Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday 20

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snows melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace."

--Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, or Life in the Woods

Thoreau knew how mean life could be. He was 44 years old when he died of tuberculosis in 1862. He never made any money as a writer during his brief lifetime. To write his first book, he went and lived alone in the woods for two years, in a small cabin that belonged to a friend by a pond called Walden. I'm sure some of Thoreau's friends tried to talk him out of it. I can almost hear them saying "In a hundred years, who will care?"

I first read Walden when I was a teenager. In it I found answers to questions I'd never been able to ask anyone, mainly because I didn't know any other writers. By that time I was so disgusted with school that I would have jumped in front of a speeding truck before I'd ask an English teacher something.

Thoreau's work was not particularly kind. His truths were painful. He didn't mince words, or bother to suck up to anyone, even the people who might have helped him. Shrewd and blunt as he was, he reached a part of me no adult ever had, and changed a surly kid's despair into determination. And Henry, it's been one hundred and forty-five years, but I still care.

That's all from my corner of the writing world this week, folks. Got any questions for me?

41 comments:

  1. How much sleep do you get a night? ;)

    (Asks the redneck at 2:08 AM in the morn.)

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  2. For those interested, the Walden Woods Project hosts an extensive library of Thoreau-related materials, including the full 20-volume 1906 edition of his writings: http://www.walden.org/Institute/thoreau/writings/Writings.htm

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  3. Mary23:30 AM

    What was it like when you saw your very first book in a bookstore? Did you buy it? Squeal? Stare for hours?

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  4. I love Walden. My best friend from home told me about it and I've been hooked ever since. Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts about it.

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  5. Thanks for posting that. I think it was just what I needed to hear.

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  6. Yay, Thoreau. I still care. :)

    Ummm. What do you do when you get lost in plot? Say you have a lovely outline and realize that it is the suck so you throw it out and come up with a great new conflict and you know some of the new scenes, but see, you already wrote 90 pages of the old stuff, and you know a good chunk of it needs to go bye-bye... what do you do? Start over? Rewrite and see what you can salvage as you go, and take it from there? Just keep going and pretend you know what happened in the beginning?

    I tried the last one but it's so contigent on the changes in the beginning I couldn't. But I have no idea what happens now, only vague notions of the climax. Right now I'm doing option 2, rewrite from the beginning and salvage as I go, but it's making me feel panicked. Perhaps that's good. I could use a foray out of my comfort zone...

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  7. No questions, just a greeting. Thanks for the quote. It speaks to me.

    Have a great weekend. :)

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  8. Did you always want to be a writer? I know I always wanted to tell stories. Walden is harsh but realistic. What do you think influenced your writing the most?

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  9. Heather wrote: How much sleep do you get a night?

    I average about four hours, but I don't need as much sleep as normal people do.

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  10. Thanks for the link to the Walden site, Katherine.

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  11. Not a question--just a sad commentary on "progress." A friend who lives in the area of Walden Woods told me the town is going to develop a bunch of it into playing fields and a playground. I wish they could find somewhere else and leave the woods as they are. Thoreau must be rolling in his grave.

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  12. Mary2 wrote: What was it like when you saw your very first book in a bookstore? Did you buy it? Squeal? Stare for hours?

    The first time I saw a copy of StarDoc in a store was at a Borders in South Florida, on the day of my first booksigning. I got to the store an hour early because I was a nervous wreck, and went back to the SF section, and immediately panicked because there were no copies on the shelf. As I went to find the manager and have a complete emotional breakdown, my five year old daughter brought me a copy of the book. She led me to a lovely display of fifty copies in the front that the store had done for me.

    I think I stood there for a good fifteen minutes, trying to wrap my head around the fact that yes, all those were MY book, and people were going to be able to come here and BUY it.

    I intended to purchase a copy myself after the booksigning, but every copy the store had in stock sold out. :)

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  13. How do you choose your character's names?

    And what are some of your favorite movies? (This is, arguably, writing-related. Most of my favorites are because I love the writing.)

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  14. aka_nik wrote: I love Walden. My best friend from home told me about it and I've been hooked ever since.

    Same here. It's one of the few books that I wish every writer would read. It armors the soul.

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  15. My mother revered Thoreau. She moved (with my brother and me) to Big Sur, California, to a small cabin in 1962 as a way of finding her life's truths, I guess. Unfortunately for her it rained . . . and it rained . . . and it rained . . . that winter. The road washed out, the water became impotable, the electricity went out for five days, and we lost connection with the rest of the world. That was too much for her!

    I should read Walden. I generally tried not to do anything she wanted me to while she was alive, but she's been gone for more than ten years now so I should dig out her copy and add it to the TBR pile.

    Thanks for this post, Lynn!

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  16. leatherdykeuk wrote: Thanks for posting that. I think it was just what I needed to hear.

