Tag Archive | Writing

Some housekeeping and a writing project

I know, I know.  I promised I would get back to blogging.  But I’ve been wrapped up in another project, which I’ll share with you.  For the last few months, I’ve been working diligently on . . . a novel.  In case you didn’t know, I keep a second blog where I post mostly fiction with an occasional book review or post about writing.  For about a month, I’ve been participating in WIPpet Wednesdays (WIP = work in progress) with a wonderful group of writers from all over.  The link-up is closed for this week, but if you’re interested, you can join in next week.  I always post the link in my WIPpet posts, but I’ll post it here, too.

Now for some links for you:

Here are this week’s WIPpets (link-up is closed, but do go and read them–they are wonderful!)

This is the writer who hosts WIPpet, K. L. Schwengel.  The link is on the right side of the blog.  Just in case I’m silly (like I was this week) and forget to link to it.

Here’s a link to all of my WIPpets since I started.  They list newest first, so I recommend scrolling down to the first one and reading them in order.  It doesn’t really matter, but they are chronological to the story.

This is the series I posted this week for my fiction blog, inspired by one of David Hayward’s cartoons (linked in the posts).

Happy reading!  I’ll be around occasionally.  I’m hoping to finish a good chunk of editing on my novel and on a secondary project this weekend so I can get back to snarking about Fifty Shades next Monday.  I’m rethinking how I want to do that–I may stick with finding the worst lines per chapter and mocking them because that was far more fun than going through the whole damn thing and trying to summarize it.

Have a great rest of the week.  Catch you all later!  (Er, “laters, baby”?)

Passive Peeve

I’m going to stray off topic today, because this is my blog and I’m in that kind of mood.  So, I’m going to talk about writing.  Specifically, I’m going to talk about one of my biggest pet peeves: People who edit badly because they’re too rules-bound.

I volunteer for a beta-reading web site.  For each chapter or story, the moderators assign two readers.  This week, I had the misfortune of being paired with one of my least favorite fellow betas.  I was the second reader, so I got to see all his comments before mine.  I should mention that this guy is frequently a complete jerk.  This is the same person who thought Wikipedia was an appropriate source to correct my use of upstate New York lingo.  Dude, I live in New York.  I’ve been upstate many, many times.  I worked in the system I’m writing about (education), and I’m married to a teacher.  Wikipedia?  Really?  Some of us have an affectionate nickname for this beta which I won’t repeat here.  Suffice it to say, he’s one of the people I would like hand over to the woman who wants to punch people in the throat, or maybe Jenna Marbles could just tell him where to get off.

Throat-punching lady and Jenna aside, my problem with this particular assignment wasn’t just this guy’s beta-reading personality.  No, he did something that is increasingly making me want to throw things at the computer screen: Correcting “passive voice.”  I can’t believe how many people–including professional editors!–have no idea what passive voice actually is and choose to correct anything that even looks like it could be.

The Jerk highlighted two paragraphs of the piece we read and commented that the passive voice “stood out” in them.  First of all, out of seven sentences, only two were questionable.  Second, neither needed correction.

In the first instance, it wasn’t passive voice.  The writer had used a legitimate verb tense, past continuous.  Past continuous is important–it distinguishes between discrete events and ongoing actions.  In the case of the story, the writer described several characters entering a room to find someone sitting in a chair.  Using the past continuous verb form, “was sitting,” informs readers that the person did not sit down when the others arrived but had been sitting and continued to do so after their arrival.  It’s an entirely appropriate phrase, and it is not passive voice.

The second sentence was legitimately passive voice:

A door opened in the wall.

Doors don’t just open; a person, the wind, or some other force has to act upon the door.  However, the above sentence is good use of passive voice.  Active phrasing, “Someone opened a door in the wall,” wouldn’t have worked here.  It’s boring.  Telling us that a door opened is mysterious.  We, the readers, do not know who or what opened the door.  This is a situation in which we want a less active phrasing in order to draw the reader into the story.  The door opening as the result of some as-yet unknown force builds tension and intrigue.

