Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not Much About Writing

Not much on writing this time around I'm afraid, because, well, I admit it, I took a vacation. Not a very long vacation, but one of those nonetheless.

I highly recommend it. Everyone should do it in some fashion, even writers. It helps recharge the batteries. I ran away to LA; Malibu, Santa Monica, Pointe Dume, Farmer's Market Dining and Disneyland! Spent time with people I love and played like a kid.

It doesn't really matter what we do when we take a break, whether we spend very little or big bucks, it's the break that matters.

It was tempting to check my email or go online briefly, and I could have, but I chose not to. No computers, keyboards, facebook or twitter. Just some quiet and fun time. Even kept my cell phone off - checking only for emergency messages and there were none. We really can live without computers you know, we've just convinced ourselves we can't. Admittedly few of us would want to go back, to give up computers altogether, but a break is a very good thing.

Maybe you should take one too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Writers' Show, Don't Tell Admonition

Okay, that's it, I've heard it enough. "Show, don't Tell."

That phrase leaps out at me from every writer's corner - articles, blog posts, writers' sites, everywhere. It's like somebody got a needle stuck somewhere. There are more parts, angles and nuances to writing than simply "show, don't tell." What's the matter with everyone?

Here's the thing, there's real value in omniscient narration - some exposition. It fills in background, gives color, infuses life when used properly.

The writer is god when writing a story. He or she has to take many different stances throughout the creation. The writer, when 'telling' whispers directly into the reader's ear, or shouts.

If there's something that needs to be shown, that explodes off the page, then SHOW it, let your reader actually see it happen. Same with dialog. If the words you put into your characters mouths sizzle and pop, if they really have something to say, let your reader hear it, but don't put them in the position where they have to explain everything that happens because you, as the writer, are trying to avoid 'telling.'

On to stage two. Don't be afraid to describe things, to tell your reader with all five senses in gear about a landscape, the smells of a forest, what a character is thinking about or the underlying motivation in your tale. It's sort of like weaving, choosing the right thread for the right situation.

And don't forget to cut things you don't need to show your reader - a number of writers have commented on this, saying you need to leave out the parts the readers don't want to read. If your heroine is at her office getting ready to go to lunch your readers don't need to see her shut down her computer, put her pen down, close her files, stand up from her chair, walk across the office, head for the street, wave down a cab, climb in....well you get it. Just cut from her office and turning off the computer to her perhaps fidgiting at a restaurant table waiting for someone to join her.

The real trick is to vary the pace, to shake things up, to keep your readers interested.

So remember you need to do both - show and tell. Just like in kindergarten class all those years ago.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Writing With a Tease

Ah, yes, it's that kind of day here - unusual in the Southwest. We have storm clouds over the mountains and rain just sort of hanging in that dark sky. It wants to rain Sooooo bad, but it hangs there in the air, moist, rich, full of promise, and yet a tease. Will it rain, will water actually fall from the skies? Beats me. It does spit occasionally.

And that's how my writing, and yours, should be. A promise, holding back, a tease. After we all kill the adverbs and cull the adjectives what's left should be solid story, gripping, inviting the reader in, but coquettish, a tease. Dialog needs to be crisp and true to each character. A farmer doesn't speak the way a lawyer does, a southern gentleman doesn't speak the same way as a New Yorker. Create your dialog the way these people speak but remember, a little goes a long way. Don't write with hundreds of shortened words, accent marks and drawn out 'ooooooo-s'. Read a favorite book and really focus in on the dialog, how did that writer get the differences across?

Description? That's another writer's problem. Adjectives - which should be a writer's friend are too often not. Frequently they're simply scattered all over the page like a crowd gone wild. Sometimes I wonder if a writer is simply attempting to up a word count.

Be selective and minimalist. And avoid alliteration unless you're really doing it on purpose.

Don't be guilty of throwing adjectives at your readers in pairs, triplets, or even worse. If your creative writing teacher or coach encouraged the use of many adjectives, well, forget it. It doesn't have to be a "frigid morning in the early fall", it can simply be a "crisp fall morning". A "rutted dirt road" doesn't have to be the "long, winding, dusty, bumpy, dirt road." Think about the writing. What makes it have power? What grabs the readers' attention and holds it? Think of the extra descriptions in your writing as spices in the soup. If anything overwhelms the soup you've used too much of it.