    Whenever I get shaky about why I do this, I go running to Henry. It's incredible how much peace I've found, reading his work.

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  17. Jess wrote: Yay, Thoreau. I still care. :)

    Why am I not surprised you're a Henry fan?

    Ummm. What do you do when you get lost in plot?

    I write until the search party comes looking for me. Lol.

    Say you have a lovely outline and realize that it is the suck so you throw it out and come up with a great new conflict and you know some of the new scenes, but see, you already wrote 90 pages of the old stuff, and you know a good chunk of it needs to go bye-bye... what do you do? Start over? Rewrite and see what you can salvage as you go, and take it from there? Just keep going and pretend you know what happened in the beginning?

    In situations like these, I used to try to salvage what I could from the work that was already done. The almost inevitable result was a story that read like a patchwork quilt looks.

    These days when I toss out a big chunk of work, I read it over, then file it away and rewrite from scratch. Whatever was most salvageable tends to pop into my head as I'm rewriting, and I draw from it as I write new versus trying to trim and cut it to fit into the new version.

    I tried the last one but it's so contigent on the changes in the beginning I couldn't. But I have no idea what happens now, only vague notions of the climax. Right now I'm doing option 2, rewrite from the beginning and salvage as I go, but it's making me feel panicked. Perhaps that's good. I could use a foray out of my comfort zone...

    Some writers are able to do fabulous things with writing that they salvage, so my solution is not the end-all answer for everyone. If you feel good about incorporating the salvaged stuff, and it reads well, go for it.

    If it were my WIP, I'd probably focus more on solving the problems with the vagueness of the outline. You need to be comfortable and familiar with the map before you set out on the journey. If you'd rather not tie yourself down to a detailed outline, think about putting together a simple timeline of the story events from start to finish.

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  18. Selah wrote: No questions, just a greeting. Thanks for the quote. It speaks to me.

    Have a great weekend.


    You, too, Ms. Selah. :)

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  19. Just saying hi--and sorry that you have to moderate comments. :)

    I'm currently busy trying to read as many books as you do in a week since I'm on vacation. LOL.

    (and yes, in case someone like Joely Sue Burkhart sees me here, I'm writing too!)

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  20. Anonymous12:16 PM

    Just dropping by to wish everyone a happy weekend. But as I was scrollling down your site I thought of a question, what is the ISSN Number at the bottom of your page? Is that a blogger-thing, or a copyright thing or something else completely?
    JulieB

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  21. Thanks. :)

    Between you and Tammy, I realized I do need to start over, but upon rereading my 90 pages, found a lot of clues to what the story does want to be. I'm going to write my map/scene list/outline/whatever next week, and I'm brimming with ideas.

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  22. Anonymous1:12 PM

    How much time do you spend writing each day? And how much reading?

    And, is your needed 4 hours of sleep a genetic enhancement the rest of us could purchase? :)

    Christina

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  23. Anonymous1:13 PM

    How much time do you spend writing each day? And how much reading?

    And, is your needed 4 hours of sleep a genetic enhancement the rest of us could purchase? :)

    Christina

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  24. Thoreau is a great inspiration to me. My favorite anecdote is one where the publisher of his first book (A Week on the Merrimack and Concord Rivers) printed more copies than they could sell. In order to make room in their warehouse, they had to sell the remaining stock off cheap, and because no one would buy it, Thoreau purchased the books himself. In his journal he wrote that he now had acquired a library of over 1000 volumes ... 900 of which he wrote himself.

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  25. Can squirrel-chasing kittens morph back into fire-breathing dragons?

    *eyes sleeping kitten*

    Does the muse ever stop sulking if you ignore her/him/it?

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  26. Jessica wrote: Did you always want to be a writer?

    No. Writing was just something I did to get the noise out of my head. As a youngster I aspired to be a ballerina, a doctor, or a fire fighter.

    What do you think influenced your writing the most?

    People, mostly teachers, telling me that I would never get published. They meant to be kind, I suppose, but their patronizing academic attitudes had the opposite effect. In fact, if you ever want to encourage a stubborn kid to do something, tell them they will never be able to do it.

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  27. My flyaway moment wrote: How do you choose your character's names?

    About 75% of the time the name pops into my head out of nowhere. I look through baby name books to find others, and I invent the rest out of anagrams or just sounds or partial words that I like.

    And what are some of your favorite movies? (This is, arguably, writing-related. Most of my favorites are because I love the writing.)

    Some favorites, in no particular order, and why:

    L.A. Confidential -- brilliantly written and acted, and probably the most flawless movie I've ever seen.

    Pride & Prejudice, the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version -- because I am a P&P junkie, and Colin is the ultimate Mr. Darcy (technically, a mini-series.)

    Monsoon Wedding -- a joyous, wonderful film that redefines exotic and still embraces the warmth and affection (and squabbles) of family.

