What I've Written About

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Keeping up “The Love”

Let me begin with a passage by Mark Twain from his book Life on the Mississippi. I was going to take a small portion of this, but it is so well written, the language must be enjoyed by all…

     Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river! I still keep in mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when steamboating was new to me. A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating, black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water; in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many-tinted as an opal; where the ruddy flush was faintest, was a smooth spot that was covered with graceful circles and radiating lines, ever so delicately traced; the shore on our left was densely wooded, and the sombre shadow that fell from this forest was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail that shone like silver; and high above the forest wall a clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was flowing from the sun. There were graceful curves, reflected images, woody heights, soft distances; and over the whole scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily, enriching it, every passing moment, with new marvels of coloring.
     I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river's face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion: This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody's steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling ``boils'' show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the ``break'' from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark?
     No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat. Since those days, I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a ``break'' that ripples above some deadly disease? Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay? Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn't he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn't he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?

Impressive, huh?

And this is what my blog post is all about.

I have always loved writing. I wrote poetry and short stories and picture books. And I loved them all. Then I decided to write a novel. And then another novel. And I decided to take some classes to learn more about how to improve this writing, and how to make it the best it could be. And I worked at it and I loved it.


I decided to try to get it published.

And I went over it sentence by excruciating sentence. And I thought about whether these characters were actually believable. And I worried that the plot wasn't right, or that the idea itself wasn't sellable. And I stressed and fretted and re-wrote and revised some more.

And I learned something.

These stories I had loved so much were becoming Mark Twain's river. I knew the nuances, avoiding the clich├ęs, creating the characters, nursing the plot points.
BUT I lost the love of the river at sunset, or I should say…I lost the love of just creating a story "for the fun of it."

Now I'm trying to get it back.

It's hard.

But yesterday…I created something I felt was beautiful in my eyes. It was phrased wonderfully and moved the plot forward AND built the character ALL IN ONE SENTENCE. And I thought…


I am so glad I learned what I did, or I never would have been able to write this. Just like this. Perfect in my eyes.

So bring on the occasional missed sunset. If learning about the currents can help me write like that…well…I just think it's worth it.

Tell me. What point you are at in your life? Are you still enjoying the gorgeous sunsets and the water rippling in golden hues? Or are you only noticing the log jams and hidden dangers?
Whatever point you're at, I hope you remember to KEEP UP THE LOVE.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Scars Vs. Stars

I write YA books. Or...at least...I try to write YA books. Lately though, I've been wondering if I have the chops for this kind of writing. I mean, it's not like I was a teenager yesterday, or the day before that, or the year before that.

Basically, I have to use my memory in order to write like a teenager. Which is weird and scary and in some ways, non-authentic.

Am I a freak that I can remember what it was like to be a teenager really well? Some days, I still feel like a teenager. And some days those scars and stars I took on me as a teenager seem really... well... real.

So what are SCARS and STARS?

Well, this stems from a little belief of mine.

See, I think, essentially, that we are all exactly the same. I mean, if you look at DNA, every human is exactly the same EXCEPT FOR 1% of their DNA sequence. To be human, you have to have all those human characteristics, right? So where does that 1% come in?

Oh I'm sure a scientist could tell you exactly where that falls. But I'm not a scientist.

I think it falls under your STARS and SCARS.

Let me explain it this way.

What if you took a set of identical twins. They look EXACTLY the same, grow up in EXACTLY the same house with EXACTLY the same parents. Now, let's say that when they are teenagers they fall in love with EXACTLY the same boy. And let's say that this boy falls in love with one of them and they get married. For the girl who was chosen, this would fall under her STAR category. This is wonderful for her. But for the girl who wasn't chosen, this would go in her SCAR category. She can pretend to get over it, but never really does because she's SCARRED.

I bring this up, because I write with my SCARS And STARS fresh in my mind.

I fell in love with someone when I was in high school. We dated for a couple of years...and then it all fell apart. Now I'm happily married. But there is this small sixteen/seventeen year old portion of my soul that still aches when I think about him, that still causes me to be nervous that I will run into him. That reminds me what it feels like to love someone and have them not love you back. That makes the heartache seem fresh.

So when I have to write about this kind of thing in my book. I use that SCAR to help me write.

I won't go into my STARS because I don't want to seem like a major BRAGGER. But... ahem... I have many of those STAR moments as well.

So my question is...'Is it enough to use your STARS and SCARS to write? To write true, realistic YA do you need to be a teenager, or have a teenager, or study teenagers? What do you think? AND do you use your SCARS and STARS to write?