Which brings me to why this makes me so ragey.  When we–as writers or editors–become so focused on not breaking the rules, the writing becomes constricted.  Grammatical rules can be broken under the right conditions.  Provided we know and understand the “official” way to structure sentences, we can bend words to suit our purposes.  It’s what separates good writers from great ones, and good editors from great ones.

Blank

For the last two days, I’ve been struggling to find something to write about.  The weird thing is, I don’t feel burned out or stressed, the typical causes of writing failure.  I just . . . don’t have anything to say right now.  Go on, you can make fun of me for that–especially if you know me offline.

I suppose part of it is that I’m working on some fiction and I’m pouring my energy into that project, which I’m currently having beta-read.  I’m excited about what I’m writing, and I’m enjoying the process.  (Nope, not going to tell you yet–I’d like to get the whole thing done and beta’d.  I may post it as a serial on my fiction blog.)  I only have so many hours in the day, since I also need to work on editing projects and homeschool my daughter and drive the kids around to their activities.

Another part is just a function of not having much to say.  I’ve spent years deconstructing a shaky faith built on a legalistic version of Christianity.  I’m now in process of reconstruction.  I was at church the other night and I mentioned to a couple of people there that coming into a church that doesn’t teach salvation based on receiving Christ as personal savior has been alien to me–in a good way.  Being in a place where the emphasis is on “God is awesome!” rather than “You are unworthy!” has been refreshing.  To an extent, I still don’t fully trust church as an institution.  I’m still guarded when it comes to participation in church activities.  But I’m healing, and that’s what matters to me.

The third piece is that I think I’m softening on some things and learning as I go.  When I left legalistic Christianity, I temporarily exchanged it for legalistic feminism.  That’s not healthy.  I discovered that feminism can be just as much a belief system, in a sense, as religion.  I needed to distance myself from people claiming to speak for me and from terminology (which I’ve used and now regret) that I view as harmful.  No matter how many times women tell me that they have the right to be angry, I can’t see how “kill all men” is helpful in any way.  I’m not talking about “being nice” in hopes of getting people in our corner; I’m talking about how anger can be expressed without that kind of hyperbole.  I don’t feel pressure to conform to someone else’s feminism any more than I feel pressure to conform to someone else’s Christianity.

I’m still figuring out how to write from this place.  It’s where I started–the gap between my faith and my experiences of the world.  Now I need to learn to write from the gap between my feminism and my experiences of the world.  It’s the place in which I don’t want to hurt other women, but in which I need to protect my own spirit as well.  I learned that being angry all the time made me self-righteous and burned me out to the point that I had to block people on social media because they were indirectly causing my anxiety to peak.

Anyway, I’m sorry about the crickets in here.  I know that if I’m patient with myself and allow for the time I need, I’ll be able to write in here again.  For now, I’m going to work on other projects while I enjoy the beautiful sunshine streaming in my windows.  Whatever today brings for you, may you find your small ray of hope in it.

Notable News: Week of July 27-August 2, 2013

Better late than never, right?  Blogging’s been hit or miss this summer, as sometimes happens when both kids and my husband are on school vacation.  Today, we kept ourselves busy by sending my car to the shop (possibly for the last time; we’ll see) and hanging out at the children’s museum.  Anyway, here I am to bring you my favorite posts from the week.

1. Being used

If you haven’t seen this piece on being “used by God,” you may not have been on the Internet this week.  It’s been passed around by just about everyone.  I’m sharing it here in case you missed it.

2. Being used (part 2)

Here’s a cartoon by the always-wonderful David Hayward in response.  I particularly like this quote (and also the non-use of gendered pronouns for God):

Pushing that to its logical limits, the glory of God is God, and when we are our truest selves, fully alive, this is God in all God’s glory. There is now no separation. There is perfect oneness. There is perfect unity.

3. Being abused

This is a wonderful post over at Deeper Story by Susannah Paul.  We are failing to listen to those who have been deeply wounded and spiritually abused by churches.  I wish I had just a penny for the number of times someone has said they are reluctant to return to church because of the pain and some well-meaning person has said, “You just need to find the right church.”  A small part of me curls up and dies every single time.  We can do better.

