Saturday, 2 January 2010

On Writing...

Anne Spollen has tagged me for a writing meme. I love being tagged for memes like this; they make me feel like a serious writer rather than a procrastinating dilettante. And in 2010, I'm going to work a lot harder to become the former and stop being the latter, so the timing on this is just right.

What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

The last thing I wrote is the end of my novel Foreigners. I've rewritten it about fifty-eight times now. It's better than it was -- enough said.

The first thing I wrote that I still have is the first draft, in hard copy, of my first MG novel. It's atrocious: bristling with too many tags, non sequiturs, side plots that meander, superfluous characters, and the word rather used several hundred times. Once in a blue moon, I force myself to take it out and look at it. It keeps me in touch with my writing 'roots' and reminds me that no matter how dissatisfied I may be with my writing, I've come a long way. It's like taking a peek into my kids' rooms: they're appalling, but there has been a definite improvement. That has to count for something.

2) Write poetry?


3) Angsty poetry?

Yes. Don't laugh, it's NOT easy. (And I'm not saying it's good angsty poetry.)

4) Favorite genre of writing?

This is my problem: I can't decide. I like writing non-fiction, MG, YA, poetry, plays, and fiction. I tell myself this is why I'm still not published in a major way. But who knows? Denial is more than a river.

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?

My kids. (I am shamelessly copying Anne on this one. Her answer is too good not to duplicate. I blame my plagiarizing students.)

6) Best plot you've ever created?

I can't answer this -- yet. I think it's the plot of the MG I'm currently trying to sell. If I manage to sell it, I promise to come back and declare myself.

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created?

See above. I feel silly answering this one when I'm still in limbo. Once I'm published, I'll come back and answer this.

8) How often do you get writer's block?

Never. My problem is organizing all my thoughts. Having too many, all over the place, is almost as bad as writer's block, though.

9) Write fan fiction?

I leave that to my Eldest Daughter who writes brilliant fan fiction. I'm just proud to know what it is.

10) Do you type or write by hand?

I write grocery lists by hand. Everything else I type.

11) Do you save everything you write?

No, but I save a lot of stuff I really have no business saving. Every once in a while I go through my files and delete like crazy, cheeks flaming, heart pounding. Sometimes I lie in bed worrying about people finding the awful poetry I've forgotten and left somewhere.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

Yes, all the time. I hate wasting stuff, and I'm convinced that if I just spend enough time thinking it through, I can make it work.

13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

Foreigners. But that may change.

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?

Sadly, I don't enjoy a wide readership. But friends used to rave about my letters.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Not since my diary, age sixteen.

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters?

Coffee houses. Schools. Kitchens. Come to think of it, those are my favorite places too.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Two: Foreigners and an MG called Benmore which I'm trying to whip into shape.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Yes, several, but you've probably never heard of them. Still, they gave me a huge boost and I'll be eternally grateful to the people who picked me.

19) What are your five favorite words?

Umm, let's see. What about crimson, emerald, iridescent, cardamom and cinnamon. Though I'd like to publish this would tip the scales if I ever heard them.

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?

None. There are little bits of myself in my characters, but I'd never put me in a novel. I can do a lot better than that.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

They come to me in the early morning hours.

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?


23) Do you favor happy endings?

I like hopeful endings because I think there is always hope. Happy endings strike me as being incomplete; there is no such thing as a happy ending because there is really no such thing as an ending.

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yes, compulsively so: I'm an English teacher. (I copied that straight from Anne too, but it's exactly what I'd have said and entirely true, so there you are.)

25) Does music help you write?

No, but it doesn't get in my way. I've written whole chapters with Rammstein, Dir en Grey, or Queens of the Stoneage blasting away in the background. And every time I hear a certain Red Hot Chili Peppers song, I remember the play I wrote a few years back.

26) Quote something you've written. I’m a woman of words; I’ve always got an internal narrative going, constructing or embellishing some kind of script in my mind. For things that have happened—things I regret, things I’ve done or forgotten to do—you name it. Is it because I want to explain myself, justify my actions? I’m not sure and who cares? I talk, therefore I am. And before you get the idea I’m a boorish windbag, I’m an okay listener too.

Now Hajime, the man I’m nominally married to, is a guy who’s managed to get through life on the fewest words possible. He was born that way, I think.

I'm going to tag Wendy Tokunaga and Robin Altman on this one because I'd like to read their answers. But if anyone else is tempted, be my guest!


Vijaya said...

Love your voice, Mary ... and thank you for sharing.

Charlie said...

I so wish you novel will be published; it has been your goal ever since I've known you.

I thought I knew all the abbreviations for lit., but what is MG?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Here's what you do.. you keep me coming back!! THAT, my dear, may not be worth much but it is worth something!

Charles Gramlich said...

I can't write with music playing. It messes up my internal music.

Mary Witzl said...

Vijaya -- Thank YOU. And one of these day I'm hoping to share something really worth sharing!

Charlie -- Lately I've been telling myself that having the goal is enough, but I mainly do that to keep writing and justify the time I spend doing it. I almost always have a good time writing and when I don't, I chalk it up to character development. Weird how the mind works, eh?

MG is middle grade, for middle school kids. No reason why anyone not writing it should know it!

Robert -- That's huge, believe me -- and I don't take it for granted. The fact that people come here to read the hodge-podge of things I write never fails to astound and delight me.

Charles -- I suspect my own internal music is so eclectic that the outside stuff just melds right in. But there is definitely music I can't write to: jazz messes me up, as does Shostakovich.

Helen said...

I love what you write Mary! You have such a gift! Just keep writing and I'm convinced your dream of being published will happen.

Helen said...

and then when you are a famous author, we who follow your blog can say "Mary - of course I've read Mary. I began reading her blog and I've been a fan ever since"....

