Month: January 2010

“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

~~Robert Benchley

Do you ever have the Moment?

You know the one where a flood of self-doubt arrives from nowhere and washes your ambition away?  Where writing three original words in a row looks like a physical, emotional and spiritual impossibility?  Where you think to yourself: “Self, you don’t have it in you.  You never did.  You’ll never write like those other guys.”

I had the Moment last night.

I threw one of my shorts out for a critique and it came back covered in red ink.  And everything they said was right.  That was the hardest part.  Every criticism was on target.  And it stopped me dead in my tracks and I couldn’t breathe for awhile.  I lay awake most of the night trying to recage my gyros.  Can I really do this?

Robert Collier said: “Sooner or later there comes a crisis in our affairs, and how we meet it determines our future happiness and success.”

This morning, an epiphany.  There are a hundred Moments between me and my publishing deal, maybe more.  I’ll have to struggle through every one.  Somehow I have to learn to live with the idea that constant self improvement and criticism is a part of the process, this wonderful terrible beautiful painful passion called writing.

And I can do it.  So can you.

What about it?  How do you deal with your Moment?

If you didn’t hear, Moonrat over at Editorial Ass put up a post about “Write Your @ss Off Day.” The idea is to choose one day and devote it completely (as completely as you can anyway) to writing. My pick is Saturday, February 6th. Bonus: they put together an interactive map.  What could be more fun?  OK, well I can think of a couple of things, but I signed up anyway–and you should too.  If you go explore the map, I’m the little guy sitting all alone in Baghdad. 😀

I decided to start a tradition here at WSMG–my first! Each Friday I’ll post the best of what I’ve seen around the intertubes recently–everything from hardcore writing tutorials to items that make me laugh. If you have a post you’d like me to include, drop me a note and I’ll put it in!

But first, a joke. Note: I said “a joke,” not a funny joke or good joke, but a joke. I tend toward groaners, puns, and humor dry as the desert, so consider yourself warned.

The Doctor’s Visit

A writer goes to a doctor. The doctor eyes the man with concern because the man looks dog tired.

“What seems to be the problem,” the doctor asks.

“Doctor, you have to help me,” the man says. “I haven’t slept much lately, and it’s killing me. I haven’t been able to write a word.”

“Why haven’t you been sleeping?”

“Nightmares keep waking me up.”


“Yes. First, I dream I’m a wigwam. The idea scares me so much, I wake up in a cold sweat.”

“Go on.”

“After I finally fall back asleep, I dream I’m a teepee. Again I wake up in a cold sweat.”

The doctor smiles knowlingly. “Ah, I see.”

“What it is?”

“It’s very simple. You’re too tents.”

And now for some fun Friday Link Love:

  • Hello, Hello? Query As A Phonecall: Diana over at Writing Rollercoasters–who is not, as it turns out, a fairy :)–wrote up this revealing and hilarious discussion about the etiquette of query response.  Reading the post, I was laughing so much my fellow cubicle denizens were giving me funny looks and I knew a lot more about the subject when I was done–and you can’t beat that, in my book!
  • Adverbs Are Evil: Heather let loose the Ninjadillo (like the Dogs ‘o War, but oh so much more vicious!) on all those stinking adverbs over at her blog, See Heather Write. I tell ya, after reading this post, my adverb-laden verbiage doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Grub Street Fiction Course: Carrie has a great series of posts on her site Heim Binas Fiction detailing tips from a recent six-part fiction course at Grub Street. The posts give awesome pointers in a ton of different areas.
  • What Point of View? Sophie Masson, one of the many hard working writers over at Writer Unboxed, writes up a fantastic outline on the things to consider when choosing a POV for your WIP.  Thanks Valerie for pointing that one out.  Valerie’s site, Something To Write About, is also a great place to stop by and hang out.
  • The Road: A Comedic Translation: Jacob Lambert at The Millions masterfully parodies Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” This is an older link, but I was rolling on the floor laughing as I read it, so I couldn’t bear to leave it out.

Enjoy! And, as always, thanks for reading.

EDIT: I just heard that J. D. Salinger passed on Wednesday. Full obit. You can find some of his other work, including Nine Stories here.  The man wrote with such an authentic voice.  I’m still chasing it after all these years.

“I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody’s head.”

~~John Updike

Before we get started, don’t forget about Heather at See Heather Write’s contest–with confetti! Win a signed copy of Dennis Lehane’s “The Given Day” or Anita Shreve’s “The Pilot’s Wife”!

And a super special thanks goes out to Liza at Middle Passages who put up the nicest post about me yesterday.  For a sampling of her great work, go read this post about a recent trip she made to an Italian Food Emporium.  Her writing is so visual, I promise you you’ll be hungry all day.  I’m getting peckish now just thinking about it.

Now down to business.  There’s a great old story by Donald Barthelme that I love called Me and Miss Mandible (story at the link).  The story tells of Joseph, a 35-year old former insurance adjuster who, through a clerical error, is mistaken for an eleven year-old and ends up in Miss Mandible’s sixth-grade class.  The other kids know the system and have the day-to-day routine down pat while clueless Joseph struggles to make sense of it all, despite his maturity.

Looking at my TBR list last night, I realized I’m a lot like Joseph.  The “A-ha!” moment happened when I noticed how many older works are in my queue.  For example, I am about half-way through re-reading John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace”.  The copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird” I ordered last week arrived from Amazon yesterday.  Other recent conquests include “Catch 22” and “Requiem for A Dream” (my review here). 

I know, I know!  I need to update my reading list!  But I don’t know the first thing about what’s hot right now.  The best seller list has never been a good guide for me.  I hear lots of talk about young adult (YA) fiction, and I have to admit I don’t have a clear grasp of what’s good and what’s not in that genre.

Can you guys stear me in the right direction, both for YA and for other genres? 

If I wanted to get a good picture of what constitutes cutting edge publishable fiction right now, what novels should I pick up?  What have you read recently that you liked or thought was noteworthy?