4. Being owned

If you haven’t been following Sarah Moon’s You Are Not Your Own series, you should go do that right now.  I mean it.  Stop reading this post and just go do it.  If you just want to read the most recent one, that’s cool, because it’s an excellent one about unmarried women and “ownership.”  I am thankful my parents never took this approach with me.

5. Being a dancer

A friend sent me the link to this post about boys and dancing.  As the mom of a boy who dances, I always appreciate hearing from other parents who are proud of their kids and don’t limit them based on gender expectations.  What does make me sad is that nearly all of the ones about boys and breaking stereotypes are by women.  If anyone wants to comment here and link to posts by dads of boys who do things society considers “feminine,” that would be welcome.

6. Being an adoptee/adoptive parent

A fresh perspective on the “But people want your unborn baby!” from a mom with two adopted daughters.

7. Being body confident

Like many women, I’ve had a lifelong struggle to love my body exactly as it is.  I’m doing my best not to pass those feelings on to my own daughter.  Body-shaming must end.  (I could write a whole post on this, but I also think health-shaming and exercise-shaming and food-shaming need to end.)  Here are some wise words about how we can break the cycle.

8. Being a douchebag

My online friend and fellow writer Tim Gallen has some great advice for those looking to increase their douchebaggery.  My favorite line involves a sexually frustrated large mammal.  This is a guest post for Kim Ulmanis, who is honest and funny and just plain good; you should check out the rest of her blog while you’re over there.

9. Being a douchebag (part 2)

And speaking of douches, why am I not surprised that Hugo Schwyzer is at it again?  Why is this guy continually given a platform?  I think Dianna Anderson answers that question to an extent in her fantastic take-down of the culture that encourages people like Schwyzer to behave the way they do.

10. Being a writer

There’s so much advice out there on how to be a “proper” writer.  Honestly, it’s easier to explain how to do it wrong than to do it right, as evidenced in this very funny piece by Chuck Wendig.  How many of these are you doing?

11. Being a woman

Several of my friends posted this hilarious ad.  I shared it on Facebook, but it definitely deserves a second round.  If only that kid had been available when I hit puberty.

12. Being a geek

I love this video of Wil Wheaton delivering a message for a convention attendee’s newborn daughter.  I admit to having had a teensy (okay, huge) crush on him when I was in 8th grade.  Although I no longer sigh like a teenage girl when I see him, I do keep finding new reasons to think he’s just plain awesome.

13. Being a geek (part 2)

That video above is particularly important, because far too many girls grow up into women who have to defend our geekiness.  I’m glad I’m raising a boy who thinks that girls who know their video games are the most fun and a girl who knows it’s okay to be completely absorbed in your chosen geekdom.  Watch this video for more totally awesome geeks who just happen to be girls and women.  Also, Wil Wheaton.

14. Being from Rochester

My own city gets some love at HuffPo with an article on our fantastic street art.  I’ve never been more proud of my wonderful city!

That’s it for this week.  I should be around a bit more in the coming weeks (I hope).  If nothing else, check in on Monday for the first post on Fifty Shades Darker.  I would say you don’t want to miss it, but this is Fifty Shades we’re talking about.

Have a great weekend!

What I’ve been up to

I haven’t been as active in the last few weeks (all right, the last month) as usual.  Our family has been off having adventures.  We took a vacation to visit family, sent my husband off to School Administrator Camp*, enjoyed 3 weeks of summer camp for the kids, and spent time with various and sundry relatives here in town.  It’s been a flurry of activity, but now we’re settling in for a few more weeks of summer vacation.  I just hope my kids don’t go all Phineas and Ferb** on us in the back yard.

Naturally, among all the busyness, I’ve had some time to work with some terrific writers, helping proofread their manuscripts.  That’s been my favorite part of taking on volunteer work as a beta reader–meeting cool people and seeing writers develop their craft.  I think it’s been nearly a year since I first “met” author Adrian J. Smith (she’ll correct me if I’m wrong; I think she reads my blog occasionally).  As much as I loved her first book, I think she’s grown so much as a writer, and it’s been fun watching her skill develop.  I’ve since “met” and worked with three other authors with whom I have an ongoing working relationship.  It’s a diverse group of people, and I couldn’t be happier to know all of them.  I had the chance to work with most of them over my blogging break, and it was pure joy for me.

