Tag Archives: University of Washington

Writing Rituals & More Reading

Hello Happy Readers (aka Mom and P),

It’s time for an update.  I stayed up too late last night finishing a book and didn’t have the energy to get up and head to the gym at 5:20.  Therefore, I’m writing a blog entry (and if I finish in time I’ll start on a bit of a novel overhaul).

We are two weeks into our third quarter at the University of Washington’s Popular Fiction 1 course.  During this quarter we are discussing the finer points of getting published with our novels and writing the ‘end’.   In our first few classes we’ve learned about how to and are writing a Query Letter for our books, as well as perfecting our elevator pitches.  Mine is still a little weak (e.g. P and I were chatting a week ago and I was telling him about class and he asked me what my elevator pitch was and I had to look up what I wrote in class…).  The fact that I’m struggling so much to get my story into a couple of sentences and a page (for the synopsis) makes me think I need to give the draft another edit and perhaps pull out the parallel story and just focus on my one protagonist for this go.  But need to noodle on that.

The other thing we have talked about in class are writing rituals and how folks who are serious about being professional authors all have them.  This writing ritual is something you do that helps you get into a regular writing groove; go to a coffee shop around the same time each day and order a drink and sit and start writing, wake up at 4am and writer for two hours before work, walk around greenlake to get your thoughts together then write for a couple of hours.  I personally do not have a ritual yet.  I am a morning person – and should set up my writing ritual in the AM before work.  I have to work out a few challenges 1) I like to go to the gym (I NEED TO GO TO THE GYM) M/W/F at 5:30.  2) T/Th present day I’ve been getting up and playing video games… which while part of my job, I could forgo to write if I really WANTED to… I am feeling inspired though, and our latest game (Elder Scrolls) has been a little lame so perhaps now is the time to start a new writing ritual.

The reading challenge is still ON like Donkey Kong!  I’m actually a couple of books ahead right now in part due to a nice plane ride down the west coast and a short little book of poems written by a dog… 🙂  I’ve read eight books since my last post on March 2nd, even some from the list I said I was going to read next!  ha!  Here are some quick notes in the order that I personally liked them:

1) A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron I agree with another reviewer- this W. Bruce probably is a dog.  The book, written from a dog’s POV, is one of the best I’ve read this year.  Touching, funny, and an interesting exercise in point of view.  AND since my two loyal blog readers are reading now I won’t give away any spoilers – but it’s good.  GET reading!

2) Carrie by Stephen King – yup, Stephen King.  That’s right folks.  My second Stephen King book, though not sure we should count his autobio/writing book, as it was all non-fiction.  I really liked Carrie.  I’ve never had the urge to read Stephen King.  His stories and movies always seem so overwrought.  But after reading the story of how Carrie came to be (his wife pulled a draft out of the garbage and loved the flawed, SERIOUSLY flawed main protagonist, encouraged Stephen to finish it and turn it into his publisher – and it became his first published book).  It was pretty fantastic.  All over the place from a POV and setting perspective as it jumps from Carrie’s story, to a bystanders story, to telekinesis researchers articles, to newspaper clippings and interviews of ‘the incident’.  Short book – must read if you’ve never read a Stephen King book.  I may actually read another of his… 🙂

3) Scarlet (the Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer.  First, Marissa is my hero. I know I’ve written a review about her already.  She’s in her 20’s, wrote both Cinder (her first published book) and Scarlet during NaNoWriMo and lives just south of me in Tacoma Washington (plus she wrote me back when I sent her a note through her blog.  :))  I love that she’s taken fairy tales  (Cinder is about a young borg servant who works for a mean lady and her two step daughters, and it culminates at the prince’s ball… and Scarlet is about a young French woman with lovely red hair who meets up with a gruff young man who’s in a gang called a wolf pack while investigating her grand-mere’s disappearance) and turned them on their head in her Lunar Chronicles series.  I also love that her protagonists are kick ass young women.  I’ve already downloaded Cress which is the third in the series.

