Archive for Writing

I Write Too Much?

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2010 by Sara Lilly

I realize my last post came off as very snobby. Sorry. I’m sitting in Seattle’s Best in Borders and writing again. Is it normal to update a blog all the freaking time? I keep having ideas in my head and I keep feeling like sharing them though no one is hardly reading this. Someone is. In fact…seventeen people today. Yay. I’m famous. 17. Wooot.

So I mentioned bad pop culture references in my last post. (Someone trying to allude to the Karate Kid by wrongfully quoting “Wax on, wax off” as “Wash on, wash off”.) A friend of mine in my writing class two semesters ago said something clever about pop culture references: always use ones that aren’t well known.

How’s this? It’s a short excerpt from my novel. The narrator is reflecting on a movie his girlfriend liked when he’s thinking of what to do with his brother. Can you guess what movie…

Sara had this movie she liked—it was about these two male prostitutes who drove around the Pacific Northwest on a busted motorcycle. They did drugs, slept around with an old German guy, and even ventured into Europe. One of them was a rich kid, set to inherit all this money when he turned twenty-one. He said he’d stop his antics then and make a huge turnaround.

My brother Drew is a rich kid and a borderline alcoholic. He and I drove to the Midwest in a dilapidating, ugly, yellow Dodge. Drew is set to go to the best college in the world when he turns eighteen, and he swears he’ll stop his drinking then. I got to make sure of that—he might end up in Idaho with a man named Hans for all I know.  I’m probably letting that movie pervert my judgment, but once you see it in film, shit, you never know what can happen next in reality.


How to Submit a Manuscript. It’s Simple. I Promise.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2010 by Sara Lilly

My office is dead. 

I haven’t read anything in days so I thought I’d write for a while. I’ve learned a lot of things from interning at this lit agency, notably: 1) I don’t want to work in publishing and 2) So many “writers” have no idea what they’re doing.

Tell me if this is common sense or not. When you submit your story to an agency, never, I mean NEVER put a dedication, a quote, pictures, or any sort of thing like that in the manuscript. You come off as being an egotistical schmuck. Really.

What’s more is, you are trying to be “hired” by an agent so you better as hell, make sure your manuscript is formatted correctly. I don’t care if you’re a genius; if you show up to a job interview in pajamas and a stained sweatshirt with dirt on your face, you’re not getting the job. If you submit a manuscript ridden with typos, grammar errors and a fucking quote in the beginning–you’re not getting the job!

For writers, this is how you format a manuscript. It’s extremely simple and can be found out simply from googling “How to format a manuscript.” It’s what I googled when I tried submitting. Everyone has their own take on it but this is the basic format:

1) Cover page. In the center of the front page, put the title, your name, and how many words it is. By God, do not put 55,628–round up. 55, 628=56,000.
2) Font. Anything legible works, though the standard is either Times New Roman or Courier New, size 12, double-spaced. Try to go for 250 words per page because that’s the usual in a typical book.
3) Heading. On each page, put your last name and the title of the work.
4) For every new chapter, start a new page.

That’s it. Isn’t that simple? How come people can’t do that? Two other things that irritate the SHIZ out of me (yes, I said shiz) when reading manuscripts:
1) Wrong pop culture references. I was reading something that was trying to allude to the Karate Kid. They misquoted the most famous line as “Wash on, wash off.” It was a smack forehead moment. “WAX on WAX off.”
2) Wrong use of quotation marks. I hope to teach creative writing one day at a college level, and I will make it clear in the beginning of class that if anyone misuses quotation marks, I will take off five points immediately. I’ve seen all of this:
“Hi.” Said Joe Schmoe.
“Hi” said Joe Schmoe.
“Hi said Joe Schmoe.”
“WHAT” cried Joe Schmoe!
“WHAT?” Cried Joe Schmoe.

Note to people who do the above: Read a book.  

I’m mean, aren’t I? Maybe. In other news, Cristiano Ronaldo walked the same street that I do every Thursday and Friday. Except he walked there last Tuesday. Oh snap.


Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by Sara Lilly

I’m about to be a junior in college and while most of my friends are going to the beach, lounging poolside and shopping, I’m working fifty hours a week. 30 hours go to the mindless, horrific but steady well-paying as a grocery store clerk and the other sixteen hours go to being a personal valet to a multi-millionaire literary agent in New York City.

I write at night so I hardly sleep. When I have time, I work on planning a class I’m teaching to first-year students in the fall. I keep up with the World Cup via Tivo and text messages with my friends. People ask me why I work so much, but seriously…I have to pay for my gasoline, my phone bill, my commute to New York, and hopefully save some for spending money if I get to go study abroad in England like I want to.

After college, I’m going away. I need to relax, to breathe. I don’t know anyone else my age who works as much as I do–I’m a psycho.

About my grocery store job, I worked 8 hours there today and will do it all again tomorrow. As much as I 100% detest my job with a burning passion, I get a few giggles every now and then. Here’ s my favorite story from the job from hell:

An old woman came to my register with a coupon for Smart Balance milk. She bought another brand.

