Monday, April 18, 2011

Resolutions and Humor

"Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place."

- Mark Twain

In Stina Lindenblatt's “Cool Links Friday”, she shared humor links. I commented on her post:

I'm doing a challenge to infuse humor in my writing and read humorous books this month, so I'm going to check out those links. Thanks!

She asked me if I was going to write about humor.

Hmm, good idea for a blog post….

Many bloggers have some version of a New Year’s resolution post. Ann Ormond Fennel blogged about literary resolutions for 2011 site Literary Resolutions for 2011.

I thought, I may not exercise regularly or eat sensibly, but I’d do 12 literary resolutions. So I sent a request to some bloggers to join me. I started with 5 other participants, but as of April, I think it might be down to Len Lambert and me.

Here’s the short version of the literary challenges:

January: Read a classic that has always been on your list.

February: Write for at least 15 minutes every day.

March: Attend at least two author readings. After hearing from the author, read the book.

April: Find some of the best humor writing and see what makes you laugh out loud. Then, give yourself a humor writing assignment.

May: Spend the month rereading your old work. Invite one piece back into your life for revisions, and a second chance.

June: Get an anthology of poetry and read the same poem twice every day—once in the morning, and once at night.

July: Spend two hours a week working on one long piece.

August: Reread your favorite book from childhood. Why did that book make such an impression on you?

September: Submit to your dream of being a writer. Submit your work to a contest, a local newspaper, a literary journal.

October: Read a best-selling mystery. What can you learn from a well-paced page-turner?

November: Jump on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon and try to write a novel in a month.

December: Buy books, give books, talk about books, and spread your love of literature throughout the holidays.

"In one painless year, you’ve become an active participant in the literary community. You’ve read a classic, you’ve created new work, and you’ve heard new work, you’ve supported authors and not once were you encouraged to get more exercise or cut back on sweets and alcohol."

Here’s how I’ve done so far:

January, I read Pride and Prejudice. A few times, I wished I hadn’t chosen a Victorian classic, but I persevered. February, I started off strong, but then faltered. During February break, I made up with big bouts of writing. I learned I probably won’t ever write for fifteen minutes a day. March, the right writers weren’t speaking by me (though I did see Alice Hoffman in January). So I found interviews on-line for two books I planned to read.

April is humor month.

I read Gossip from the Girls' Room: A Blogtastic Novel by Rose Cooper. What a humorous voice. But I didn’t read it in April so it didn’t count. No matter, I would read Hex Hall. I’d heard it was funny. It was! Now I have to read the sequel, Demonglass.

When I write, I always try to infuse humor into the manuscripts, so this one I have down. Probably. The protagonist’s friend is over the top at times. And I found ways to add humor at my protagonist’s naivety in flashbacks of her childhood.

No matter what the genre (except humor), writers can write the heavy stuff. Writers can make readers think. But as writers and readers, we also need to laugh. Life is hard enough. So, of all the literary challenges, this is my favorite one.

I’ll skip NaNoWriMo, but I plan to do the rest of the challenges. And I may try this (or another version of it) next year. I’ve learned a lot about my writing self. As writers, we often just plug away with the same old, same old. Sometimes we need a challenge.

No physical exercise required.

“A laugh is a surprise. And all humor is physical. I was always athletic, so that came naturally to me.”

- Chevy Chase


Would you try a literary resolution challenge?

Do you infuse humor in your writing?


  1. Lately, I've been using humor, but it's been difficult with the seriousness of the novels situation. I enjoy using humor, though.

  2. Ha! If I went to a book reading, it would be in French and they'd probably read too fast! But yay for you for setting some writerly goals and, more or less, sticking to them. As for humor- I can't write w/o it!

  3. I love what you've set up for yourself. In fact I'm so intrigued by your journey that I think I'm going to sit down this evening and plan one out for myself!!!

    I just picked up thrillers and mystery books this weekend because I'd like to give myself that extra edge and step outside the comfort of my reading box!

