Sunday, October 17, 2010

Routines, Links and a Wow!

Let's start with the "Wow!" first. When I pulled up the MGC site, I noticed that we have added another follower, our 100th. We've watched our traffic grow, but it's really cool to see the number of official "followers" increase as well. Thanks to everyone for reading us and commenting.

My morning routine isn't complicated but it is least if I want to function properly the rest of the day. After doing the essentials like letting the dog out before he kills me dancing around my legs and starting the coffeemaker, I boot up the computer. Email, checking MGC and The Naked Truth (the blog for Naked Reader Press) for comments, scanning the headlines for one of the local papers, checking the kindle boards for free book announcements and then the blogs. Somewhere in there is the first mug of coffee. Maybe, just maybe by the time I've done all this and have finished my second cup of coffee, I'm nearing something close to human.

This routine sets the tone for my day. That doesn't mean if I read something I don't like, I'm in a lousy mood all day. No, it's my jump-start -- and often inspiration for either something I decide I need to do for NR or for one of the blogs or for my writing. It's amazing the ideas that can come from headlines. More than that, if I miss one of these steps, I'm "off" for the rest of the day. Silly, I know, but there it is. Routine done, I can have breakfast, take my shower and begin the day without feeling like I'm out of step with the rest of the world. Well, no more out of step than usual. How about you? Is there a routine you have to follow for the day to seem "right"?

All of this leads up to my links for the day. The first is from agent Jennifer Jackson. In one of her Letters from the Query Wars posts, she listed some of the things in query letters that struck her as ironic. I won't list them all. Just click on the link to read them. However, there are a couple worth mentioning if only to remind you NOT to do them:
  • Letters with no name in either the sender field or any of the text but wanting a personal reply. (So I'm stuck with Dear ihatekittens at yourISP dot com)
  • Queries complaining about how mercenary and awful agents are while soliciting representation for new novel. Similarly, queries offering to pay fees or higher commission rates.
  • A terse follow-up about how it's been 3 weeks since a query was sent but there has not been the courtesy of a reply... when the listed response time for the agent is 4 weeks.
The next two links come from Lucienne Diver's blog -- and if you haven't read Lucienne's guest blog yesterday, do so. It's really great. The first is a guest post by Faith Hunter discussing the Six Best Reasons Why Writers Write. I'll leave you to read the entire entry, but do want to list Ms. Hunter's reasons why writers write.
  • The characters in their heads won't shut up.
  • The story keeps screaming to be told.
  • They go a little crazy if they don't write. (Get mean if they don't write, whatever.)
  • They neeeeeed to write. It's a sickness, a craving similar to what an alcoholic feels for his alcohol.
  • They need the income than an established career has provided them.
  • It's better than working for a living. (Said facetiously because, believe me, writing is hard, stressful, deadline-based work.)
How many of these are the reasons you write? For me, all but 5 fits because I'm still working on establishing that career. Are there other reasons you write?

The next link also comes from a guest blog for Lucienne. Diana Pharaoh Francis discussed the 12 Steps to Exciting Torture Program. Because I think these are so good -- and so entertaining -- I'm going to list them all. But please, go read the entire post and the comments that follow. Oh, and tell me what your first thought was when you read #11.

