Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Write Every Day

This is one of those mantras for being a writer.  Write every day.  According to the Columbia University Break Writing program, the maximum that a writer can write and concentrate for in a single period is 90 minutes to 2 hours -- so that should be your minimum each day.  http://www.columbia.edu/cu/gsas/pages/cstudents/dean/break-writing/break-1.html  Other than the possibility of working yourself into burnout, it is good advice.

But if you haven't got two hours a day to write, and many of us don't, the advice is still good.  You should write every day, and at least for a certain set time.  And if all you have is fifteen minutes, then write for that fifteen minutes.  Same time, same place, every day.  When I was in graduate school, and single, I had rice for dinner every night.  It took fifteen minutes for the rice to cook, and that was my fifteen minutes.  I hammered away on my manual typewriter until the scent of burning grain told me that it was time to eat.

A problem, though.  Most people take fifteen minutes just to start writing.  How do you make the most of your fifteen minutes?  My trick, especially when I am snatching bits and pieces of time to fill out a handwritten roughwrite, is to spend the time before I write thinking over what I will cover in my writing.  Family doesn't need to be talked to, when I am clearing the table or doing dishes.  Especially the teenagers.  And while driving?  Hey, that's what defensive driving is all about, right?  Other people watching out while I think, right?

Seriously, there is a lot I can do while also thinking on a story.  I am woman, I multi-task.  Maybe not driving, unless it is on an empty highway in the middle of nowhere, and I don't have to be watching for deer, but walking, definitely.  And while waiting in the check-out line at the store, stuck behind an extreme couponer who is going to try every coupon in her massive notebook.  And at red lights.

I work out a lot of plot problems while sitting at red lights in this town.

Write every day.  Think every minute.  It's supposed to keep you young.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Surprise coming soon.

I am working on a new project. 

I'm also declaring my intention to do NaNoWriMo this year.

Oy vey!  And I'm not even Jewish!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Income Tax Problem

Forty-ninne percent of all households pay no income tax, or so I've heard. I think that is atrocious.

Many Conservatives also think that is atrocious, but for different reasons. They state, in published opinions and verbally to my face, that these people should pay their fair share of taxes. But they do. Everyone, except those who are completely supported by others, such as little children and the extreme elderly, pay taxes. Hardly anything can be bought without an additional sales tax. Gasoline and diesel fuels, which are used to transport goods to market, and from market to home, are bought with hefty taxes. Transportation taxes are paid for by raising the cost of food and goods, and this additional cost then incurs additional sales tax. Residences are taxed, directly or indirectly. Gas for heating and cooking, electricity, municipal water; all these utilities are taxed. And people pay these taxes regardless of income.

Income taxes fall on those people who make a certain minimum. If your household doesn't make this minimum, then the government considers you to be barely scraping by, and tries not to burden you heavier. The fact that forty-nine percent, nearly half, of all households in this country are considered to be scraping by or less is disturbing. Very disturbing.

Am I in the forty-nine percent? No. We pay income taxes. And that means, despite the fact that I clip coupons and search to save money, that we must be rich. Rich enough to pay taxes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Trial Reading

Dear Diary,

How much of a book should I read before I give up?

I used to believe that any book I started must be finished. It's what readers do, you know. But one day, as I was dragging through a book I found unpleasant, I realized, I don't have to do this. This is my time that I'm spending, and I'm not enjoying this. So I set the book down and did not finish it.

I discovered later that I had set down the book about ten pages from the end, but I've never had the urge to go back and read those ten pages. The time I spent on that book still felt wasted -- not because it was a bad book, but because it was a book that I did not enjoy.

Some books are obviously bad in the first few pages. They are easy to abandon, and if I can just remember to read a bit, and not just the carefully crafted blurb, I can avoid buying them. If I do buy them, I can avoid spending time with them. Simple. But many more books aren't really bad -- they just don't work for me. Or maybe they are written well, but the plots wander about like drunken ants, aimless on a good day. Other stories seem to wander, at first, but are merely setting an elaborate stage for a plot that will unfold bit by bit like a blooming rose. They need time to ripen.

The only way to know the difference between a story that will work, eventually, and one that is a waste of time, is to give the book a trial. Some people read for forty pages, and some for twenty. A few go as far as a hundred before giving up. My magic number is seventy-six. Hook me by then, or it's goodbye, not just goodnight.

E-books, I've discovered, challenge this model. They don't have pages. How will I know, with an e-book, that I've suffered enough? The Kindle, at least, has a bar at the bottom that tells me what percentage of the book has been completed. An average novel is about three hundred and fifty pages long, so seventy-six pages is about twenty-two per cent. That sounds right. After all, if you follow a certain model of writing, the first major twist should happen right at twenty-five percent so the story should be falling together by then.

So be warned: if the story isn't moving at page seventy-six, or at the twenty-two percentile mark, I, for one, will not long be a reader.