  4. That does sounds pretty intense!
    Some of the best humor makes you think too! : j

  5. I could never write for 15 minutes a day. Just not my style. But this idea of 12 monthly resolutions is really cool! Thanks for the update!

  6. You have really set some good goals for yourself. It is always good to set goals for ourselves, no matter how old you are.
    Happy Writing!

  7. I love the concept of 12 monthly literary resolutions. Brilliant. Some of them I do already, but I love the concept of finding new goals to focus on each month to stretch ourselves and support the writing community.

    As for humor, well, I cant write without infusing humor. I can find the humor in even the worst situations. Sometimes laughing and crying are incestuous.

    Delightful post, Theresa. :)

    Also, I received P in the mail late last week. Thank you. It's in perfect condition. I look forward to reading and reviewing it soon.

    Thanks for being you.

  8. I love your challenges for the year and how you've gone about meeting them!! Glad to hear that you are truly enjoying the humour challenge! I find humour very difficult to write. I tend to fall back on "silly observations of life situations" - that to me may raise a tiny upwards movement at the corners of my mouth but that's it! LOL!!!!

    Take care

  9. I love the concept of the challenge, Theresa! I'd love to set myself challenges, but I think I have enough to contend with at the moment.

  10. I love this list; I think it's great. Have you heard of Barnes and Noble Meet the Writers podcasts? The podcasts are free and you can listen to them on iTunes; the interviewer is wonderful and he's interviewed lots of great authors, including Jhumpa Lahiri, David Sedaris, and Ken Follett (I wish I had that interviewer's job). Most of the writers talk about their writing process and their experiences getting published, so even if you can't go to a reading you can still get new insight from the authors.

  11. i would love to do a literary challenge, but i have no time.
    And i can't help humor, tho some may think it a bit dry...
    you're doing a great job!

  12. ps - I'm subbing for 6th grade math today (just happens to be my son's class =)

  13. They are great resolutions, Theresa, I think I have managed quite a few of them.
    I love humour in writing, black, dry or plain laugh out loud and what a great quote from Mark Twain.
    My childhood classic read was Wuthering Heights - swoon!! 'I am Heathcliff', still had the same affect on me as it did first time.

  14. Wow! Those are some great goals.

    For some novels, I love infusing my writing with humor--or at least attempting to do it, anyway. :P

  15. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites. (Love Jane Austin. Have read all of her complete novels.)

    I try for humor in my writing, but I don't think I always get there. I love humor, though. It's so much fun to laugh at something I'm reading and have others look at me with that question in their eyes. (She's reading. What can be so funny?)

  16. Oh No Theresa, I'm still in. I have read one and have another on the bedside. A-Z hasn't sidetracked me from the resolutions.

  17. I'm impressed you are going to try humor. I am so not funny. You should try Hex Hall. It's good.

  18. I leave the humor to my blog posts and hope people understand it!! Everytime I think I wrote something hilarious in my ms, a month or so later I read and think "huh?"

  19. I love your 12 month challenge! I do hope you enjoyed P & P. I read some good tips on humor in the Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass and just today, in fact, no kidding, wrote on my revision to-do list: add one hyperbole to each chapter. My book needs a little dash of humor!

  20. You MUST read Demonglass. I just finished it recently. LOVED it.

    I love the idea of a literary challenge!! Why didn't I think of that? :-)

    And yes, the books that I have pubbed now are romantic comedies. So I do love humor!!

  21. @ J.L. Jackson, it's good that you're trying even if the content is serious. Most novels that are dark that I can think of, have some humor to lighten things up.

    @ Her highness, Samantha Vérant, fast French would be a problem for me since I only know about five words!

    From reading your blog, I can tell you're big on humor.

    @ Jen, if you plan something, let me know. I think I'd do this again.

    It's good to read outside our genres. Though I mostly stick to YA, I try to squeeze in other genres.

    @ Alesa, the best humor does make us think. And the best books have humor in them, in my opinion.