I didn’t spend much time on my own writing, but I did realize two important things.  First, I love blogging.  This is where I discovered how much I like to write.  I like to use my words to break down walls and talk about things that felt forbidden in some religious circles.  It’s not usually hard to take criticism, because the constructive kind makes me a better writer, and the destructive kind isn’t worth my time.  The second thing I realized is that as much as I like writing short fiction, I don’t want to publish it anywhere but free on my other blog.  I don’t want to pursue a book deal of any kind.  I simply don’t care.  Interestingly, for that reason, I find criticism harder to take.  I suppose I could examine that further, but right now, I’m too busy with other things.

None of my Big Revelations to myself will have much impact on what I do here.  I’m still going to stick around for a bit, stirring up trouble.  In fact, starting next week, I’m returning to my analysis of Fifty Shades.  I’m sure you’ll all be thrilled that you won’t have to read the second book, as I’m taking one for the team and doing it for you.  Hooray!

Meanwhile, I’m looking to you, fabulous readers, for some input.  What topics would you like to see here?  What do you want more of?  Would any of you like to guest post or link up on a particular subject?  I’m going to think about all of those things too, and perhaps together we can come up with some good stuff.  I wouldn’t be here typing this if it weren’t for all the good feedback and support I’ve had from those of you who read, like, comment, and share.  I owe you all big–here’s your chance to tell me what you’d like!

Posts may continue to be sporadic for now while I work on proofreading and a couple of other summer projects, including one called Keep the Kids from Getting Bored and Arguing All Day Til School Starts.  Despite that, I hope you’ll all keep following me wherever my bloggy adventures take me.

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*It’s not really called that.

**The one below sort of summarizes P&F, but the kids picked this as their favorite song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NldYcaMXUw I’m partial to “A-G-L-E-T.”

Barnes & Noble, Harry Potter, and the Smurfette Principle: Part 3

Pretty sure she had something to do with the on-shelf options at B&N.

This is the last part of the series on using men/boys as the default for readership.  Read the first two parts here and here.  Today, I’m offering some solutions.  We can’t solve everything, but this might be a start.

Time for the Big Question: What if Harry Potter had been a girl? (TRUTH)

I don’t just mean would we have read the books or would she have become a cultural icon.  I’m asking what would have changed if the story had been about a girl.

As written, the whole point of the story is The Boy Who Lived.  My guess is that if the protagonist were a girl, even though the story would have remained the same, in our cultural consciousness it would have become about The Girl Who Lived.  That is to say, suddenly it would have been about her femaleness rather than her spirit or her heart or her resolve.  (I like to give J. K. Rowling credit that this would not have been her doing, but that of cultural constructs that dictate male as neutral, objective, and default.)  The books would have been marketed toward girls, with a whole line of pink merchandise.

Because boy wizards are for everyone; girl witches are for girls.

(Interestingly, StoryNory has subverted this quite nicely.  You can listen to the original stories about Katie the Witch here.)

We could actually ask this question in a whole host of different ways, because the problem of the default is not limited to simply being male.  It’s also about being white, straight, neurotypical, able-bodied, and cisgender.  The moment a main character is not all of those things, it becomes all about being whatever else they might be.  (For example, if Harry had fallen in love with Dean or Neville instead of Ginny, it would have become a Coming Out story instead of a Defeating Voldemort story.)

The whole point of speculative fiction (which covers a pretty broad range–fantasy, science fiction, distopian, urban fantasy) is to leave our world and enter another.  Too often, those stories feature either a male main character or a character for whom their not-maleness (or not-straightness or not-whiteness or not-able-bodiedness or not cis-ness or whatever) becomes a key point in the plot.  You could have a story about a kid from the 25th century who travels back in time with a laser sword and a trusty sidekick to battle pirates in the 18th century.  Make the kid a girl and suddenly it’s all about how she has to “prove” herself among men or how she’s “atypical” in her culture for wanting to battle pirates.  You can swap out the girl for pretty much anyone who isn’t a white, straight, cis dude and the same thing happens.

