Murakami wisdom, Tinder shenanigans and book talk

1. How girls talk:

That conversation came about after my girlfriends and I piddled around the Tinder app and were trying to figure out what a guy might mean when he doesn’t respond to an emoticon. And people say GIRLS are hard to figure out.

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Our responses to the faces we see on Tinder range from this:

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To this:

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(All the dudes baring their pot bellies or flexing their gargantuan muscles in minimal clothing, you know who you are!)

Occasionally, we’re like this:

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(There ARE some cute, non-creepy ones on the app, after all! Faith in humanity restored.)

But more often it’s this:

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(Why would you put a shot of yourself sitting on the edge of your bed in your boxers eating half a watermelon as your profile picture???)

By the way, can I just say that Tinder still has a lot of room for improvement? Not only are we unable to scroll back to the person we might have accidentally rejected, we are unable to go back and view the profile of someone we have approved until he approves back. Apparently not a fan of hindsight, this Tinder.

For now, though, while my friends have run out of guys to pick from, I’m still highly entertained by the different types of profile pictures (supposedly) single guys choose of themselves.

And because I think I’m permanently scarred by the sight of this one guy in a pair of green floral shorts hugging a huge block of cheese (another head-scratcher), THIS is very much welcome:

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Ah. Much better now.

2. Anyway, speaking of wisdom, here are some snippets of wisdom – so profound, but never self-righteous or self-important – from “the Yoda of Japanese literature”, author Haruki Murakami:

“Life’s no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe’s [your] own to fool with.” ~ Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985)

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ Norwegian Wood (1987)

“For ‘a while’ is a phrase whose length can’t be measured. At least by the person who’s waiting.” ~ South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)

“Even castles in the sky can do with a fresh coat of paint.” ~ South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)

“A person’s destiny is something you look back at afterwards, not something to be known in advance.” ~ The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997)

“Understanding is but the sum of misunderstandings.” ~ Sputnik Sweetheart (2001)

“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.” ~ After Dark (2004)

I read After Dark a few years ago, in my freshman year at university, and I remember being taken by sparse, beautiful and heart-breaking prose.

Murakami’s characters are always diverse and complex, even when the things they say and the conversations they have seem surface. Plus, there’s something tragically lonely about the characters and their voices, and uplifting about the way they found each other – which, I realise, can be applied to Norwegian Wood too. But while Norwegian Wood got a little draggy for me, I didn’t want After Dark to end.

Go read all 30 of them!

3. Romance writer Jennifer Crusie on how to create conflict in romance novels:

Conflict in general is pretty simple … The pursuit of these goals brings your protagonist and antagonist into direct conflict because neither can achieve his or her goal without blocking and thus defeating the other.

The romance plot has a protagonist and an antagonist (or vice versa) who are drawn together and who, during the course of their story, move through the physical and emotional stages of falling in love … Over the course of the story, they change as people so they can connect, learning to compromise and forming a bond at the end that will keep them together forever.

The hard part [is] taking the romance plot and giving it conflict. A good conflict has the protagonist destroying the antagonist completely (or vice versa). A good romance plot ends in compromise with both protagonist and antagonist safe, happy, and bonded. Trying to navigate the space in between causes most of the problems in romance writing.

Romance novels aren’t just the usual, fluffy boy-meets-girl, done-to-death stories that everyone thinks are so easy to churn out. (Well, there are some stories that go like that, but we try not to emulate them.)

Romance novels are, in essence, highly character-driven, and that’s what makes them so tricky to write. What makes this character different from another? Why choose to write his or her story? How do they grow as a result of each other? What do I want them to become at the end of the story?

My characters usually end up sitting around talking, so I try to toss in some action that is totally lame and pointless, and it all ends up looking contrived and my characters get really confused and annoyed with me.

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Still, it’s just the first draft, Joyce. Just the first draft. You can rewrite and edit the shit out of it later.

4. And from a literary agent’s perspective, Carly Watters believes writers should compete with themselves and not with other writers:

It doesn’t make it easy when you know how many other writers there are out there trying to get published, too. But that information has to light a fire under you and make you want to revise and want to write the best book you can. Competition is about writing better than you did the day before, and the book before this. You are your own competition. Make that your mission.

Also, she offers candid insight on what publishing requires from a writer:

Publishing is where creative writing meets Hollywood: Does it have a hook? Can you sell it in a sentence? Are the characters memorable? Is their journey compelling? Does it start when we meet the characters at an interesting point in their lives? Getting published requires some stripping down of overwriting and self indulgence. Getting published is about making your writing accessible to mass readers.

For more advice, go here!

5. Due to the slew of less-than-glowing book reviews that have popped up, particularly on sites like Goodreads, some folks are starting to question: Do we really need negative book reviews?

Of course, the first reaction would be to say no, that it’s unnecessary and let’s just all talk about books we love and enjoy instead of directing attention to the “bad” ones.

But without criticism, how are we writers going to learn what works or what doesn’t? I’d much rather be told candidly why my book is mediocre than be assured that it is deserving of critical acclaim if it isn’t true, even if the criticism may be harder to stomach.

