Thursday, February 4, 2010


Libba Bray was the opening speaker at SCBWI in NYC last weekend. She discussed writing as an extreme sport, which was right up my alley since I love skydiving. I even love turbulence during airplane rides (just ask Megan Rebekah about our rough flight into La Guardia airport.) I love adrenaline rushes. And I loved Libba's speech because she challenged all of us to join her in the year of writing dangerously.

I accepted her challenge because I've already started writing dangerously with my current WIP. I thought I was breaking rules in a bad way, but Libba made me feel better about my rebelliousness. Here's why:

1.) I have multiple POVs in first person.
This should be a huge no-no, but my writing group says it's working.
Plus, Libba said, know your characters from every angle.
So why shouldn't the reader know them that way too?

2.) I'm writing Fantasy YA (the most over-saturated of the genres right now).
But Libba said, write YOUR story and ignore the trends.
MY story is a fantasy. I have to be true to that. No matter how many other writers I'll be up against in the query wars.

3.) I'm creating some characters and scenarios that don't feel safe.
Libba said, go places other than your first instinct.
Just because I believe in the golden rule and doing the right thing, doesn't mean my characters have to. Their world of scandals and taboo isn't a reflection on me as a person.

4.) I'm pushing myself to the limits this month (the shortest month of the year) by making it my goal to finish my first draft.
Libba said, don't blink.
Between creating new scenes, editing old ones, and trying to find the right balance of dialogue, descriptions, action, etc, I feel like I don't have time to blink. The herbal teas and flavored coffee are helping, but there aren't enough hours in the day. Still, I'm going to give it all I got.

5.) I'm becoming way too emotionally invested in my story.
But Libba said, Write with your heart and soul.

I never thought I could love any characters as much as I love my crew from The Kindrily, but I cried yesterday (twice) while editing some of my sea creature scenes. I think that's proof that I left my heart and soul in those pages.

The thing about writing is there are no guarantees. We spend hours days, months, even years creating our stories with hopes that some day, other people in the world will read them and love them as much as we do. Those of us that are educated about the world of writing know the odds of getting published--especially in this economy--are slim to none.

But we take the risk anyway.

If I had known how hard it was to get a book published, I may have never written my first novel. If I had known about writing dreaded queries, how much rejection I'd have to endure, how much learning I'd have to do, how hard I'd have to work to improve my craft, I may have never took that first leap. But, as with many things in my life, I jumped into writing a novel blindly. And once I felt that rush, the joy, the exhilaration, of creating and telling a story, I was addicted.

Libba quoted Ray Bradbury during her speech and I have to quote him too because I couldn't agree more.
"First you jump off the cliff, then you build the wings."
I'm still building my wings, but I couldn't imagine never having jumped.

So, my fellow risk-takers (aka writers), are you up for the challenge of participating in the year of writing dangerously? Are you breaking rules or playing it safe?


  1. Libba's speech was awesome!!!!!! It should be on DVD, I could listen to it over and over again, she was so right on!

  2. What a fabulous quote by Bradbury! Through some major revision, I'm taking an old manuscript to places I wouldn't have before. It's challenging. I've been sitting for weeks, deleting more words than I am adding, but moving forward, building those wings.

  3. I especially related to what you'd said about the emotional investment to the story: weeping along with the characters, digging into the deepest places of ourselves to create something important.

    It's those market forces you talk about that have made me want to play it safe plotwise, to try to be like other books out there. But I'm beginning to grasp that what I'll lose is the heart and soul and will end up with a bland story. So it's off the cliff into the anguish.

  4. Awesome! I have my Libba notes out right now and was typing up a summary for a blog post. Great minds think alike, right? :)

    (and way to remind me of the turbulence and following taxi cab ride. I feel sick just remembering it)

  5. Love this post today!! Thank you for the reminder!

  6. Great question! I think I am probably writing on the safe side right now. But when I think about it, now is the time that I should be taking risks. Now is the time when I've got nothing to lose. I'm writing for myself. I don't answer to anyone really (agents, editors, the public, etc) so why should I be worrying about taking risks? Thanks for the cerebral snack (get it? food for thought - I just made that up.) - G

  7. Bradbury is such a quotable writer! I love him. Thanks for this post - it's awesome. Risk is so difficult but necessary.

  8. Oh, hells, yes. I'm all about leaving it all on the page. If I haven't splattered the screen with some guts at the end of a good writing session, I ain't been goin' hard enough. Feel big, write big. Count me in!

  9. You've made my day. I'm actually doing the same things as you with my WIP: Multi-POV's in first person, it's fantasy and there's some things in there that are treading right on the edge of what I feel comfortable with and that I hadn't intended to write about when I started this story.