That is not to say that there shouldn’t be anything different between the laser sword-wielding boy and the laser sword-wielding girl.  I’m not advocating for some unknown ideal of gender-neutrality.  I’m just explaining that when it comes to what’s on the book shelves, anyone who isn’t in the Approved Default Category gets a specially roped off section devoted to People Like That–which means that the story is often about dealing with both pirates and being a girl (or whatever) instead of just being about Saving the World From Pirates.

So what the heck do we do with that?  Let me give some completely unsolicited advice.

For writers:

  1. Be conscious of what you’re doing.  If you write a character that is Not You, please don’t make it all about how that person is Not You.  It might help to actually talk to (or better yet be friends with) people who are Not You so that you know what people might appreciate.  For example, I am done with princesses who rebel against expectations in order to go battle dragons.
  2. Discussing cultural norms works fine in historical/realistic fiction (when done well, mind you), but it doesn’t work well in fantasy.  Part of the appeal of speculative fiction is that these issues can be addressed sideways (as in Harry Potter with pureblood supremacy).  A girl dealing with sexism in her school election when she’s supposed to be dealing with sexism is great; a girl dealing with sexism on an alien planet when she’s supposed to be Saving the World is not.
  3. Be mindful of tropes.  Not all of them are bad, but racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, and transphobic tropes are NOT EVER OKAY.
  4. Don’t make assumptions about what people will or won’t read.  Boys do, in fact, want to read about girls.  Not just adventuresome girls, either; boys do not naturally come with a setting that says, “Girls are boring.”  You can have an entire book that has mostly girls in it and guess what?  Boys will still read it!  Amazing, that.
  5. Stop limiting girls in “realistic” fiction to domesticity and relational drama.  Sometimes, girls have to deal with the death of a parent or a move to a new city or nerves about being the trombone soloist in the band concert–oddly, much like boys do.
  6. Same thing goes for any other characters that are not white, straight, cis boys.  It’s true that there are experiences unique to people who haven’t been considered the default, so those issues may come up in realistic fiction as things characters have to deal with.  But this can be done in a way that every kid can understand.  A good example of this is James Howe’s The Misfits and its companion books.  The kids in the books are dealing with things specific to them, but it’s done in the context of bullying–which makes it relatable regardless of the particulars.
  7. Most importantly, tell the story you have to tell.  Don’t stress about making your story an issues story, just make it a good story.

For readers (especially parents giving books to their kids):

  1. Don’t limit yourself.  If you can’t find the book at Barnes & Noble in-store, then look online.  Ask friends to recommend books.  Check with a librarian at your local branch.  There’s more than what’s on those store shelves.
  2. Make sure you give both boys and girls a wide variety from which to choose.  Read the back cover and the first chapter before handing something to your child–don’t just look at the cover and make assumptions.
  3. If you have a boy, don’t pass up books about girls because you think he won’t be interested.  The American Girl stories are really good (stupid, expensive product line aside).  The stories are not about “girlhood”; they are about friendship and family and kids experiencing changes in their lives, all within a historical context.
  4. A great way to find books for your child is to check out lexile.com.  If you know your child’s actual lexile, you can find books based on that.  If not, take a look at the last thing your child read.  Type the title into the search engine and you’ll come up with a lexile number for it.  If your child says that book is what my own son calls a “just right” read, you can enter the lexile number into the search to find similarly leveled books.  You can search by genre as well, including non-fiction.
  5. When you read, set the example by reading a broad range of books.  Interestingly, in the “new fiction” section of B&N, I found a completely different story from the kids’ section.  There were books by and about both men and women in approximately equal numbers.  The stories were varied–memoir, action, drama, romance, horror, mystery.  Take a chance on a new author!