“Ma’am, this coupon is for Smart Balance.”
“Oh, no!”
“Okay–do you want me to ask someone to get you the Smart Balance so you can use the coupon?”
“No I don’t want that brand.”
“All right. So you’re taking that milk?”
“No, I don’t want it unless I have the coupon.”
“So you don’t want any milk?”
“I need milk!”
I paused. I then tried again.
“But you don’t want Smart Balance?” I asked.
“And you don’t want that?”
“So you don’t want anything?”
“I need milk!”
At this point, I’m trying my best not to laugh.
“Ma’am, what do you want me to do?” I asked.
“I need milk!”
I’m laughing now. “Would you like me to ask someone to get you a store brand milk?”
“I need milk!”
“Yes, the store brand milk?”

The end.

On Writing

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on June 27, 2010 by Sara Lilly

So I intern at a boutique literary agency in the lovely city known as New York. My job is to run whatever errands my boss wants me to, (anything from picking up his dead dog’s ashes to getting him a camera charger) and read manuscripts. I have yet to read anything spectacular. In fact, everything I’ve read with the exception of one can qualify as utter crap. I talk a lot about this with one of my co-workers and he said to me,

“A lot of people think anyone can write a book. They don’t realize that not everyone is a writer–in fact, most people who think they are, are not writers.”

I could not agree with that more. I believe you’re born a writer, the same way someone might be born an actor, or a painter or anything artistic–because being great is so much more than knowing how to do something. It’s more than just the mechanics of artwork. It’s about seeing something in a different way, about instincts, feelings–things that can’t be taught. A good writer never decided they were going to be a writer, they always just knew. They have to write like another has to breathe because it’s who they are, it’s their existence.

My Art

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on April 10, 2010 by Sara Lilly

“I feel I understand
Existence, or at least a minute part
Of my existence, only through my art…”

From Canto 4 of Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

I have wanted to be a writer since I could read books on  my own. My mother used to take me to the library regularly. I once asked her after I finished reading Big Max by Kin Platt, if I could write a book too. She did a little shrug and went, “Yeah, sure,” as if it were a silly endeavor that would occupy me for just that evening.

My dad had given my sister a very old laptop that was good for just writing and playing a couple computer games.

I sat at her desk and I wrote. My first stories were total rip offs of the Big Max books. They followed the same plot except for a name change here and there.

I grew a little bit, and then I created a detective all of my own imagination with completely original story lines. By

middle school, I had become obsessed with boys and ohlala, dating, (like any other wanna-be-18 thirteen-year-old) as if I had any real idea of what it all was and wrote trashy YA. High-school started this story about a fictional dystopic society.  I had little accomplishments along the way too. In eighth  grade, I won an essay contest and 100 dollars. It was my parents’ pride for the year. Sophomore year, I had a very melodramatic story published in a Baha’i magazine that was dumbed down and accompanied by awful illustrations. I didn’t have any major projects that encompassed my mind, but by the end of my junior year, my Honors English teacher handed out an assignment.

It was a creative portfolio. We had to submit a collection of different things: a poem centered on symbol, a modern day Canterbury tales, a sonnet, a satirical poem, and a short story centered on a symbol. I had the poetry down, which shocked me because all my life I had never really written poems. I was a prose writer. But I was at a loss for the story part. It was the night before the collection was due. I sat in the den of my house, and I swear I forcefully regurgitated this story out of nowhere about two brothers going to see their aunt in rural USA after the death of their mother. They road in a dilapidating old blue truck. It focused on the narrative of the older brother, who wondered and thought often of his absent father. I had four pages written, and it could only be five so I bullshitted this terrible ending. A good friend of mine who sat behind me in class, read it. He told me he loved the beginning and hated the end. I had predicted that kind of answer. He suggested I submit that story, (I didn’t have much of a choice) but make it a long novel.

Sometime in December of my senior year (the project was due in May 2007) I sat in my sex ed class and just–wrote. I drafted and drafted, changed things around, but never got a push that made anything go anywhere. That summer, I read two lovely novels: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges and Empire Falls by Richard Russo. The former influenced me far heavier than the latter, but they both provided the artistic fuel that propelled my book to its first full draft. I was eighteen. It was October of my first semester of freshman year in college. It was about 50G words. I wrote another full draft over winter break that stretched maybe 55 G. By mid-June, came number 3. It was 60 G. The summer following, I just wrote shit. I don’t mean shit to be something bad, just shit. Stuff. I have an entire word document consisting of 55,525 words of stuff. February 2010 came take four. Two months later, I’m at 32 G.

It was called something else the first 3 drafts, but I think I’m calling it Fast Car now, with all respects to Tracy Chapman.

Why the hell do I write so much? It’s more than just liking it–I couldn’t live if I didn’t write. It’s therapeutic. I find more of myself everyday. It’s heavenly. I can’t even describe it. I just do it. It’s me.