    Brotherhood of the Wolf -- scary, historically stunning, and nonstop thrilling. They have an English-dubbed version out, but it's so much better in the original French.

    Speed -- probably my favorite action movie of all time. Forget Snakes on a Plane; always go with A Bomb on the Bus. :)

    Children of Dune -- this was a SciFi channel mini-series that I'm sure all the other SF writers sneered at, but I thought it was superb. Epic settings, great actors, and an all-around amazing production.

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  28. Brotherhood of the Wolf -- scary, historically stunning, and nonstop thrilling. They have an English-dubbed version out, but it's so much better in the original French.

    Ohhhhh... I've seen this. It's wonderful.

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  29. Gina wrote: She moved (with my brother and me) to Big Sur, California, to a small cabin in 1962 as a way of finding her life's truths, I guess.

    I've threatened to move to Tibet often enough, but I know I'd be the hermit who fell and broke her hip on day 1 of my two-year self-exile.

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  30. May wrote: Just saying hi--and sorry that you have to moderate comments.

    Hi back at you -- and I should be able to take us off moderation in a couple of weeks.

    I'm currently busy trying to read as many books as you do in a week since I'm on vacation. LOL.

    Voracious reader secret: keep some in the bathroom. :)

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  31. JulieB wrote: Just dropping by to wish everyone a happy weekend.

    Julie, I don't know if you missed it, but I haven't heard from you, so a reminder: you were the winner of the Over There giveaway, and you've got a Bookwish waiting for you -- e-mail me at LynnViehl with your choice and ship-to info when you get a chance.

    But as I was scrollling down your site I thought of a question, what is the ISSN Number at the bottom of your page? Is that a blogger-thing, or a copyright thing or something else completely?

    An ISSN is an eight-digit number assigned to electronic serial and periodic publications. It identifies PBW as unique and owned by me. You can get an ISSN for free now, I believe -- check out more details at the ISSN main site here.

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  32. Argh. The e-mail addy I meant to type is LynnViehl@aol.com, Julie. Sorry about that.

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  33. Jess wrote: I'm going to write my map/scene list/outline/whatever next week, and I'm brimming with ideas.

    Good luck -- hope the advice helps.

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  34. No questions (it is Friday after all- and I had a busy week at the dayjob), I just wanted to say that I finished reading Rebel Ice and enjoyed it thoroughly, and am sharing my stardoc novels with all of my friends and coworkers (okay, i shove the books at them and say, read this you'll love it *g*). Have a great weekend, and a Happy 4th of July.

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  35. Thank you for answering my questions! I can sympathize with the teachers discouraging you. In my case, it was my Mom and my ex-husband. Keep doing what you do! And thank you for the info on ISSNs. :-) Have a great weekend!

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  36. Christina wrote: How much time do you spend writing each day? And how much reading?

    I usually spend ten to twelve hours every day writing new material and editing it. Reading, probably three to four hours, although I sometimes cheat and read while I'm doing other things (I love book stands.)

    And, is your needed 4 hours of sleep a genetic enhancement the rest of us could purchase?

    Only if you like spending a lot of time watching other people sleep. :)

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  37. J.M. wrote: Thoreau is a great inspiration to me.

    Only Henry could make a joke out of being remaindered. :)

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  38. Buffysquirrel wrote: Can squirrel-chasing kittens morph back into fire-breathing dragons?

    Absolutely. Usually when they've treed the squirrel.

    Does the muse ever stop sulking if you ignore her/him/it?

    Depends on the muse. Mine doesn't sulk, she gets even. She waits patiently until I'm doing something that requires my entire attention, like removing a glass splinter from my instep, and then starts hurling new story ideas at me.

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  39. Ann wrote: No questions (it is Friday after all- and I had a busy week at the dayjob), I just wanted to say that I finished reading Rebel Ice and enjoyed it thoroughly . . .

    Thank you for the kind words, ma'am.

    . . . and am sharing my stardoc novels with all of my friends and coworkers (okay, i shove the books at them and say, read this you'll love it . . .

    That's really terrific, Ann. Sharing books -- okay, browbeating people into reading books -- is one of my favorite hobbies.

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  40. I'm probably one of the few people who've read Thoreau who wasn't blown away. I just didn't feel . . . invested--not in his writing nor in him. Puts me in the vast minority of the lovers of the written word.

    Anyway, I bought the first two Darkyn books today. I knew you were going to do that to me.

    I'll save my question on the Val McDermid book until next week. It's 12:05 AM here, which makes it over an hour into Saturday where you are.

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  41. Thanks for the Walden quote. I had, for some reason, a particularly bad personal day yesterday. It couldn't read much, but I did make it through that quote. Eventually, I just went to bed, slept for something like ten hours, and I feel a bit better today.

    Peering out of the cave and blinking in the sunshine...

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