4). I Could Chew On This: and Other Poems by Dogs by Francesco Marciuliano.  This is a sweet little book of poems written by dogs.  Super fun to read these out loud to friends and family members who also appreciate a good poem by a dog.

5). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.  This is an acclaimed story written from the POV of an autistic teenager.  V. interesting but a little frustrating to read.  This was recommended during class by the same person who recommended The Fault in Our Stars.  I didn’t like it nearly as much as the Fault – but it was still a well written story.  Not much about the dead dog – I don’t want you readers to think all I read are books about dogs… not true! 🙂

6). ttyl (Internet Girls #1) by Lauren Myracle.  I picked up this book after the AWP conference.  An excellent exercise in point of view, this YA book is written entirely with text messages between three best friends.  The author actually gets away with using pink font in this best seller to differentiate one of the texters.  I liked a couple of things in this book 1) that it is completely in text and therefore there is practically NO setting in this book at all (I struggle with setting!) and 2) that you can actually see the story progress through a normal story path, even while written entirely in text messages.  Brilliant.  I didn’t like it enough to read the next one in the series though.

7). The Boyfriend List:  15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver (#1) by E. Lockhart.  This was another AWP find.  I went to a panel with the author on it.  This one I didn’t really enjoy, mainly because the protagonist was so annoying.

8).  Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison.  Another AWP find.  Went to a reading of this and a few other humorous memoirs.  Loved the writer and her reading of the memoir, but upon reading the book myself found that I wasn’t a big fan of memoirs or yoga and was a little bored.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Kathy has
read 17 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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The Rubber Meets the Road…

Okay – my University of Washington Popular Fiction course started last night.   The class is broken into three quarters and she is going to use them to work on the beginning, the middle and the end of our books.  We will write and critique in each class, and then work on rewrites after class as homework.  We will have one on one time with her to discuss our novels as well.   I liked the instructor.  She had spunk and enthusiasm and seemed to know what she was talking about, she interjected lots of examples into the short lecture that weren’t about her own stories.

As our introduction to the class our instructor, author Pam Binder, had us each write our name, book title, genre, and a synopsis of our book on a 4×6 card.  We then went around the room – introduced ourselves and talked about what we wrote on the card.  This shit just got real.  EEEEEEK!   (sorry to be crass mom – love you).

Everyone in the class seemed to have a pretty decent idea of what they want to write about.  I faked my way through my synopsis riffing on an idea that I’ve been mulling over – but after hearing everyone else’s ideas I started rethinking mine.  It seemed so pedestrian.  My idea was to write about a new college student who’s previous life had been lived as a famous pop star/actress  – sort of a Hannah Montana – except more disguised so she can start a new.   Nothing super natural or fantasy or sci-fi about it.  I always assumed I’d write something paranormal and interesting.  That is (mostly) what I like to read – but alas, every time I try to head down that path I chicken out because what I write seems so dorky.

Yes.  I just used the word dorky.

Today I had coffee with a colleague who has recently published a book and has plans for 8 (!!) more.   It was very inspirational.  We talked about plot points, how to get started, how he manages his time, what lessons he’s learned already about what he learned after being published about nasty reviewers.   We also talked about the importance of an ‘opening’ and hook for your book.

My homework for this week is to create an opening for my book.  Which means I need to get serious about what I want to write.  Bubblegum YA or something more fantasy/scifi adult… I would love to do the latter – I just am not sure I have the depth to get there.  It has to be about 3 pages, double spaced, Times font, and with proper structure. Oh and, we can’t use an exclamation point the entire year! (that was a deserved ! for sure! Don’t you think?!). But ready….set… go.  Need to just get rolling.  AND decide.

Two people today recommended the same book to me “Ready Player One”.  On the SAME day.  Spooky.  Read the synopsis.  Looking forward to reading it once I finish my instructors romantic fantasy.