Of course, if the negative review is mean for the sake of being mean and getting some laughs at the expense of the author, then please fold some origami and shove it up your pie-hole because the world doesn’t need more bullies.

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6. I don’t want this post to end on that note, so here’s some happy:

The Infinite Gallery : Cornwall, England

Okay, okay. Off to do just that now! Happy mid-week, everyone! :0)

Goodbye, Nelson (and other news)

Woke up this morning to learn that Nelson Mandela has passed away. He died in his home at the age of 95, after succumbing to a lung infection. I don’t like to write tributes to famous people and pretend like I knew the guy so well to pass judgement on the things he did or said. It just feels like I’m jumping in on the bandwagon, like how everyone who’d pretty much forgotten about Michael Jackson suddenly became his fan again after he passed away. But Nelson Mandela fought – hard – for peace and love and equality, and for that alone I think I should at least share something beautiful that he’d once said:

And my personal favourite:

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This can be applied to so many things in life and is thus such a powerful, empowering statement. Mandela embarked on a tumultuous journey to lead South Africa out of its apartheid shadow, and emerged victorious in the end. Despite his illness, I think leaving at 95 only means he’s led a deep and full life.


In less somber (and more self-absorbed) news, this is what happened to me this morning on my way to work and at work (though not in that order). You know sometimes when you see a cute guy who sort of smiles at you that you’re supposed to go:

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But then what you end up doing is:

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And then afterward you’re all like:

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But then you walk on the street and a semi-cute guy goes:

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And you’re like:

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But then you trip on your foot and it’s like:

Please tell me I’m not alone in this.

mid-week sniffles and insomnia

December is upon us! That can only mean one too many “Best of 2013” lists coming up, so brace yourselves, my good people.

Meanwhile, here’s a quote I came across recently, and it’s just too pretty not to share.

What’s the impulse behind art? It’s saying in whatever language is the language of your work, “If I could move you as much as it moved me … if I can move anyone a tenth as much as that moved me, if I can spark the same sense of mystery and awe and surprise as that sparked in me, well that’s why I do what I do.”

~ Greil Marcus

Ain’t that the truth. Straight to the heart, Greil Marcus. How many times have I read a story that blew me away and gone, “I need to write something like this. I need to blow someone else away with my own pretty words and my own epic observations of the world.” Sadly, there’s a great divide between wanting and having.

Still, we’ll start small. Baby steps, Joyce. Let Laini’s nuggets of wisdom see you through.

“There’s no getting around the fact that first drafts suck much of the time. And writing suck is un-fun. Your spirits sorely dwindle. You can quite easily become convinced you’ve lost any iota of talent you may once have possessed.”

I believe the word here is “mope”. And “wallow.” Like Eeyore does so well.

Did someone ask for Master Wallower?

“Humans hate to suck, and human writers must learn to suffer through suck. That is what enables us to finish first drafts. If you never learn to endure it, you may never finish a first draft. You might do what I used to do, which was write some awesome first chapters, revised to perfection, that lead nowhere. So far, working on my fourth book (if you don’t count the thing I wrote in November, and I don’t), the suck has not gotten easier to endure with time. It helps to know from three books of experience that good times lie ahead, but on a daily basis, the suffering does not diminish. The only way through is through.”

The only way through is through! That shall be my mantra from now on, as I plow through NEVERLAND. Also, uh, keep sucking. And, with any luck, you’ll find yourself on the other side soon, in the land of Literary Awesomeness. 

That is, if you don’t get sucked into the Bermuda Triangle of YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest.

“There are no shortcuts and no secrets. It’s like losing weight, or like finding your way out of a jungle you’ve been dropped into from a helicopter. You can’t FLY out. You’re just a sad, wingless human so get used to it, heft your machete, and keep on thwacking!”

Yes, she tells it like it is, doesn’t she? As much as I dream of flying – and write about it – I am incorrigibly earthbound. Guess I’ll just have to keep plowing through.

In related news, the weather’s finally gotten to me. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night for the past few nights with a blocked nose that can’t be coaxed into submission. (Hold on, I’m getting to the part where the relation to plowing through a story makes sense.) So after waking up around 3 or 4 a.m., I lay around in bed and try to get back to sleep. Only I don’t. 

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So I end up brainstorming about my story. (See, I told you there was a link.)

And hoo boy, they don’t call it the witching hour for nothing. It’s magical, the way the scenes and ideas for NEVERLAND come to me then. By the time I’ve officially drained my brain juice and can finally go back to sleep, I’ve filled up six or more pages of dialogue and scene plans.

For the sake of churning out the first draft, maybe I should make this a regular thing? 

Nah. You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Pretty soon, I will look like this:

So I guess I should trust Emma Stone when she says:

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By the way, if I’m sounding a little woohoo right now, it’s likely due to:

a) the cold weather, or
b) the meds I’m on.

Oh Regina, you so mean.

Happy mid-week, everyone!