Finally, I want to briefly touch on how this relates in particular to people of faith.  As a Christian, I take it seriously when the Bible says that in Christ there is no male or female.  For me that means that I need to work toward ending the injustice toward women, including the view that men are the default.  It’s important to me that my kids grow up knowing that real freedom, spiritually speaking, means being true to themselves and having the expectation that others will do likewise.  My daughter should not grow up believing the only thing God made special about her is that she’s a girl; my son should not grow up thinking that God put the burden of being the measuring stick upon him because he’s a boy.

Thanks for coming along for the ride this week, everyone.  Happy reading and writing–now go, change the world!

Lucky, lucky me

By Gunnar Creutz, Falbygdens museum (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Some of you may have noticed this blog has been pretty quiet in the last week. I’ve been on vacation, and I still have 4 days left.  I will resume my regular blogging next week, starting with more Fifty Shades fun.  I didn’t want to leave you all hanging, though, so I thought I’d drop by and let you know what I’ve been up to on my vacation.  Right now I’m feeling like one of the luckiest, most blessed people for many reasons.

We spent Easter weekend with family.  I have an aunt who lives just about smack in the middle of nowhere.  I love the atmosphere there–not just the fresh air or the fact that they have much more sunshine than we do here, but the absence of the usual bustle of suburban life.  I left feeling refreshed.

Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping myself from having writing burnout by doing a hefty amount of beta reading.  I am fortunate to be working with two authors whose work I admire.  As much as I like to write, I enjoy editing even more.  My inner Grammar Goddess (see what I did there, Ana Steele?) does her happy dance–she’s a details gal.  But my two favorite things about beta reading are discovering new writers and the collaborative process of working with writers to create something wonderful.  And for the first time, I have a dream again–a goal, a plan, a future.  I’ll keep you all posted on what that means as it develops.

Finally, we are in the last few days before my amazing and wonderful son’s baptism.  This is not something we told him to do or asked him to do; he chose it for himself.  So this Sunday, he will receive the sacraments of baptism and his first communion at this church.  Here begins the long process of letting go of his spiritual development and allowing him to travel his path rather than ours.  It will be a pleasure to watch him grow.

I’m most likely off again until Monday.  Until then, happy reading, and I’ll see you on the other side of the weekend.

On actors, writing, and the art we want to create

Because I’m just not in the mood to be cranky this morning, today’s post is a little bit lighter.

It all started with Daniel Radcliffe.

No, really.  I usually don’t pay any attention to celebrities.  I’m content to have the news section on my Google page filled with actual news, thank you very much.  I don’t watch much television and I don’t go to the movies, so I have very little interest in popular culture.

The Powers that Be must have decided that Daniel Radcliffe was big news, because there was a snippet of an interview from MTV among my news links.  Now, I have to be honest.  He completely annoys me.  I’m pretty sure it’s the age; I haven’t been 23 for a very long time now, so I’m sure I’ve forgotten what it’s like, but honestly, men that age are just kind of grating.  There is something about that stage where they all think they know everything because they haven’t yet learned that they don’t.  So please believe me when I say that I think the problem is mostly with me; I’m sure that Daniel Radcliffe is a very nice person.

Anyway, I probably should have known better than to click the link.  But in truth, I actually think Daniel Radcliffe is a pretty good actor, and, well, who doesn’t want to know what Harry Potter is up to these days?  I instantly regretted my decision.  In the interview, he was remarking on the fact that people have been asking him about the gay sex scenes in his new movie (which isn’t even a big movie; this interview was the first I’d even heard of it).  I found myself rolling my eyes.  I wanted to say, “Are you serious? Of course people are asking you about the sex scenes!  Lots and lots of people find you very hot.  They would pay a lot to see you have fake sex with anyone, and having it be another hot man is probably a bonus.”  (I am not speaking for myself here; I am very nearly old enough to be his mother, for heaven’s sake, and…no.  Just no.)  Besides, I was kind of thinking that either he (or the MTV interviewer) were responsible for making such a big deal out of it.  The whole, “You’re the one talking about it” thing, considering that (as I said) I had never even heard of this film.

