Thursday, February 25, 2010

KICKIN' ASS AND TAKING NAMES--AND ADVICE

Many times I've heard writers complain about how hard writing is. They don't want to do it, it's agonizing, they hate writing but like having written, they can't edit one more page or they'll stab themselves with a pen, etc. I don't get it.

I love writing. Why else would I do it? Sure, the stuff I write isn't always great, witty, or poetic, but I'm creating. I'm expressing myself. Many times after a short warm-up of writing lame, straight-to-the-trashcan rubbish, I fall into my groove and the good stuff starts to flow. Then that writers high kicks in, and--in my own mind--I'm a story Jedi and completely unstoppable. I love that feeling.

Maybe that's why I love dancing. The warm-up is usually mundane. I might be stiff, cranky, or stressed, but I know that once my body starts moving, the rush of adrenaline and endorphins will release and the music will transport me to a different world. That's pure bliss to me. If you really want to get me pumped, put me on a dance floor, throw on hip-hop or house music, and challenge me to a battle. Watch Miss Ballet/Lyrical/Contemporary Dancer throw rules and structure out the window and "take it to the streets."

Which brings me to my point about kickin' ass.

I know I'm not the next J.K. Rowling. If the literary world was a dance floor and she and I went head-to-head, she would show me up instantly. Does that mean I wouldn't step up and do MY thing? Heck no. I'd jump in there and throw down with my best stuff. BUT, I'd watch J.K., study her moves, shake her hand, bow humbly, and then go home and practice my own variation of her skills in the mirror. That's how we learn. Watch, study, practice, make it our own, and never stop filling our arsenal with knowledge, skill, and experience. It's a huge dance floor (the world of writing) there will always be someone bigger and better out there. It doesn't mean we should stop dancing (writing) or complain about how hard it is.

If you want to learn a lot about writing a strong MC, developing relationships between characters, and making rules of fantasy believable, go read Graceling by Kristin Cashore. (The photo is not the American cover--I think it's the UK--but I adore this version so I'm using it.) Graceling made me want to improve my craft and draw people into my stories the way Kristin did. Not to mention, Katsa (the MC) is the biggest bad ass I've seen in a long time. I'd love to see Katsa and Katniss from Hunger Games battle it out on a dance floor. It would be one heck of a showdown!

I'm not saying that every second of our writing careers will be easy or even fun, but it should be passionate. Even if you're passionately miserable about a character, or your plot, or your word count, that's still passion. Do something to pull yourself out of the funk. Read a great book, study the craft of your favorite author, write something totally different than the story you've been obsessing about for months. Switch it up. Have fun. Go challenge someone to a battle and learn from them. It will only make you better and stronger and you'll probably have a good time while doing it.

I'll close with some advice from Stephen King. If you won't listen to little ol' me I know you'll listen to a superstar like him:
"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair--the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names...Come to it any way but lightly.
Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
I'm not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I'm not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor...This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing, damn it...If you can take it seriously we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else."
~Stephen King, On Writing
I bet Stevie could throw down some wicked dance moves. ;)

30 comments:

  1. This is a great post. I especially like the quote at the end. Oh, and if you ever decide to put up a vid of you throwin' down on the dance floor, make sure you let me know. That'd be fun as hell to watch.

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  2. Author dance offs? Can we say awesome!!

    I'd love to see some of my favorites go toe-to-toe and liek you said, I'd be studying them and taking notes!

    I can't wait to read Graceling! I love the UK cover so much mroe than the US one (which isn't bad, just not as awesome)!

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  3. Write something totally different than the story you've been obsessing about for months.

    I love that advice and it's totally helping me to continue to love writing.

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  4. I can feel your enthusiasm in this post, as if you've just finished warming up and you're throwing out these words as you start your dance.

    Thanks for the shot of energy.

    Now a dance-off between JK and Stephen: that'd be cool, especially if we could all crowd onto the dance floor and do our own thing.

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  5. What a fun analogy. I think this post shows you are playing your game with everything you've got.
    PS: I'd love to see the two Kats face off. They are such amazing characters.

