Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gloomy adolescent poetry

I've been a bit stressed out lately, particularly at work, and in one meeting found myself writing the sort of miserable, self-conscious poetry I last wrote as a misfit teen.

Three meetings I had three more poems (and was still able to make good contributions to business, if you were wondering - I am nothing if not a multi-tasker).  They all shared themes of endings, of  gloom, time interrupted and, for some reason I have long ceased to try and understand, water.

I used to write a lot of poetry as a teen - is it something that goes hand in hand with haywire hormones, I wonder?  I loved to write sonnets in the same way people love to do SoDuKo, the difficulty of fitting the form and working within the pattern appealed to me, somehow.  My efforts back then were a lot to do with transformations, isolation, love, and again, time interrupted and water.

And whether it was cathartic, or nostalgic, my recent mid-meeting scribblings really did make me feel better.  Perhaps I just needed to write.

Did your adolescent self dabble in odes?

Monday, September 10, 2012

four things I've learned

(Apologies for this post being a bit late and possibly slightly out of order...)

I've spent the weekend at the Festival of Writing in York, which is a conference aimed at unpublished and aspiring writers, where they can attend workshops, network with professionals and other writers, and have their manuscript critiqued. I go to give workshops and to be a 'book doctor', giving critiques on manuscripts—that's my official role. My unofficial role is to soak up the atmosphere, to listen to authors and agents, to meet interesting people and to sneak into the backs of workshops to soak up some knowledge. It is hugely inspiring to be with hundreds of other people who love writing as much as you do.

Four bits of knowledge stood out for me this weekend; I heard them repeated over and over by the speakers and the professionals.

No writing is ever wasted. Even if you're writing stuff that'll go straight into the bin, you're still learning, you're still keeping yourself in your story.

It's good to fail. Because failing means you're learning.

All you can control is your own writing. You can't control the industry, you can't control whether agents or publishers like your book, you can't control whether people buy your work, you can't (or, rather, shouldn't) control whether you get good reviews, you can't control the way your genre is going or how people perceive it. All you can do is to write the best book you can. If you are very, very lucky, your very good book can influence all of these things—the industry, publishers, reviews, etc. But even if it doesn't, you've been true to yourself and your work.

Some books just aren't good enough to be published. Several successful, bestselling authors said that they were glad that easy, cheap self-publishing hadn't been available when they'd started out, because they'd have published the first novels they'd written. And if they'd done that, they would not have the career that they do now.

Do you agree?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Isn't it romantic?

Instead of starting an original discussion here, I'd like to continue one that's already begun over at the All About Romance blog, which asks the question "How Do We Define Romance?"

The AAR blog post was inspired by the Romance Writers of America's recent decision to eliminate the "Novel with Strong Romantic Elements" category from its RITA and Golden Heart Awards, and to ask writers of those novels to "re-examine" whether we really qualify to be full members of their organization.

You can read the details in the post I've linked to, above, and learn even more by following the links they've provided, as well, but for the sake of brevity I'll just re-post what my own answer to that question was:

“Do I think I write romance? Yes. But for me, a romance novel, besides having an HEA or HFN, only has one other key requirement: that the love story be essential to the plot. In other words, if you pull the love story out of the book, the story falls apart, because everything—every other element—has been stitched to that one central seam. That’s my own, admittedly personal, definition of a romance. And that’s what I write.”

(HEA and HFN, for those unfamiliar with the terms, are romance-writer-speak for "Happily Ever After" and "Happy For Now").

As a Canadian, I am used to walking on that border between the American and British ways of viewing something, but I have to say this whole thing's made me very grateful I'm a member of the RNA as well, where I have never once been made to feel my writing doesn't fit the definition of "romance", or felt that I might not belong.

But I confess to being curious: What is romance, to you? Or, if that's too hard to define, what is the most romantic book you've ever read?

(And come back Thursday, to read Julie's post)