  1. Know your characters. Know what will make them feel the most pain—emotional stuff? Physical stuff? Mental? I know that thinking about someone messing with my eyes makes me cringe. What makes yours cringe? Find their soft spot, their weakness, and drill into it. If they have more than one, do more than one.
  2. 2. Get a villain who is willing to go the distance if you’re going to have someone doing the torture. You’re reader needs to believe that the torturer will in fact try to squeeze all the pain out of your character that can possibly be managed.
  3. 3. If it’s not a villain, better make the scene believable. Did mother nature take a sudden dislike to your character and dump her down in a ravine with a billion snakes and spiders? Are they crawling and squirming all over her, sliding into her ears and creeping through her hair? Are they puncturing her skin in delicate little burning bites that putrefy and swell? Are delicately dancing over her eyes and up her pant legs? Does she start to pant with the pain and find them invading her mouth?
  4. 4. If it’s not a villain, is it a situation? Is he suffering mentally watching something happen that he can never be part of? Is the love of his life going at it with another man in front of him? Is his mother publically saying she wishes he was never born? Is his sister killing herself with drugs and begging for money? Did his sister break into his house and kill his wife and sons because she was desperate for money? Is he going to have to hunt down and kill his own sister in return? (Ah, the sweet smell of torture—ain’t it grand?)
  5. 5. Make it last. Torture is no fun if it’s over with quickly. I mean, anybody can take pain for a short while. It’s the long drawn out pain that really hurts.
  6. 6. If you can, dovetail the emotional with the physical. It hurts a lot more when you are getting into their minds as well as their bodies.
  7. 7. Don’t go the easy route. Yeah, you can do the pull off the fingernails thing, yanking the teeth, or the cattleprod to the balls, but those are so cliché and easy. Same with rape. Those are too easy to fall back on, unoriginal, and they usually backfire with your reader. Especially rape.
  8. 8. Another form of torture is to attack what the character loves most. Dogs, cats, children, lovers . . . though if you have a pet/child torturer, you damned well better kill him with a lot of pain and violence. Such people, even fictional ones, deserve it. So sayeth I.
  9. 9. Make it worth the torture. I mean, you can’t be gratuitous. The torture scene has to have point in the story. Your reader has to care what happens to your characters and fear for them. So you’ll have to learn to beat up on the character you love the most.
  10. 10. Be careful of asking friends/family/acquaintances about how best to perform torturous activities. It makes them nervous. Really really nervous and you’ll encounter reactions like them backing toward a door, faces pale as they ask, “Um, why do you want to know how to pop someone’s eyeball out without smooshing it?” (hey, read my books. You’ll see why. Path of Honor).
  11. 11. Make your torture really real. Get the sounds, smells, tastes, textures and images right. I mean, did you know that when you’re eye pops out it itches horribly? Details like that lend realism that makes the scene truly come alive. (Oh, and when the guy doing it to you has bad breath, it’s all the worse for the poor victim. Just saying.).
  12. 12. Just when things look their bleakest, Make Them Worse.
The floor is now yours. What's your routine? Why do you write? And what did you think when you first read #11 above?


T.M. Lunsford said...

On number 11: how would anyone know how to make torture realistic unless a: they were on the receiving end of it, b: they were on the administrative end of it, or c: they have a very, very vivid/morbid imagination backed up by way too much research for comfort.

I wish I could have a real routine. Being a college student in a foreign country, living with 5 other girls does not lend itself to a routine. It used to be that I could wake up, read in bed for a bit until I got the will power to get out of bed and put in contacts, brush teeth, shower etc. Then I would check e-mail, blogs, facebook and all other important connections to the world. I miss days like that. It let the world slide into place without ever having to interact with other life forms until my brain was fully turned on and my filter in place.

I write because it's the only way my brain will focus in on something. Even when I'm reading, my brain goes to a million and 12 different places at once. Writing allows me to hone in on an idea and a situation and really focus, both on it and on what's going on around me. Sure, sometimes characters will pop up and yell until they get their place in a story and sometimes a plot will stamp its feet until it gets written down, but for the most part writing is a way to bring peace to my brain. And to give me something to work at (since there really isn't anything wholly peaceful about writing).

MataPam said...

Amanda, is it nice to talk about popping and itching eyeballs this early in the morning?

You know how we all use cliche's like our male character's balls trying to crawl back inside and hide? Yeah, now I've got it all scrambled up in my brain.

Morning routine.

(1)Attempt to ignore alarm and Hubby getting off to work and sleep in.

(2)Give up. Wander around house in plaid flannel robe alternately cooking breakfast in the kitchen and checking email, MGC, Facebook . . . Rescueing breakfast on the brink of burning (if I'm lucky).

(3)Shower, dress, feed dog and horses.

(4)Okay, shut up, I'll write your pathtic argument with your girlfriend now. Yes, I know it's my fault she's ticked, she didn't appreciate being killed in the last book. At least she ought to appreciate you standing up and insisting it was just a ploy by the spymaster. Maybe you should do the Pepe Le Pew routine, oblivious to her reactions, eh?
Okay, this guy is not ready to be writen about today. ::sigh:: Looks like I'll be editing today.

Kate said...

Um. I guess it's typically writer that my reaction to #11 was "How does she know this stuff?" followed by "Um... maybe that's not a good question to ask." followed by "I need better research."