And then, darn it, I started thinking about it.  Aside from the fact that at least some of the fascination might fall into the category of fetishizing gay men, there is probably a lot of truth in there about people making a big deal about it.  There are several reasons for this, one of which I’ve already mentioned above, and not all of which are bad.  I’m actually heartened that there is a really well-known actor willing to take on such a role, despite the (at least partly) negative attention.  (We can argue another time about whether or not the role should have gone to a gay actor.)  And I’m glad that there is conversation being generated.  That’s probably one step closer to meaning that in the future, such projects won’t be relegated to independent status.  We’d be just as able to go see it at the local theater as any other movie.

On the other hand, it bothers me quite a bit that it’s a big deal at all.  I do, in fact, wish people would stop getting their panties in a bunch over what projects any professional actor chooses.  Guess what?  It’s none of anyone’s business.  Last week, I got schooled on how it’s not “appropriate” for Christians to use swear words in their writing.  My first response was to be annoyed (why would anyone care that much what I put in print?); so I suppose I can relate to Daniel Radcliffe’s irritation (although I think he was likely much more subtle in his reaction than I was).  I had to stop and think about it, and I decided it wasn’t worth a reply.  I’m comfortable enough as a writer to know that all my words are carefully chosen, even the swears.  I write the things that mean something to me.  I do my best work when I am full of raw emotion and passionate fire, especially when I’m dealing with words and ideas that are considered taboo.  And all of it is my choice, not based on the opinion of one person (or several) who is critical.

So my apologies, Daniel Radcliffe.  You just keep right on doing what you’re doing.  Whether or not you annoy me at the tender age of 23, you are growing into yourself and making your art.  Don’t ever think you need to excuse yourself for that.

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If you’d like to, you can check out my guest post over at Beyond the Picket Fence.  Many thanks to Brenda Yoder for allowing me to share my parenting journey with her readers today.

Notable News: Week of November 3-9, 2012

What a week!  This time last week, I was just starting my NaNoWriMo novel; I’m now over 13,000 words in.  I also discovered possibly the only two people in my social circles who had no idea that I support LGBT rights.  Who knew there was anyone still left?  In much more interesting news, this week saw some good writing around the Web.

1. Women set the election on fire

Dianna Anderson nicely sums up the great news for women.  We rocked the vote!  Among other things, women are at a record high in the U.S. Senate at 19.  I told my daughter that since we make up half the population, I would love to see half of the people representing us be women.  I hope that happens in her lifetime.

2. On no longer identifying as pro-life

Libby Anne, over at Love, Joy, Feminism,  has written a post on her move from being firmly in the pro-life camp to having a very different view today.  She sums up nicely exactly what I think about the subject.  (Note: Please do not debate Libby Anne’s words here on my blog; go to her page and interact with her.  I can’t speak for another person.  If you want to talk about abortion here, it had better be respectful.  I’m not going to tolerate shouting about how “wrong” anyone else is, calling people baby-killers, or demanding that anyone—myself included—change our views.)

3. Another perspective on unintended pregnancy

I understand why many people (particularly progressives) may not agree, but Thea Ramirez writes a compelling post about making adoption a more viable choice.  I have seen some of the challenges that face people seeking adoption, and I agree that change is needed.  There is certainly more room for honest discussion on the matter.

4. Writing is hard!

Stephanie Brooks understands the internal dialogue of many writers.  Here, she offers some practical solutions for the frustration many of us have when we perceive our writing to have fallen short.  I know that point number one, about failure to give ourselves time to write, is true for me.  It’s tough to balance my own goals and the needs of my family, which ultimately leads to unproductive days and writing that is definitely sub-par.

Join me next week for more juicy talk about Fifty Shades of Bad Writing and a brand-new series about the issues raised in A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I hope you all have bought your copies so that we can grab a hot drink, a blanket, and settle in for some woman-to-woman chats.  Over the weekend, I hope to get in at least another 4,000 words on that NaNo Novel.  What are your plans?