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  6. Great post! I think sometimes I get down in the dumps because writing is never DONE. In fact, I'm blogging about this tomorrow!

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  7. Reading GRACELING made me want to go do something, ANYTHING, really well.

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  8. Love the enthusiasm...it's contagious :D

    but, the point about writing is that we have to push ahead when we want to do it and even when we don't. I'm glad you never feel that way .. it's a blessing. but, sometimes I just get really lazy and want to lie on the couch all day. that's when I have to give myself a kick in the rear and force myself to get moving. it's not all the time. it's not even half the time. but it is sometimes.

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  9. Well said!! As my six year old son would say, "slap me high five!" :)

    I get so irritated when non-writers don't take my work seriously, but I forgive them because they don't truly understand. Writers don't have that excuse.

    If you want something, then go after it with everything you have. If you don't, then you didn't really want it that badly in the first place.

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  10. I like your use of dance and writing to draw a picture of artistic expression. I agree that at first, my writing is a bit stiff, but then once my fingers get warmed up and my brain wakes up, then that's when the fun really begins.

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  11. Great post. Exactly what I needed to hear! I completely agree with the dancing too (as it relates to writing, and just dancing itself). I love to bust a move when I can.

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  12. This is my new favorite Karen post! Oh, my gosh how I loved this, and that Steven King quote really was a kick-ass clincher! Big-time awesome!! :-)

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  13. You can't go wrong when you quote "The King".

    Great minds must think alike. I have the same 'wrap yourself in a book' pic on my site :o)

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  14. Ooh, that cover art alone makes me want to read that book!

    And I'd totally pay money to see JK and Stevie in a dance off. Genres would be crossed and bystanders might be injured. It would be EPIC.

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  15. Graceling is that badass? Maybe I should give it a chance. I agree with you but I can't always say it's passion is why I write, though there are the parts of writing that drag me, it is something more. I call it a sickness. ANd your right, maybe it's not the best but we're creating and I have all this, this...something, I don't what you call it but it has to GET OUT of me. So I write. And...I love.

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  16. Awesome post! You have a fabulous attitude - it's great to see ;o) Dancing is awesome. I haven't done it in years, but I can tell you I DVR every So You Think You Can Dance - I've been brought to tears before with great dance, just like great writing!

    Stephen is a wise man - great quote ;o)

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  17. Yeah, writing can be difficult, but it's no more difficult than any other profession or hobby people like to invest their time in. It's all about passion and determination. Everyone sucked at some point - some people still do (meekly raises hand). It's all about persistence. Even if you're really discouraged, if you love to write then you'll stick with it.

    I love observing other people's epic dancing skillz. I'm not much for performing myself just yet, but give me another year or so and I'll be krumping in that circle right along with you!

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  18. fantastic advice.
    And that's a great quote. "It's writing, damn it." I feel like that should be on a t-shirt.

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  19. I love that writing book.

    I am one of those writers who says lame things like, I hate writing, or whatever. Hell, I even write a blog post titled "Writing Sucks." These phrases are cop-outs. Quick, easy things to say that sort of express how I am feeling. I write a lot. I take my writing seriously. It is a job. And just like with any job you love, sometimes you just don't wannnnnaaaa.

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  20. I would love to see you do a dance-off with J.K. Rowling. Just sayin.

    Great post. Truly inspiration. I totally needed this today!

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  21. Karen,

    I have an award for you on my Saturday post! :-)

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  22. A great post, Karen! I just love your outlook on the writing life. It is so inspiring. xx

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  23. Inspirational! What else would you expect from the story Jedi?
    Great post, Karen.

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  24. Oh my gosh, you are singing my song, sister! Dancing? Writing? Graceling? ALL in one post?? Rock on! You have named so many things I am passionate about! I'm looking forward to visiting more often. : ) Keep up the great work!

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  25. I love the dancing analogy..so true. But something tells me I would never want to watch Stephen King dance..lol.

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  26. I love your attitude and energy towards writing. This is a brilliant post. I will definitely be reading Graceling (and I hope that really is the UK cover because it's gorgeous!)

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