Bish Denham said...

Ditto what Vijaya said! I feel just like I'm looking at a photo ablum or a home movie when I read your posts.

Blythe said...


You are cardamom and a ruby throated hummingbird.

Thank you for the shipwreck link, too.

Anonymous said...

I used to write angsty poetry all the time (influenced by Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton). I love these taggings. They are so interesting to read.

Robin said...

You are a wonderful writer, and I just know you are going to be published. I truly look forward to your posts. They make me want to snuggle on the couch with a pot of tea beside me. A whole novel and I would take time off of work.

This was really interesting. You don't talk much about your writing. Brilliant and modest. Does getting tagged mean I'm a writer? Well, considering the source I'm truly honored. Just need to take a poop, and then I'll get started.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MG Higgins said...

If you can read that last comment--wow, I'm impressed! Loved reading your answers. Good luck with the ms you got out right now.

nanmarino said...

Enjoyed your answers. It was great fun reading your post.

Nora MacFarlane said...

Hmmm... I think someone is messing with you in your comment section.

I love these memes and reading everyone's answers. Thanks for sharing!

Angela said...

Of all the memes, I love this one because it really forces us to think about our writing and share some of the deeper stuff we feel about it. Great answers--thanks for sharing yourself!

Mary Witzl said...

Helen -- It's so kind of you to say that. That's a really good comment to come home to, especially after a day of horrible, exhausting teaching.

Bish -- Uh oh...I hope it's not like some of the home movies I've seen! (Just joking -- thank you for the compliment!)

Blythe -- Me, cardamom? That's high praise! And I really AM ruby-throated (on the inside, that is) after a day of screeching at noisy students. That shipwreck link was just perfect for you, I thought -- though I wouldn't know what to do with it.

Medeia -- Sylvia Plath wrote GOOD angsty poetry. I'm still cracking away at the coal face, but maybe some day I'll hit pay dirt.

Robin -- You wouldn't need to take off a whole week for a novel of mine, I guarantee it. And of course you're a writer! I'll look forward to reading your answers to this.

MG -- I could read snippets of that last comment (it was Chinese, not Japanese, but Japanese is derived from Chinese and thus very similar) and what I did read made me blush. Being a closet Victorian, I had to delete it, which seemed a shame.

And thank you -- I'll need all the luck I can get.

Nanmarino -- Thank you -- I had fun writing it. Sadly, I can't say that about everything I set out to do.

Nora -- I've seen that comment in quite a few places. Someone is selling raunchy videos. You'd think they'd go for a bilingual version to get the maximum number of customers, but they haven't bothered to translate it yet. Lazy -- just like my students.

Angela -- You're right. Some of the other memes are quite frivolous, but this one has substance to it. After I'd finished, I went through my Documents file and deleted a whole slew of stuff I don't need, including a lot of awful poetry. It made me feel so much better and I'm sure I wouldn't have done this if it hadn't been for this meme.

Kim Ayres said...

You might be able to listen to music while you're writing, but does the music influence your writing? Do the characters get more aggressive when you listen to Rammstein? Does someone's dog die when you listen to Country and Western?

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- No, but when I listen to country I get a real hankering for beer and cornbread. Rammstein just makes me want to go out and kick over a fence.

Prole said...

Mary - you've always been a writer I admire - whatever you write.
Which is why I wanted to tell you about Prole.
A friend and I are in the process of setting up a new magazine. I'd love you to submit. We aim to pay too! You'd be doing us a big favour if you spread the word around your writing friends as well.
You can see our blogger page at:
or our website at:

Hope all is well.

Sorry I've not 'popped in' for a while.


Patrick said...

-->14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?

Hey, we love your posts! All of them are our favourite stories! =D

And good luck on the novels! Hope I get to read it someday. =)

Mary Witzl said...

Phil -- This sounds great and I will definitely spread the word around! I don't think you'll have any trouble getting submissions: that word 'paying' goes a long way. I'll certainly submit something. I'll have a look around my files and polish up something as soon as I get a few extra minutes.

Happy New Year, by the way. I've missed you.

Patrick -- Aww, thank you for saying that! I sometimes wonder if people are just being kind, praising my writing this way. And you know what? Even if you are, that's fine with me.

kara said...

the fact that you write to Rammstein makes you my favorite person in the world.

that title, sadly, does not come with a sash.

Patrick said...

There's no need to do so, as your writing are really good. =)

Mary Witzl said...

Kara -- That is absolutely going to go on my writing CV: 'I'm Kara's favorite person in the world'. But writing to Rammstein is no mean feat, so I'm glad SOMEbody appreciates this. Even if they don't give me a sash for it.

Patrick -- :)

Falak said...

I love reading your blog and admire your style of writing . No matter what, please do keep writing. I really hope that your book gets published soon and I get to read it. All the very best!

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga said...

Sorry, Mary, I didn't see this until now. I'd love to answer these questions and will do so soon on my blog!

Anne Spollen said...

I'm a little late here - but "I'd like to publish this," yup, most favorite on earth.

It will happen.

Funny stuff : )

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga said...

Hey, Mary, thanks for giving me that writing meme. Lots of fun. It's up now. :-)

Mary Witzl said...

Falak -- Thank you so much. I love writing my manuscripts, but at some point I really do want them to turn into books. But if they don't, at least I've the satisfaction of people reading my blog.

Wendy -- I'm glad you did this! This meme is different from others as it is actually about writing and makes you think a little about the process you use and how it differs from others people's.

Anne -- I've only gotten those words a few times, but each time it's been fantastic. I'd like to hear them from a Bigtime Publisher, but there are times I really wonder if it will ever happen. Still, nothing easily achieved is worth the wait. (Or so I tell myself.)

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