Don’t Listen To The Negativity

As you finish writing projects, you’re going to hear a lot of negativity. Even in the most exciting moments, when a draft is out to editors for example, or when there’s interest from film producers, people are going to talk to you about their concerns. They’re going to ask a “serious question.” You’re going to get rejected, or face delays, or told what doesn’t work.

But don’t listen to any of this. Don’t focus on the negative.

I always make a goal of one in ten. If one in ten editors loves something, that’s great. Or as my agent – Adriann Ranta at Foundry – always says, “We only need one.” And it’s important to remember that goal.

Because in the gate-keeper moments, it’ll feel like most of what you face is negativity, sometimes even from friends or family. But remember that your fans, your readers, the average people out there, they love your work. They think you’re a good storyteller, or an interesting poet, or an engaging essayist, or whatever.

Also, you can only control what you can control. You can’t worry about other people’s concerns. You can’t worry about other people’s strong opinions. You can’t worry about what bothers people who aren’t making art.

You simply have to create your best work. Draft, revise, edit, and produce.

Then move on to the next thing.

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Haiku Death Match – Come To Tsunami Books Tomorrow Night!

Scott Landfield and Tsunami Books are hosting an open haiku tournament tomorrow night, Wednesday, October 17th, and 7 PM, Eugene, Oregon. Come watch or compete!

The open tournament will be followed by a 19 haiku death match between Virginia’s haiku poet Raven Mack and me (PS – I’m hoping not to embarrass myself – maybe do some pop-culture haikus?):

New Poem – Sonidos En El Oscuro (plus translation)

Here’s a new poem I wrote (in Spanish – with my translation following):

Sonidos En El Oscuro

Ya té extraño en
Este mundo en donde
No hay que decir nada
Porque el agua
Se desliza pasado nosotros
En la noché, se susurra,
Sueños, cantos, los sonidos
De pies descalzos sobre la suciedad.
Las alas de insectos largos,
El momento antes de
Una danza, la vibración
De fruta pudriéndose
En el suelo.

 

Sounds In The Dark

I miss you already

in this world where

there is no need to say anything

because the water

slips past us

in the night, it whispers,

dreams, chants, the sounds

of bare feet on the dirt.

The wings of insects,

the moment before

a dance, the vibration

of fruit rotting

on the ground.

Trying to Write Dystopia – Pacing Issues

This is the story of struggle, of trying hard but not always succeeding. The following selection is from my current novel draft, a book about a teenage girl who stays behind in her neighborhood after a natural disaster – The Cascadia Earthquake – destroys and floods her city.

Cielo is narrating this section which I just cut. She’s questioning fate. And while I like the idea, the pacing of this whole passage seems wrong:

I thought a lot about both of those books after I read them. I thought about my life, about living in this garage. I wondered if this life was fated for me, and what was fated for my future. And sometimes I wondered if there was a destiny for my mother, if her coming to this country was all part of some larger plan to land me in this particular location for a particular reason.

Now I look at the wreckage all around me, the upside down car in front of the Blue House, the black Mercedes CLA with its door splayed open as it sits on its roof, waiting for rain, for rust, for the coming of fall.

That’s maybe the strangest thing about the wreckage. I’m so used to seeing broken things fixed. There have never been any shabby houses in this neighborhood. Every house is nice, and people call repair men immediately. These men pull up in tool vans. They smooth problems over. Fix windstorm-damaged roofs the next day. Reattach loose mufflers. Replace fence-slats. And nothing is left to overgrow. Yard-maintenance workers manicure front gardens and walks each Monday and Tuesday, use leaf-blowers to scour the corners, edgers and trimmers to straighten the seams.

But now.

This is the world of natural decay. My freshmen science teacher taught us that there is a law in physics that everything breaks down, everything tends toward decay. He said, “Entropy always increases.” He also said that there are two types of entropy, “thermal” and “configurational.” And I watch for both now. I sit on the roof of my garage and imagine the heat of the sun as something visible. Blue and yellow streaks of light and heat radiating down. At the same time, I imagine the fast-forward decaying of the houses all around me.

In my mind, there’s a movie of the house next door falling apart. I watch the wood turn to rot, the nails loosen in the wood, gutters falling off, siding and roof shingles easing, then sliding from the outline of the house. Then the lean of the frame increasing, the angles changing at every corner, wood warping, the twang of boards springing loose, springing free of their moorings to other boards or framing. Piece of the house crumbling, then the outer walls swaying one final time in a gust of wind and the motion increasing until there’s one final sigh of the house as it collapses.

During the quake, none of these houses on the block fell flat. It doesn’t look like a town after a tornado. But none of the houses are unscathed either. They’re all standing at strange angles now, like fun rooms at a carnival, as if I’m looking at the entire world through a set of curved mirrors, as if the world has forgotten the logic of right angles.

Writing Better Dialogue

I’m in a coffee shop, eavesdropping on multiple conversations, and I’ve realized a few things:

  • People mostly talk about themselves. They don’t ask a lot of questions. They’re just waiting to say the next thing about themselves.
  • Real dialogue sentences are short. People speak in short, simple sentences. They don’t have vast vocabularies and they don’t speak in complex metaphors. So when writing dialogue, keep it simple. Save your complexities for your paragraphs of exposition.
  • People say, “I feel like…” “It seems like…” and “The thing is…” ALL. THE. TIME.
  • In real dialogue, people repeat their favorite phrases over and over. The guy next to me has said, “Well, people are stupid” 8 times already in less than 10 minutes.
  • People trail off when they speak. They speak in half sentences, then make gestures with their hands. If the conversation is animated, the other person will jump in and finish each half-sentence. If the conversation isn’t animated or emotionally charged, people will sit back, and there will be long pauses while the person gestures vaguely with his or her hands.

Baby Instagrams

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Dear Anyone Who Has An Instagram From Your Baby’s Perspective,

Please don’t. That account isn’t cute. Your kid poops his pants and doesn’t speak English, and you’re not kidding anyone. You just want more attention. That’s what the internet has always been about for you. The little witticisms aren’t funny and the hashtags are even worse. No kid types #blessed. Or #momsgreat. Or #thatsmydad.

Also, I don’t want to point out the obvious here, but your kid isn’t even strong enough to hold a phone for a selfie. He doesn’t have enough facial muscle-tone to make Duck Face.

Finally, I don’t like YOUR instagram account. Why would I want another one also produced by you.

Sincerely,

Pete