    @ Sarah, writing for 15 minutes definitely doesn't work for me. When I sit to write, it's gotta be for a long time! I can't finish a scene in 15 minutes, so I just wind up rereading what I did the next day. It felt to hodge-podge.

    @ Choices, while I'm not a New Year's resolutions kind of gal, I do like goals.

    Happy writing to you!

    @ Lola, stretching myself and supporting the writing community is why I did it.

    "Sometimes laughing and crying are incestuous." Excellent!

    Enjoy Possession! I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

  22. Oh I love this! What a great idea! Can I hop on the bandwagon late? I think I might!

  23. @ Old Kitty, your blog is filled with self-depricating humor. I aways get a good chuckle. So I can't imagine it doesn't make its way into your fiction. Hmm.

    @ Talli, a book recently out and a book coming out soon, and you're busy? I don't see why.

    Maybe I'll think of literary challenges for next year, and see if anyone is interested in signing up. It's easier to figure out how to communicate about them on Facebook than it would be on a blog. Since it's only April, I have plenty of time to think about it!

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, I never did hear of Barnes and Noble Meet the Writers podcasts. That would've been perfect for March! I love David Sedaris, so I'm sure he's a funny interviewee. I'll check 'em out.

    @ Tara, in real life, my humor is dry.

    Let me know how 6th-grade math with your son goes! I subbed my son's 5th-grade class and my daughter's gym class last year.

    @ Brigid, I love humor in books too. I've never read Wuthering Heights. Maybe that should be my next to-read classic!

    @ The Golden Eagle, I like you say attempted humor, because I guess that's what I do too. It's funny to me at least!

    @ Liz, there are laugh-out-loud novels and ones with serious content that surprise you with humorous bits. Easy to enjoy, harder to pull off.

  24. @ Ann, great to know you're still in! This month, only Len has commented back on the Facebook e-mail thread. I'll check in today.

    @ Natalie, I did read Hex Hall. Loved it! Demonglass is on its way.

    @ Erica, I enjoy the humor in your blog posts.

    As for my manuscript, I give it to beta readers and see if they put a note like "funny" next to what I think is humorous. If it works for them, I leave it.

    @ Margo, I did enjoy Pride and Prejudice, but it was slow going for the first 100 pages. Lots of tell and not show + I had to get used to Victorian-speak again.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. Good luck with your self-imposed humor challenge!

    @ Jennifer, Demonglass is on its way!

    I enjoy romantic comedies on screen and in books. Bridget Jones's Diary and The Hating Game were fun reads.

    @ Bess, are you on Facebook? If so, join in! I may create a challenge next year.

  25. You will definitely be a well-rounded writer at the end of the year! and I always try and infuse humor into my writing at some level. Lately, I've been trying to read books I might not choose to read. And some I've ended up loving and learning from.

  26. Hi Theresa .. what a good way of learning and appreciating many of the mediums - and exactly as you say an excellent coverage ..

    I'd like to do it - perhaps next year .. even though I'm not writing a book - I'm sure I could wangle a way round it ..

    Sounds fun and so useful .. cheers Hilary

  27. I think I suck at writing humour. I don't know... I really love READING it in a book, so I try and incorporate it into my own work. I just don't know if it works or not!

  28. What a great challenge! I wish I could do humor and snark better! Demonglass is on my short list too!

  29. Ooh, I like all of those challenges, (except for Nano and I fully support you in your skipping of it ;)). You're doing a great job so far!

    I completely agree about needing humor--I can appreciate something serious, but I can't love it if it doesn't have some humor mixed in.

  30. I have to write with humor, but in my adventure novel there is less humor, because the two best friends are lost in the Blue Ridge Mountains. No too much call for humor while they're lost. ;-)

  31. I meant to say, " I can't do NANO. No way.

  32. I forgot to put my closing " This day has been like that all day long.

  33. Woo hoo! I'm doing well in this challenge, except for the part about listening to authors read from their novels. No one I want to hear read comes to my city.

