January 22, 2013

A Modest Writing Tip

Hello, new year. It seems like only yesterday I was staring at the tail end of the fall semester, wondering what I was going to do with a month (a MONTH) of freedom from classes and papers. Alas, that month has passed too quickly, and I am already ensconced in another semester of learning. How time flies.

I have been making very slow progress on my current WIP, a project that has already gone through four title changes (I'm bad with titles. Good with character names, bad with titles.). I don't pretend to know much (yet) about creative writing other than you should write, and write a lot. But today at work, I came across a useful little tip that some of you might find interesting. It's one that I plan to stick to from now on.

This was when I was shelving books (half a bookseller's life: shelving books) and happened upon a copy of London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets, by Peter Ackroyd. The book is one I've been meaning to read for, well...for a long time. Besides the fascinating subject matter, I've always thought that having creepy tunnels in one of my books would be very cool. And then one thought led to another, which led to another, and eventually I arrived at this maxim:

A writer should always have her nose in a nonfiction title.

I've read a lot about making sure the creative well doesn't run dry, and to me, reading nonfiction seems an excellent way to do it. You learn cool things about the world. You learn cool things to throw into books! I'm not arguing for reading everything that everyone says you should read--heavens, what a horrid idea--but I am quite certain that there exists in the book universe at least something, some topic, for everyone.

I'm proud to say that at least for now, I'm following my own modest tip. By far the creepiest (and coolest) thing I've recently read in a nonfiction book was this factoid from Sex With the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics (Eleanor Herman): "Margot [Queen of Navarre] reportedly collected the embalmed hearts of her lovers and put them into small silver boxes, which she hung inside her hoopskirt on chains" (47). I don't know what you think about that, but to me that reads simultaneously as EWW and AWESOME.

Most recently, I've finally cracked open Confederates in the Attic (Tony Horwitz), though for the moment it's slow going. I can already say that I've learned far more about Civil War re-enactors than I ever expected to, though...

So there you have it. One modest writing tip for your consideration. Go on, give it a try. Even if you're not interested in royal affairs or the London underground, I'm sure there's something out there to pique your interest and start a creative fire under your chair. Let me know if you find anything awesome out there!

January 4, 2013

Various and Sundry

1. I am tempted to create a recommendation list titled "Vampire Books for People Who are SO OVER Vampires," since I've been in this category for at least ten years and yet have managed to read two very good (and innovative) vampire books in the last few months... But I'm afraid that these two books will remain the only ones on the list.

2. The first shift back at the bookstore after the holiday rush: "It's quiet. Too...quiet..."

3. I am so very excited about so very many books that I have right now... The only problem is that I might not (probably don't) have enough time to read them all before the beginning of the next semester. Eep!

4. I am writing. Slowly. And am also reminded that every time I sit down to write, everything that comes out appears to be horrible. It's only on the re-read that I realize (as always) that things are not quite as horrible as they appear.

5. There is snow on the ground.

6. I sang on stage with Vienna Teng, and it was amazing.