From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Really Great Place for Getting Ideas

Okay. So. Life. It's a crazy, crazy thing, and I miss blogging more frequently. But things are going up and up, and should be calming down in the next few weeks.

For now I want to show you guys this amazing thing I found. Its like, seriously amazing. I think some people naturally have ideas floating around all the time while others (me) take a while of struggling to develop the inklings and flashes. So there's this website that basically just plays random movie trailers non-stop. Obviously I found it when trying to pick a movie to watch, which I am also terrible at, but after a while of clicking through trailers I thought, this is actually really creatively inspiring, and could be a fantastic way to do some idea gathering/brainstorming.

So here it is. WhatMovieShouldIWatchTonight.com.

And also, here is a song that is just awesome.


Have a good one everybody!

Sarah Allen

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Don't Do This Writing Life All On Your Own

I feel like I'm about to sound like a children's show host, but here goes. I've learned a very important lesson lately about asking for help.

Things are just hard sometimes, in and outside of our writing lives. (Whether these two lives are actually separate things or not is arguable, but that's another post.) The thing is, I really think these hard times show us exactly why there are other people on this earth--to help and be helped. There's no reason for anyone to face hard things on their own, especially when a little help from someone else will make a big difference. People say writing is a solitary endeavor, and in many ways it is, but really I think the barriers to success shrink in direct proportion to our willingness to ask other people for help.

Let fellow writers sympathize creatively. Yeah its up to you to put words on the page, but there are so many out there who relate to how hard that can be. They know the struggle, and can sympathize. They may even be able to give you tips and life-alteringly great advice.

Let businessy people help you with businessy things. My poor dad...if he got paid as my marketing consultant/legal adviser/financial analyst/therapist he would be a rich man. The business side of writing has so many twists and turns. Get advice from the people around you who know more than you do about these things. As writers we can use and apply advice from lawyers, marketers, agents, psychologists, all types of people.

Let smart readers read for you. I recently swallowed my pride enough to ask one of my bloggy mates to read my query for me. I also asked one of my former professors to read my novel. Not easy for me to do, but can I just tell you how much of a difference they made? A BIG DIFFERENCE. These are some smart, incredibly generous people and now my query shines like Patrick Stewart's head. SO MUCH BETTER than it was before.

Let people help you in messy life stuffs. Sometimes you just need to hire a babysitter or a house cleaning service or lawn care service or whatever, so you can get writing stuff done. Let people help you take care of those things that are getting in the way.

In other words, look at what's overwhelming you and figure out how some help can lighten the load. I'm learning to not be ashamed of this. Because we all go through phases. It's like leap-frog: sometimes we're giving people the boost, sometimes we need the boost ourselves. There's absolutely room enough for all of us to have success, and we'll get there so much faster and better by helping each other out. Let people do that for you. Maybe right now you (I) need peoples help quite a lot, but that means that once I've got my feet on solid ground I can turn around and pull someone else up with me.

Sarah Allen

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My biggest talent is being excited about things.

With the crazy first couple weeks of school behind me, I've come to realize something about myself. Many somethings, really, but in particular I've been realizing how very unremarkable I am. I don't mean this in a whiny way, I mean this in a look-how-much-I-still-have-to-learn kind of way.

My college friends are so much better at editing and analyzing things than I am. When we watch movies or talk about books I feel that I am often taking their ideas and interests as my own. I don't know much of anything about business or government or things like that.

There is one thing I am really good at. I am good at getting excited about things. I bought all eleven seasons of Frasier as a college freshman and watched them in one semester. I tried to explain it and show it to my roommates, but it wasn't their thing. Instead they introduced me to the incredible world of Star Trek and Doctor Who and Sherlock (OH MY WORD SHERLOCK). Lately, it's been the Marvel world and the beauty that is Tom Hiddleston.

From what I'm seeing, I think it's becoming more acceptable to be inordinately excited about things, maybe thanks to things like YouTube and Tumblr. There's a whole dialect springing up around the feeling you get when something is so there and so important and magical and beautiful and makes you feel like your whole insides are boiling so they're going to crack your ribs apart (BENEDICT'S CHEEKBONES WHAT IS AIR).

To be honest here, that feeling is one of the biggest proofs to me that there is something more than this world. Like our good friend C.S. Lewis said, "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." I think when we feel like we're going to explode of THIS THINGNESS maybe we're getting a glimpse into the bigness that's really out there, the bigness we're made for and are meant to experience one day.

If you're thinking, is she really using Benedict Cumberbatch's cheeks as evidence of God's existence? Uh...yes, yes I am, a little bit. Also Meryl Streep and Colin Firth's smile and the Bellagio fountains and Stephen Sondheim and Wallace Stegner and Vincent Van Gogh and Pixar and the white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory and Fantasmic at Disneyland and Mia Michael's choreography and the Eiffel Tower and the cavalier king Charles spaniel and lightning storms and long, hard kisses and this song.


I wish I had more of the analytical, explaining talent. Then I could maybe really communicate to people this feeling, or even explain it better to myself. I know we all experience this kind of thing from time to time, and I'm glad. I think it's one of those things that truly connect us as souls, that truly gives us friendship. But I'm still working on being a good teacher and explainer and analyzer of all these things, rather than just a student and sponge of awesomeness. We're all just doing our best to add to the awesome, right?

Maybe you don't see this feeling as spiritually or important as I do, and that's okay. But it's like the TARDIS says. We humans, we're bigger on the inside.

Sarah Allen

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Idea Brainstorming with the Pyramid of Abstraction

Some days we have ideas buzzing around in our mind--too many to even remotely keep track of. Other days our brain feels like a dry sponge and we can't get anything out of it no matter how hard we try. Here's a little something that might help.

Okay. So here we have the Pyramid of Abstraction. This represents the structure our writing should take. On the bottom, at the base, we have a solid foundation of the most concrete, specific details we can possibly get. That is where the rubber meets the road. That is where our readers relate to what we are saying, and how they understand. We can talk about abstract ideas and themes but we need to build on this concrete foundation first if we want to be understood, before we can get to--wait for it--the point. (Anyone? Anyone?)

Anyway. So this is not really new, right? We all know a solid foundation of full and rich detail is what makes a good piece of writing. Our readers need to be pulled in to our world in order to really relate to and understand our larger, more abstract ideas. But we can take this principle and flip it on its head and use it as a fantastic brainstorming device.

Let's do an example. Let's pick some abstract concept or word. How about 'Beauty.' Pretty abstract right? Okay, let's get a little more specific. How about 'Angelic.' That's better. So what's angelic? How about we take it literally and talk about a statue of an angel. In a garden in a manor house in Spain. It's being transferred over from the workshop of the sculptor, a middle aged man whose wife just left him. His son is a sculptor too is in school in the States and is about to come home for Christmas break.

See what we did there? We took an abstract concept and flipped it into a story. What if we'd picked a different word for beauty. How about 'Graceful.' So then we've got a ballerina. She's from Kentucky but has worked for a lead ballerina role her whole life. Her mom was a prima ballerina and she has always felt like she's in that shadow. Now she's about to have the audition of her life, but one of the other girls auditioning is the daughter of the director.

Totally different story from the same word, 'Beauty.' It can work with any abstract idea: anger, happiness, sadness, shame. Try it out next time you're stuck. See what you can come up with.

Sarah Allen
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