On transitions in writing (or, avoiding a case of the “howevers.”)

Hey guys. Just a quick post to let you know that I have an essay up at Spry Literary Journal today as part of their ABCs of Fiction Writing series. My letter was J, so I wrote about junctures: the places where we join the pieces of our prose.

Check it out. And check out Spry. It is a very cool journal devoted to the short form. (One of the stipulations for writing this piece was that it had to come in at 1,000 words or less.)

This post is not funny. Because writing humor is hard, y’all.

Today was the day that I was supposed to take a break from my labors and work on a humorous essay that I could sell/publish/give to a journal. Or any publication, really.

I was looking forward to this task, because I like writing funny, because I needed a break from revising some decidedly unfunny parts of my novel, and because August is trickling away to nothing and if I don’t write now, I’ll be up to here in class prep work and nothing will get done.

So I sat down, hellbent on being funny. And you know what happened? I pulled a Fozzie Bear.

Nothing I write today is funny. Oh sure, I managed a funnyish status on Facebook and a moderately amusing tweet this afternoon, but really? Everything else is so much wocka, wocka.

This is not a problem I often have. Normally, I can find the funny in my writing, but I think the trouble today is that I’m trying to be funny. Writing humor is like writing love or writing scary. It only works (for me) when I sneak up on it.  I do best at writing humor when I’m concentrating on some other aspect of the piece.

Photo courtesy of Roger H. Goun, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License on Flickr.

It’s like hunting. Actually, no. My  only knowledge of hunting comes from watching Elmer Fudd in Warner Bros. cartoons, so let me relate it to something I’ve actually done.

Writing humor is like being a jilted education reporter on deadline. You see the school board member who hasn’t been calling you back at a press conference for something else at City Hall. You know she sees you. You need her quote, but you can’t head straight for her or she’ll bolt. So you pretend you don’t even see her, and you sidle up to the Superintendent of Schools and the Teacher of the Year because they’re standing between her and the door, and hell, you could use a quote from them as well, why not? And then, just when she thinks you haven’t even seen her and she can make a quiet escape back to her Suburban in the parking lot, you step right out in front of her and BAM! That slippery vixen is trapped. What’s she gonna do? Vault over the Teacher of the Year and make a break for it? I think not. “So sorry your phone doesn’t seem to be working, ma’am. Lucky we happened to both be here at this fine event. I might have never gotten your comment.”*

And that’s how I think humor ought to be written.


*This specific situation is fictional, but the tactics are real.

Writerly goals and personal battles for the new year.

On New Year’s Eve, I posted about a minor resolution dilemma. I was torn between posting a list of New Year’s resolutions and checking in monthly on this blog to report progress or using 2012 to work on some major inner conflicts.

Since I’m the sort of person who likes to have her cake and eat it too, I’ve decided to do a little of both. My resolutions are mostly writing-related. I’ll check in on the first of each month with my progress on these.

My conflict resolutions are personal, but I plan to treat them as if they were a project for grad school. I’m going to do more than search my soul for the answers to my questions, because I need a little more assistance than my soul is capable of providing. So I will pair navel-gazing with research and examine as many sides of each issue as I can. By year’s end, I plan to have written a long essay about at least one of the conflicts I worked on, and I will try to publish it. (I’m going to try to submit the essay to a magazine or journal, but if all else fails, I will publish it here.)

The ground rules are set. Here are my resolutions and conflicts: Continue reading