Adopt-a-Peeve: Bad Writing

It’s Adopt a Peeve Day here, so I’m throwing one out for you.  You know, just in case you didn’t have enough of your own already.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken on some new responsibilities.  I’m editing at a couple of web sites where people post their original fiction.  There are many fine writers out there.  I’m really enjoying getting to know their work.  It’s also helpful for my own writing.  I can always tell when something is what I consider “good,” but often I’m not sure why.  It’s not about whether a story is interesting or intellectually stimulating.  It’s not about the pacing or the characterization or the unique voice of the writer.  Those things matter, certainly.  But there’s always this something underneath it all that can make or break a story.  Each time I read a new story, I understand a little more what separates the amazing from the significantly less so.

That aside, there are definitely a few things that just plain irritate me from minute one.  If I spot one of these problems, it won’t matter how awesomely awesome the rest of the story is.  I won’t be able to stop myself from reading it in Cringe Mode.  I can deal with spelling and grammar errors, as those can be edited out.  It’s the Sucky Writing Technique that bothers me.

So I’m offering, as a one-time deal, the following peeves for your consideration:

1. Writers who don’t use their characters’ names.

This can take many forms.  Sometimes, it’s a blatant refusal.  The writer simply uses pronouns instead.  This seems to be most common when the writer is young or inexperienced.  (I don’t mean inexperienced as in, “not published”; I mean as in, hasn’t written much of anything, even as a hobby.)  I’ve read entire stories where the main character (MC) is referred to as “he” throughout.  It’s damn distracting.  Even when the MC is the only person of note in a given chapter, there is something off about never seeing his or her name in print.  It always seems as though the writer is shy or embarrassed about the character names he or she has chosen, or even the character him- or herself.  That or the writers fancies this style to be poetic.  Trust me, it’s not.

Another (equally annoying) version of the no-name thing is when characters are referred to by some physical feature: “the blonde”; “the blue-eyed girl”; “the tall man.”  This is perfectly acceptable when the person in question is a stranger to the reader (and usually to the MC).  For example, if a detective is under cover in a bar, he might keep his eye on “the blonde,” who has been acting suspicious all night.  A mother watching her son on the playground might take note when “the blue-eyed girl” offers him half her peanut butter sandwich.  Someone waiting for a blind date might wonder if “the tall man” who just walked in is the date.  But if the blonde, the blue-eyed girl, or the tall man are established characters, especially if they have main roles in the story, it’s just plain silly to describe them this way.  That detective probably wouldn’t refer to his partner as “the blonde.”  If the blue-eyed girl is her daughter, the mother doesn’t refer to her by her eye color.  If the tall man is in a relationship with the MC, the MC would call him by his name.

2. Writers who switch point of view (POV) in the middle of the action.

This drives me nuts.  Wait, I have to say it again.  This drives me absolutely freakin’ bonkers!  Although I don’t prefer it, I understand when writers choose to allow the reader full omniscience.  I think it’s better to keep to a single POV, but that’s personal preference.  This peeve, however, is something else.  This is reading the thoughts and feelings of one character and then…all of a sudden, you’re in someone else’s head.

Tragically, J. K. Rowling is guilty of this in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  I know, I don’t want to think ill of one of my favorite authors either.  Sadly, it’s true.  The series is from Harry’s POV throughout, with a few exceptions (mostly prologue-style introductory chapters in later books).  Even those aren’t bad, since they are separate chapters and always occur before the main action of the book starts.  But in Sorcerer’s Stone, it happens right smack in the middle of a chapter.  (For the curious, I don’t have the book on hand and can’t give page/chapter, but the scene in question is in the middle of Harry’s first quidditch game.  It switches from Harry’s POV to random omniscience.)  Fortunately, I think it’s an isolated incident.

Unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident for some writers.  Some people literally switch mid-paragraph.  It gets confusing, trying to figure out whose thoughts I’m reading.  For the love of all that’s literary, please don’t do this to your readers.  Trust me, the best writing leaves some mystery because the MC doesn’t know what everyone else is thinking, and therefore neither do we.  Frankly, I’m glad we don’t have to slog through everybody’s brains in most stories.  Can you imagine how long Harry Potter would have ended up being if we’d been privy just to what Hermione was thinking?  Seven books wouldn’t have been anywhere near enough!

What writing peeves would you like to add to the list?