly read everything, which makes my throat hurt just thinking about it. Jill was as friendly as she looks in her picture on the Blueboards and Kelly has lots of straight blonde hair. I wouldn't even know what to do if I had that much hair. Maybe complain about the strain. Some of my friends with heavy hair sometimes say their necks hurt on account of their hair. That has certainly never happened to me.

Okay, tips. Here we go:

Start at the right point. Your first page, your first scene, should be one that matters to the story, that has something important to do with the plot. You can show character, you can introduce setting, you can do other writerly things that are awesome (and, um, probably you should), but make sure that it is integral to the rest of the story. Whatever happens in the first scene should matter later, should come up again, should affect everything after it.

Maybe don't have super weird and specific and utterly unknown references on the first page. The reader isn't a part of the world yet, so throwing a bunch of terms they don't recognize at them is not going to make them want to stick around and figure them out. Make them care about the story, the characters, first, then you can get them to go along with the mysterious 'V clause' and calling phones giblets. Or whatever. (and if you absolutely must use unfamiliar terms, make sure there's enough context for the reader to get it pretty quickly)

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Good Things Cost

good thing: adding something new to my ever-resolution list
cost: actually sitting down and writing something new/Time + Effort*

So I've been working on a list of New Year's resolutions even though I now realize that resolutions and goals are two different things, and one list is waaaay longer than the other. Who doesn't have a ton of things they want to change/improve/strengthen/demolish about themselves?

So (one of my resoltuions should be to stop starting paragraphs with 'So') I decided to make a list of concrete, quantifiable objectives and have those be my 2010 goals. And then to have a more fluid and ever-present list of resolutions that I look at and add to and think about more often in an attempt to keep them in the front of my mind so I can remember them while I'm doing something I shouldn't be instead of waiting till after I've done it and am ashamed.

I have a very long, very detailed list that I will be adding to a lot, no doubt, but this is one I just thought of and for seriously need to remember more and better:

Start earlier. Whatever it is you (and by you I of course mean I as I am talking to myself, but since I'm talking to myself I think it's probably okay to address myself in the second person) (you is the second person, right?) (also I'm going to start over right now)

Start earlier. Whatever it is you have to do, do it NOWFIRSTRIGHTAWAYSTOPSTALLINGNOMOREINTERNETDOITNOW. Usually it's writing and I know it's hard and scary and you can't imagine how you're going to think of something that isn't terrible but guess what: this happens EVERY SINGLE TIME. You are scared of failure but when you do force yourself to do it, it's not terrible. Sometimes it's even pretty good, occasionally it's great, and less often it is terrible–but not irredeemable. Try to remember that you go through this every single time, and you are so glad (and surprised, which is silly) when you do dive in and do it and find out you can, and so pissed when you don't. Like, super-disgusted, have-to-pray-a-lot-to-feel-like-a-human-again pissed. STOP IT. Just do it when you plan on doing it and stop distracting yourself because you are scared. Fear is the original sin**.

So (dang it!)...that's it.

*Good things cost–anything worth having is going to cost you something, and my super unscientific breakdown of how they cost goes like this: either time or money or effort. Time-obvious. Money–obviouser. Effort–energy or heart. You either do something or you just care. You pray, you write a letter, you listen. And obviously lots of good things cost more than one thing. Brushing your teeth costs effort (energy) AND money. Getting used to a mix cd your friend made you takes Effort (heart; caring, forcing yourself to LISTEN TO SOMETHING NEW ALREADY) AND Time. Learning how to rollerskate costs all three (and is SO worth it).

(sub*: I realize that any Effort also costs Time; that you can't expend any kind of Energy without also expending Time. But Time can also be actual waiting, letting alone, stopping activity–and so I will leave it as its own category, and accept that Time is a factor in every Effort label and also accept that my super unscientific breakdown may be flawed.)

**from The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery.

p.s. I'm not afraid to say I have been thinking a lot about goals due largely to this post by m_stiefvater

Fairy Dust

I was on a movie set one time (One Hour Photo, to be specific) and there was this crew guy that was all chatty and fun and he said something that just made sense to me yesterday. I mean, it made sense at the time as well, but it suddenly crystallized into a truth that I really need to take hold of right this second and keep remembering every day if I want to meet my writing goals (and I really, really want to meet those goals).

He was talking about how before he came to Hollywood he'd just marvel at the magic of movies and how everything was always perfect and amazing and it never occurred to him to wonder how all this magic came to be. He sort of thought it was fairy dust that moved set pieces around and set up lights and tested microphones. Then he got here and started working on productions and found out that there was no magic in making movies; there was only hard work and tremendous effort and little sleep and maybe some bodily fluids (ew, I mean like blood and sweat and tears...I really should have phrased that differently). Specifically, his effort and sweat and hard hard work.

Lately I've been looking for something to help me finish, to start, to perfect my writing–some magic piece of advice, some revolutionary approach, or even the power of a concrete, already-paid-for conference deadline. I halfway think that if I just find that Secret–that magical, perfect, heretofore-unknown-but-still-real, right? Secret, then I will become what I want to be, do what I want to do, and be utterly satisfied with everything.

Um, der. I've been chasing some imaginary magic formula when the REAL trick is to just do it. I have to write it, I have to make myself do it, and that's the only magic there is.