ReadyPlayerOne

Also – I’m on a major Person of Interest tear.  Have now watched 4 episodes this evening on demand and almost finished with season 1. This was a show recommended by my dad two years ago, and I finally have time to catch up and it is really fun to watch.  And hey – Caviezel is a fellow Husky!  (turns out we probably hung out in the same circles in school – one year difference, living about 4 houses away from each other).

thCAEITLFW

One thing I like about our instructor (and the instructor from this summer) was that they use lots of TV and popular book references to make her points.  She pointed out the opening and closing from Pretty Woman (and encouraged us to watch it again because we’d talk about it later in class).  She talked about the incredible hooks in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  And recommended The Originals to my friend to help him understand immortality and the fantasy genre.  She’s batting 3 for 3 with me!  🙂

now I just have to get writing…

“Popular Fiction” it is…

Today I discovered my next step in this crazy novel writing education – a nine month writing course at the University of Washington.  It’s a certificate program in writing Popular Fiction.  For the application – yep, you need to apply and get accepted so this is the real deal, you have to submit a letter explaining why you want to take the course, your resume indicating relevant experience, and a 500 word writing sample (eeek).  I chose a sample from last year’s Nano exercise.  I had to do some major editing to actually get it to 500 words.  I’m pretty wordy apparently, particularly with nano where I’m trying to ‘get to’ 50,000 words in a month!   Who knows if it’s good enough, or if I’ll be good enough if I’m selected for the program, but here we go!

Writing Sample from 2012 NaNoWrimo “novel”
(500 word sample maximum)

CHAPTER ELEVEN
I believe implicitly that every young man in the world is fascinated with either sharks or dinosaurs.
~Peter Benchley 20th Century Author

Across the lake was a large triceratops and two smaller triceratops drinking water.

“It’s huge. Is that a mother and her young?” Julie asked PuiChee the expert in their group.

“Triceratops are exhibiting matriarchal-society behavior with the young staying with the mother until grown, similar to elephant herds.” PuiChee whispered. The larger dinosaur looked up in their direction sniffing the air.

Henry unsheathed his firearm as a precaution.

“You won’t need that.” PuiChee stated, looking from the firearm across the lake to the Triceratops. There was no clear path from the big beasts to their group. The large dinosaur dropped her head back down and resumed drinking.

“Fascinating. They’re not interested in us.” PuiChee stated. She sat down on a rock at the edge of the lake pulling out her tablet and began to record notes and pictures.

“Shall we?” Julie said to Karmen nodding to her own pack and tablet.

“We’re heading back in a couple of hours to hit camp before nightfall.” Henry said watching Karmen wander off down the bank of the lake, taking samples of soil, water, and snapping pictures with her tablet of everything.

Julie took off the other direction examining and taking samples of all the plants she encountered, putting them into plastic containers and stowing those in her pack. Where possible she placed entire plants, root balls, and soil as one into the bio-engineered containers for further study.

After ninety minutes collecting, examining, recording, and observing, PuiChee noticed when the triceratops picked up their giant spiked heads simultaneously and looked behind them. The larger animal nudged the smaller ones gently with her horns, getting them to move away from the water supply, further displaying maternal behavior.

“Something has them spooked.” Henry said to PuiChee standing over her shoulder looking through his binoculars. “I can’t see anything coming, but if it’s scary enough to spook those beasts we definitely shouldn’t stick around. Ladies, let’s move out.” He called out to Karmen and Julie.

PuiChee packed up her sack. She hurried behind Henry, looking back over her shoulder. The triceratops were moving quickly, almost out of site. Henry was shepherding the scientists away from the lake rapidly.

They all felt the earth quaking with what seemed like heavy foot falls. “That’s an impact tremor…” PuiChee said. “Something very large is coming towards the lake.”

“Then let’s keep moving.” Henry said bringing up the rear of the group. They all started running, packs bouncing on their backs the entire two miles back to camp.