Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who Do You Write Like?

Who or whom? Either way, the rule now says. (Ok, not Strunk & White, but somewhere I read that modern day sloppiness is more and more acceptable, but that's another post.)

There's a very cool web site called I Write Like. It "analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers." You can cut & paste your fiction, emails, poems, love letters, anything, I think, except for Tweets.

So I tried it with my WIP, three times, for good measure. My first comparison said I write like Stephen King. Wow! I can see that, but I don't think Mr. King needs to worry yet. My second comparison: J.K. Rowling. Really? Unbelievable! I'll start telling agents that. (Even better, for the record, none of my characters' names are made up words or difficult to pronounce.) My third comparison—I guess I was going for two out of three—Stephen King again. Maybe he should start to worry...

Are you curious to see to whom you relate? I am curious to know if you agree with your results. Please let me know what you find out. I appreciate your comments.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's A Normal Family?

Ah, families. So much love, so much happiness, so much dysfunction.

I just spent a week with my husband and his ex-wife. Well, it was their daughter's wedding, so it wasn't just the three of us. More like a hundred of us. And you know what? It was wonderful.

When I was a little girl, my mother answered an ad in our local newspaper. A pollster was looking for a "normal" family to interview. She of course thought we were as normal as anyone, but we didn't qualify because she was a single mother raising three kids. They wanted a married couple with children. No way could they get away with that today.

And nuclear family? Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Get a group of only blood-relatives together, and it will explode like an atom bomb. Merry Christmas, loved ones.

I fully applaud and support gay marriage, and single men or women who want to raise kids on their own. And with the divorce rate what it is today, my husband and I realize that potentially 3 or 4 of our 7 kids might end up divorced. We hope not, we're just being realistic. After all, if it weren't for divorce, he and I wouldn't be together—this is a second marriage for both of us. Divorce is a hell in which you either lose a lot of money or a lot of friends. And yet, sometimes, it's still the best option.

So what is "normal" these days?

One of the reasons that people read books is to explore feelings they can relate to. When a writer can put into words exactly how YOU feel, and you can say "Yes, exactly!", then, in one regard, the book is a success. But another reason people read is to explore worlds they are unfamiliar with—escapism, if you will. While mining ideas, emotions, scenarios and story lines, it's important for us writers to remember that the definition of family is wide and varied, and to not stereotype or pigeonhole people. In fact, it's a beautiful story when a "traditional" family evolves into a "modern" family—when people see love instead of prejudice. Yes, it's been done (from Guess Who's Coming To Dinner to The Kids Are All Right) because it works, and it's beautiful.

With any luck, we writers can help erase the stereotypes and pigeonholes for the definition of family. Hello, Webster's? Are you listening?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Finding Your Voice

We are not alone. Not only is that a reference to a great book/blog/support group all headed by Kristen Lamb, but it follows with the theory that there is nothing new under the sun. Some of my most brilliant lines, ideas and blog posts (which I think are TOTALLY new), I later discover have been said before. Hmmm.

For instance, in March of this year, I wrote a brilliant post titled My Third MFA. I walked around for a week with a smile about how witty I was. (Unfortunately, you can't see all the positive comments because Apple erased them!) But just yesterday, I read a post titled My Private MFA by Randy Susan Meyer about the very same thing. Granted, I wrote mine months ago, but hers put me back where I belong. She is—at this moment—singing "Anything you can do, I can do better." She's done the same as me, but she's already published. Bravo Randy!

The truth about an MFA is this: If you have the time, patience, money and open mind to pursue an MFA it will teach you how to write. If not, you either have to be brilliant or you have to be persistent and self-motivated. (I consider myself two out of those three.) But, perhaps more importantly, a master's degree in writing will help a writer find her voice by practicing all kinds of writing and then deciding what feels best before starting a 90,000 word novel.

My first novel, Any Day Now, was written in First Person POV by a female protagonist. How in the world did I think of that?! My second novel, On A Midnight Street, was Third Person POV about a male protagonist. (Please see this post to find out why the hell I thought I could do that.) My current WIP is omniscient. I've recently read and loved and been influenced by two books (specifically Bel Canto) by Ann Patchett written from the omniscient POV. This is exactly why they say that writers must be readers. And we are not only supposed to enjoy other books, we're supposed to study, analyze, and learn from them.

Recently, I was speaking to a brilliant young man (ahem, okay, my son Elliott Krause) about the pros and cons about different POVs. Elliott, if I may, just graduated Phi Beta Kappa from KU with majors in English and Psychology. He was accepted at the University of Iowa (#1 writing school in the country) into their Non-fiction Masters program. He's becoming a writer the traditional (right?) way. I'm trying to sneak in the back door. But what I realized after that conversation, is that I am still—in the midst of my fourth novel— finding my voice. I would like to think that this is the one. It certainly feels better than any of the others, but it remains to be seen if this becomes my writing voice permanently, or if I return to 1st or 3rd POV.

I've been writing now, more and more hours each day, for 4 years. Not quite at my 10,000 hours yet, but well on my way. The good news is that I LOVE writing, so I'm having the time of my life.

For you writers out there, how did you find your voice? From school—writing required papers for teachers. Or from reading? Or did you just start writing and assume whatever came out of your finger tips was right? How many of you writers have experimented with all the POVs to find your voice? Is it predicated by the story, or by the author?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Trouble With Blogging

Do you know me? If you've been following along over the past year, year and a half, two years that I've been blogging, you probably know me better than some of my friends (can they really be called friends if they're not reading my blogs?). I tend to reveal too much. I don't have many secrets or evil thoughts—and the ones I do have I save for my novels (which you haven't read yet because I'm too much like Salinger: I like to write too much to stop long enough for publication)(yep, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). But back to my point. If you know me, then you know my trouble with blogging.

I talk too much!

Especially after my coffee, which I call Truth Serum. Which I have just drank drunk consumed.

Take for instance my last post, below, How To Write A Bad Review. It's not a bad post, but I could have gone on for hours about how it might apply to bosses: How to give a bad review to an employee. Or to parents: How to straighten your kids out without alienating them. Or even to friends or spouses: How to tell someone you love something they're doing wrong and still have them walk away from your conversation knowing you love them and making them think they're good people who can do better. But then I just stopped writing because...

When I get deep into a really good thought for a blog post, it makes me crazy that I'm not working on my novel! It's the same with reading a good book. I want to read, but more importantly, I want to write! I know the experts say we're supposed to blog 3x/week, but I'd usually rather spend that time writing.

Allison Scotch Winn wrote an excellent post about how she does it all: writer, blogger, mom, wife. She is whom I aspire to be. But for now, I'm going to go work on my novel which I love and can't stop writing.

Does anyone out there feel they have found a good balance with all the activities they like to do? Please tell me your secrets!