As for routine? I don't have one. Weekday mornings, the alarm goes off, I stumble out of bed, get dressed, grab the stuff I need for work including breakfast fixings, and head into work. By the time I've arrived and had breakfast, I'm more or less awake, but by then I'm usually buried in one form of crisis management or another and I don't get time to scratch myself until I leave.

I get home, eat, field a loooong phone call (long story, messy, involves family), after which I'm not in a fit state for anything. Rinse and repeat. Spend weekends recovering.

Writing gets slid between the cracks if it happens at all. There are times when I think it's a miracle I get anything done.

AJ Prince said...

Routine... Boy I wish I could have one of those. Each morning differs from the last.

Unfortunately, the checking of email, blogs and writing is all done after dark once the kids are asleep. I could probably rearrange my schedule to do all of said things first thing in the morning but... I stay up way too late doing said things to begin with.

I write because it is the only thing that seems to give my chaotic life some normalcy. When I sit down to write, it is almost peaceful, even though my main characters life sucks right now. I am pretty sure it is because her life is always interrupting my thoughts during my own and my brain is just thankful to get it all out.

As for #11: My first reaction was; Really? How do they know that? Then; man that would suck, I hate it when my eye itches. I guess I probably would hate it more if my eye had popped out, but that thought didn’t occur to me until later. I would love to meet the person they talked to during their research.

Chris McMahon said...

Wow - I feel sorry for the poor characters. You need to give them fun times as well - the reader can only take so much!

Great post, Amanda.

Amanda Green said...

Taylor, you can still have a routine. Even if it is simply getting up 15 minutes early each day to write, or slipping away to a nearby cafe for half an hour and a cup of tea with your notepad several times a week. That's your routine.

As for the rest of it, well, you're a writer. We're as different as our stories but one thing remains the same. We have to write. The reasons may be different but the result is always the same. We have to put words onto paper -- or a computer screen.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, I thought I'd give you something to think about first thing in the morning ;-p

Your routine sounds familiar except it is the dog and cat here and they must be fed first or they make my life miserable. IF I'm lucky, I can get the coffee on before having to feed them. As for that character not being ready to be written, sometimes you have to push through, whether the character wants it or not.

Amanda Green said...

Kate, your reaction to #11 was almost identical to mine. But then, I've always known you and I are a tad, er, warped ;-)

As for routine, you have one. It is a frustrating one, but it's there. It's called "finding time to write amidst everything else". It always amazes me how much time you do find for writing. You're better at slipping it into small bits of time than I am.

Amanda Green said...

AJ Prince, welcome to the world of being a writer. It's hard when you have kids and a job and other obligations to deal with. But it sounds like you're doing a great job at making time. Keep it up.

Amanda Green said...

Chris Mc, oh we give them some fun. But that's just so we can torture them again -- right?

Actually, you've made a good point. You have to give the characters a break at some point just so the reader can sit back and take a breath. But then we can torture the poor character some more before they find their way out or are rescued.

MataPam said...

Amanda, the dog is quite intelligent and understands the routine. He is the frequent recipient of the burned breakfasts, and usually manages to bag at least some leftover scrammbled eggs. So he doesn't demand breakfast first thing. He knows he needs the starving expression to guilt me into scrammbling an extra egg.

MataPam said...

Oh, on T.M. question "how would anyone know how to make torture realistic unless..."

Dental appointments.

Amanda Green said...

Pam, my dog first demands to be let out of the house...which does usually occur before putting on the coffee ...and then he demands to be fed. Otherwise, he interferes with the process of putting on the coffee. Add in the cat who can't let the dog have all the fun and, well, you have the makings for disaster.

Amanda Green said...

Pam, dental appointments are a good example. So are orthopedic surgeons who want you to watch on the screen as they scope your knee. I don't have issues watching surgery on other folks, just on me. Oh, another form of torture -- standing in line most of the day at the DMV to get your license renewed. If that isn't mental torture at least I don't know what is.

MataPam said...

Oh, I'd forgotten the ER visits, and the physical therapy. One of my horses landed a kick on my hand once. It looked...the wrong shape. I will have to include my emotions during that first assessment into any torture sessions I inflict on a character.