    My WIP has a lot of humor (even though it isn't a humor novel), so I'm kicking major butt here. :D

  34. Humor is a tough one!

    Good luck with reaching your goals! :D

  35. Oh my gosh!!!! I've totally failed at this resolution :( In fact, I forgot about it!

    I'm glad to see you've kept at it, though. And my one resolution for the year was followthrough. Gah!

    Hopefully, this goal I've set for myself will be a giant followthrough.

    I do love the idea of a literary resolution challenge. Writing humor can be tricky. And difficult. In person, I can make you laugh. Getting it on a challenge.

  36. too hilarious! Were you serious about thinking Hex Hall was supposed to be a humor novel? B/c THAT was funny~ :D <3

  37. I picked up Hex Hall at the library today - I can't wait to get started on it!

    I wish I were more humorous. Whenever I put something funny in a ms, I'm afraid it will fall flat, though when I'm reading a book, I think I'm pretty quick to laugh at even the small bits of humor.

  38. Last year, I resolved to read 20 Pulitzer Prize winning novels. I read a few (and they were wonderful), but then I just read whatever came my way. I love reading humor and infusing my own writing with it. I feel like I was just reading something that cracked me up. If I remember what it was, I'll let you know.

  39. Yeah, humor isn't always easy to write. I often find myself needing to decide whether a story is humorous or serious. If you have a serious story then a sudden joke in the middle of it will seem odd.

    Dry humor almost always works for me as a reader.

  40. @ Laura, it's definitely good to read different genres. While I mostly read YA, I've been squeezing in other books. It helps to get recommendations from other bloggers.

    @ Hilary, some of it is about reading rather than just writing. I'm surprised to hear you're not a writer since you write such interesting blog posts.

    @ Rachel, just like it's hard to be objective about our own writing, it's hard to be objective about our writing humor. Maybe show it to a critique buddy for some honest feedback.

    @ Christina, a snarky character is very fun to read.

    @ Nicki, thanks for the pass. NaNo would feel like cruel and unusual punishment.

    My favorite books always have a mix: Accidental Tourist, To Kill a Mockingbird, and so on. Maybe not Hunger Games. Not much funny there.

    @ Robyn, not every book calls for it. It depends on content and the writing style of the writer. Being lost isn't too funny.

    Glad to know a few of us won't be participating in NaNo in November. I'm going to have to find an alternate challenge. Maybe a more realistic word count. But if I'm in an editing phase, that would be a pain. Maybe it will be either/or.

    @ Stina, You Tube and Amazon Author pages were great places for me to find interviews. Those count! And Neurotic Workaholic says NPR has a bunch on-line too.

    Glad you've been participating/kicking butt without knowing it! If you want to join in officially, e-mail me on Facebook.

    @ lbdiamond, humor is tough. Thanks!

    @ The Words Crafter, don't worry about it. I invited about 12 on FB, but only 6 kept up. Then another stopped e-mailing. Now I'm down to 5. If you want to jump back in, e-mail me on FB. But I think you have a lot going on right now.

    @ LTM, Hex Hall has paranormal and mystery, but the MC's voice has plenty of humor. Seeing the lighter side is funny too. Like the book Hoot. The MC gets beaten up and it's still funny.

    @ Susan, let me know what you think of Hex Hall. I appreciate small bits of humor too. Show it to your critique buddies and ask for honest feedback. Also, if your manuscript makes you chuckle when you do edits, I'm sure you've done it right.

    @ Missed Periods, I appreciate reading books that make me laugh, especially because I know how hard it is to pull off.

    Your blog is funny so I'd believe you infuse that humor into other writing too.

    @ LR, if a book isn't too serious, I think humor at the right times is great. Life is like that, right?

    I love dry humor in real life and in books!

  41. I was just thinking about what a great idea the challenge sounded like. I might hop on the bandwagon come May, but with A-to-Z and the end of my semester, I'm hardly able to keep my head above water. :(

    I'm not good at infusing humor in my work. Not really. I should work on it a bit more. Maybe I can combine April with August :)

    Good luck with the humor!