I am the fairy dust.


Dear NaNo Novel,

I've decided to keep track of what I'm doing every day to help you live. You are merely a slim, shiny idea right now, but soon you will be a mess of words and characters and wounds and

Sorry. Started that a while ago and never finished.

Dear NaNo Novel,

Don't you love that epiphany I had about the plot, about why Pops needs Joss to stay underwater? Doesn't it make so much more sense this way? And didn't you love how I just came right back to you after reading BALLAD, after reading it and thinking with every amazing phrase like that one about her thumb leaving behind invisible promises and oh freaking hell and I can't remember the rest but they are there, and how they sort of devastated me and the plot was so tight and tricksy I was sort of bereft of hope and love for my own dear you, and then I finished it, let it blow my mind for a few minutes, took a little nap, and then right back to writing you, all unblocked?

Yeah me too.

Your Symbiotic Creator-Type Person

Rain, If You Really Think About It, Is Hilarious

Sometimes I get mildly irritated when people complain about rainy days and call them 'dreary.' And then I think, that's probably how people feel about me always making faces at the sun and wishing audibly for some clouds. Some saturated clouds.

Plus, I'm about to initiate the attack on Book I, otherwise known as The First Time I Have Ever Attempted A Book-Length Revision. I feel like this is what will happen: I will fool around with Scrivener and get my tens of thousands of words of plotting, backstory, character musings, Really Good Questions That Need to be Answered and Exciting Revelations That Need to be Worked Into the Story Somehow all in order and cohesive and making a kind of sense (even if it's the kind that only I understand)...and then, without even looking at the first draft, I'll just rewrite the whole thing in one fell swoop. In like three weeks.

That's what I feel is going to happen.

Does that seem wise?

Plus I Can't Even Chew. At All.

As I was lying back in the lying-back chair at my orthodontist this morning, I thought out a blog post. For this, my blog. I'm sure it was brilliant, or at least marginally interesting, but now, with the weirdness of wearing braces for the first time in my thirty-four years, all I can think of is Wow, I really wish I didn't have Puddle of Mudd stuck in my head.

I'm On It.

Okay, so I've been reading this book on procrastination, and how to stop it. I love reading books on how to do things way more than I like actually doing things (which just feeds into my natural procrastinatory bent). Part of the reason I'm reading this book is to figure out how much of my procrastination has to do with me being lazy (I'm guessing it's a big part–I am REALLY lazy and complacent about a lot of things, and it's not working out so well for me lately) and how much is maybe some other pinpointable cause that can be specifically and mercilessly dealt with. And this is what I've gathered so far (I'm only halfway through the book):

I am afraid of both success AND failure. I kind of knew this already. Or at least suspected. Also I am a perfectionist. I never ever knew or even suspected that I could be a perfectionist on account of I never do anything perfectly and don't ever even try and perfectionists are usually people way different from me...way different than I...I hate the word different sometimes.

But apparently part of the reason I don't try to do things I'd like to do is because I have no hope of doing them right/perfectly, and I don't want to waste my time on hopeless pursuits. Which makes sense (who does?), but maybe I'm looking at said pursuits wrong, or expecting the wrong things from them, and that thought is one you all can figure out for yourself and it's kind of obvious and boring so I'll move on.

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Come on, Self, Get It Together!

So tonight I'm wondering about My Brain vs. Myself. Sometimes I (Myself) intend (or don't) to do things but My Brain has other plans and I find out afterwards that I've been hijacked. This happens in small ways, like I will get up and be ten steps into the next room before I realize what I'm doing. Suddenly I will be like, oh, I guess I'm getting a glass of water. My Brain had it all underway before *I* knew what I was about.

And then I am writing and something happens, in the scene, that I (Myself) never saw coming. My Brain just does it and then I just write it and I sort of look on in surprise. Usually and for the most part this is my favorite thing about writing. But something keeps happening in these stories I'm working on that makes me pause the tiniest bit...I'm not really worried, since anything can be fixed, but I just wonder if My Brain really does know best.

I keep trying to write do I say this? Really *not* big stories. I'm writing (possibly historical) fantasy, and there *is* an element of saving society from a great evil, but I'm not trying to write a LOTR epic. Because I'm not genius-face like Tolkien. And plus, I just want to write this girl's story. Just one girl, and what she goes through when her wicked stepmother tries to kill her.

But My Brain keeps making it bigger–bigger stakes, bigger threats, bigger cast...and the fairies! I truly do not want to write another fairy book, because there are so many and they are all so amazing and I just wanted to do something different and not feel like I'm grasping at some trend...I do love fairies and fairy stories, no doubt, but I wanted this to be more of a fairy tale (which don't always, or even usually, have fairies in them) than a tale about fairies.

So who do I trust? Myself, who controls all the thoughts I'm aware of but maybe doesn't have full access to ALL the workings of my inner brain-place, or My Brain, who...*is* myself, maybe more truly than Myself is...which sounds silly and convoluted, now that I'm trying to write it out, but probably you get what I'm saying. I don't know. After reading Blink, I'm thinking maybe My Brain knows what's the what more than Myself, but then that's where the hidden prejudices came out, too, and that's no good...

Thoughts? Brain vs. Self? Instinct vs. Intent? Who do I trust?