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one diving headlong into potential turbulence with a big grin on her face.

    I'm with you for the month of writing dangerously (it's not like I have a choice now anyway).

    Love the Ray Bradbury quote, I'm going to save that one!

  10. Wheeeeee! This is so cool. I love Libba Bray, so having you write this personalized summation is fantastic. It is yanking me right out of my funk. I already jumped and may be free-falling, but my wings are definitely growing stronger.
    I'm impressed you are writing multiple POV in first person. That takes guts, but I know you've got them.
    I'm printing this out and sticking it in front of me. Great motivator.

  11. Absolutely!! Awesome post! I love writing dangerously.

  12. Wow, great advice! I can't believe you like sky diving!!! Plane turbulence makes me sick :(

    I need to start writing more dangerously...

  13. I am starring this. It's the way I feel right now. I'm going to write what I want, how I want, and nobody can stop me! I have wings and I will fly. Or at least I'll patch up my wings and jump.


  14. I love that concept. I think I need to start putting more into my writing.

    I'm with Aubrie on the skydiving and turbulence. Riding in a plane makes me totally sick.

  15. Great post! Sometimes I feel like playing it safe with my characters, but then I remember I have to be true to them. So here's to breaking the rules! Good luck with finishing your WIP this month:)

  16. Oh, I am SO on board. I needed to read this post in a bad way. My current WIP is so intimidating to me because to tell it right I have to go to dark places that scare me. But I'm ready. Thanks for inspiring me today!

  17. I don't know how dangerously I'm living, but I'm certainly dropping my initial instincts to the wayside in my WIP.

    Most of the characters in my book are thieves, and most don't feel too bad about that. My values aren't a huge part of their lives.

    I'm also rewriting the last half, because I followed my first instinct and realized that wasn't a great choice. Am going with a different plan. My gut, as it turned out, wasn't my best friend.

  18. I'm with you! This post was so inspiring. :) Thanks again for putting me in the place I need to be, writing. I can worry about what the "rules" are later, for now I will write.

  19. I love this post! I went up in a hot air balloon last month, does that count? I wish I could afford to do it more often. My ideas lit up with the burner! I'm so glad ya'll had such a good time in NYC. I loved looking at your pictures! Welcome home!

  20. Oh Karen, your dangerous writing is TOTALLY going to pay off this time. It's so good. My danger for the year--writing a book only knowing the characters (not the plot), PLEASE let it come together!

  21. Beautiful post! I like this list a lot. All we writers have to do is sit down and open a vein. :)

  22. Good points from Libba and thanks for tie'ing them in to your writing. Thanks for sharing.

    Oh, and I wanna read the scene you cried at. I am curious now. :O)

  23. Libba had great points and now I feel I have to go write more dangerously. And have I told you I love your revamped background? Because I do, it's really cool.

  24. Killer post. I'm so inspired! Awesome timing too because I'm only a few chapters into my new WIP and I'm already madly in love with it. I'm taking the leap and taking some of your (and Libba's) tips on writing dangerously. Best of luck on getting your first draft done this month. You'll get there!

  25. Great post Karen. I'm so sorry I haven't been stopping by more to read your blog--revision has been TORTURE. Clearly I've been missing out on good stuff and I'm going to try to come back around more often!

  26. I'm not sure I'm playing safe, but maybe I'm not breaking rules either? This is such awesome advice. I just read Megan's post too.
    I'm so glad you all are sharing!

    btw, I love sky diving and rough airplanes too! Woot for adventure!

  27. What an honest post! I think her advice is spot on! I'd love to sky dive someday ;o)

    Not sure if I'm writing dangerously, but I will try my best ;o) Thanks for sharing :o)

  28. Oh you conference people with all your fabulous advice, I'm so jealous. SHare more! "go places other than your first instinct" got me really excited because the first instinct is what I, the author, would do but that second instinct, the reason why we write, is to have our MC do what we would NEVER do. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  29. Karen, thanks for the follow.

    This post was so inspiring, it made Friday Link Love:

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

  30. Thanks for sharing this post. I loved it. Very inspiring.

  31. You're always an inspiration, Karen. Go girl! x

  32. Great thoughts from Libba! I agree with all of them.

  33. I so needed this today! Thank you!
    Got my third rejection letter...*sniff* but am inspired to keep going! Like you, I am a fantasy writer and clearly there is a LOT of competition out there. My current WIP is NOT fantasy, which is a little scary for me because it is out of my 'comfort zone'. But, a character came to me and demanded that her story be told. How could I say no to that? :o)

  34. What an awesome post! I totally get being emotionally invested in a WIP. TOTALLY!


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