    East for Green Eyes

  42. What a great list of literary challenges! I like it! And humor is great to have in a story--nice to read a humorous book, especially when reading more "dark" novels. What's interesting is when there's humor in a more serious or dark-toned novel. Hard to do, but effective! The humor offsets the seriousness nicely, sometimes. :)

  43. I like your challenges!
    I've been using a little humor in my current WIP. I never had before, and I have to's kind of liberating to let that side of me out on the page.

  44. Why didn't i hear of this literary challenge sooner? This is great! Congratulations on all your achievements so far! I'm sure more are on the way.

  45. Those are some great challenges, and specific too, ones that would strengthen a person in both reading and writing.

  46. Hi Theresa. I love humour and I think even the most serious story can be lifted with a bit of humour in the right place.

    Great that you're persevering with the literary challenge. I challenge myself enough and do many of those things, even NaNo!

    I take it you weren't a great fan of Price and Prejudice. I'm currently doing a Byronic Hero on L'Aussie Writing, comparing Darcy, Rochester etc to Edward Cullen. Interesting.


    L'Aussie Travel A-Z Challenge

  47. Oh! I missed this challenge! I'd love to play too. And I've even done half of April's - I've read a collection of PG Wodehouse short stories. Hmm, now I have to write something humourous? Oh dear...

  48. I'm finishing up a chapter book that I've been working on for a while. I've had a couple people review it. It made Lenny laugh out loud in one spot. :) So I guess I'm using some humor in my writing.

  49. that literary challenge sounds great. You seem to be doing well with it too.

    I don't write funny stories but I do try to inject a little humour here n there to lighten the mood.

  50. Good luck with your resolutions/goals. I guess one of mine is to get at least one piece of fiction published this year. :O)

  51. @ Rosie C, A to Z seems to be frazzling many bloggers. If you're interested, E-mail me on Facebook because that's where I set it up. Maybe next year I'll do something through the blog. Just have to figure out how.

    I'm surprised you struggle putting humor in your work because you have a strong, humorous voice when blogging and e-mailing.

    Yeah, combine April with August!

    @ Carol, I agree. It's hard to read hundreds of pages that are only somber. And I think if art is going to reflect life, we need a little humor.

    @ Lydia K, how cool you're trying to add humor. It's good to stretch ourselves as writers. And as people.

    @ Nutschell, I did this as a Facebook notebook page, and sent it to a dozen friends. I didn't try to do it on the blog. But now I see that it could be a good challenge here.

    Maybe I'll make it a blogfest that people can sign up for. People wouldn't have to post on their own blogs, but 3 times I could post on it, and peopel could comment to start, halfway through, and at the end of the month. We can see what worked and what didn't.

    @ Medeia, I haven't read a traditional mystery in a long time. The challenges are definitely challenging me as a writer and reader!

    @ L'Aussie, I'm impressed with all the people who try NaNo, especially the ones who succeed. Too intense for me!

    I did like Pride and Prejudice. It's just slow for the fist 100 pages compared with what's published now. But don't ask me my opinion about Edward and friends or I may rant.

    @ Deniz, are we Facebook friends? If so, jump on the challenge there by sending me an e-mail on FB. I think I'll do this challenge on the blog next year. You can see my note to Nutschell in this comments section for details.

    @ Sharon, from reading your query, I cal tell you have some humor in your book. The MC has a great voice.

    @ Lynda, that's what I do too. My stories have a dark aspect, but I like to lighten things up here and there or have a wry look at things, just like in real life.

    @ Madeleine, that's an excellent goal! Are you submitting short stories? Good luck!

  52. I feel like I can't be funny on purpose, but if I just try to write naturally, funny stuff often just kinda happens.

    I'm starting up a 'Critiquing and Supportive Crusaders' program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form supportive critiquing circles. If you're interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!