Meanwhile I'll contemplate my dark and overcast sky and see what I can come up with.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday's Writer's Schitzophrenic Blues

Well, it's Monday and I'm definitely of two minds. I picked up a bug over the weekend and don't feel like doing much ---

On the other hand, I feel like dancing. Go figure. Well, whatever my state, here're my thoughts.

It occurred to me over the weekend that many writers try to think of their project as one whole big enchilada (forgive the comparison but I live in the southwest).

Truth be told, it's usually best to think in small increments. Some can pull off the "whole enchilada" thing, but not a whole lot. An entire book can slip away from you if you lose energy in the middle while trying to keep your eye on the entire prize.

You can accomplish huge things in very small amounts of time. Novels have been written during lunch hours while holding down full time jobs. It's a little trick. Committing to short bursts of time, five, ten or fifteen minutes at a shot - not the many hours it takes to complete a book. And the good news is if you can trick yourself into writing even those few minutes, frequently a larger flow will follow.

So, if you find you're always putting off writing, always have a reason why you can't do it NOW, try the short term commitment, devise one that's right for you and carry through. You'll be amazed how much you an accomplish.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Writer's Holiday

Well, I didn't write on Saturday, Sunday, or today, Monday, the official 'Labor Day Weekend'. It's rare I do such a thing, being an obsessive writer and all, but I and my'self' had another conversation early on in the weekend. I do that occasionally as evidenced by another earlier blog post.

So I began the labor day weekend with every intention of working - at least off and on, if not on an actual streak. Figured it would depend on how much of a roll I got on, if I was fortunate enough to have that happen.

Then, on Saturday, early in the morning the conversation began.

"All right, I said to my'self', lots to do, lots of time, ready to rock 'n roll."

"Ah...not so much," self replied. "It's a holiday weekend. Remember, husband has time off and we have stuff to do."

"Well, writing comes first."

"Most times, yes, not this weekend."

"Why not THIS weekend?"


"We make our own holidays."

"Yep, and this is one of them."

"But I hoped to get a whole lot accomplished this weekend."

"Anything that can't wait?" Self asked.

"Well, no...I have notes and my personal work schedule set up."

"Would a day or two matter?"

"ummm, no, I guess not. Only deadline is one I set myself."

"Then this is one time you need to power back a bit and give yourself - and your husband - a break."

"You've got a point," I said to my'self'. "Okay, so this is the opposite of the day I simply felt like playing hookey."

"Yep," this is a matter of priorities. Writing is important, it's actually imperative, but sometimes you need to give it a rest." My'self' invoked the voice of reason.

"Hmmm, okay, check email, maybe twitter, then I'm done."

"Good choice," My'self' confirmed.



Moral of the story? Writing is great, writing is hugely important to me, but unless I'm under the gun, unless I'm on deadline I have to find a balance to my life. That means power back once in a while. It's something every writer, everyone who works for him or herself, needs to think about and occaisonally take a deep breath.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Very Basic Tips for Writers

And I do mean exceedingly basic. Too many times writers are flailing all over the place to figure out what to do next or what they SHOULD be doing or maybe what they WANT to be doing. So here are a few down and dirty really, really basic tips to try to stay on track.

1. Apply seat of pants to chair and write (wow, this one really IS very basic)

2. If you're fortunate enough to be in the zone where you have an editor, don't fight with said editor. Think about suggestions (other than punctuation and/or spelling), sift through them, find the gems, be appreciative for the input. Here's the thing, editors aren't monsters put on earth to harass you and make life miserable - at least most of them aren't, and well the few that are, the heck with them. But try not to think of it as a contest or a war - think of it more as collaboration. Cooperate, but remember, the editors, though mostly decent folk tying to do a good job, aren't always right.

3. Brush up on your English, presuming you're writing English. For Pete's sake, how do you think you can write if you don't even know what rules you can break?

4. Be on the look out for a mentor.

5. Become a mentor as your writing improves.

6. Write, edit, rewrite, repeat.

7. Follow me on twitter for some great writer-friendly and helpful sites.

8. When you're not writing - read - a lot!

9. People watch (don't be too obvious about this) to get ideas for characters.

10. Nature watch for ideas (you can be as obvious about this as you want).

11. Never, never, never let someone tell you you can't do it.

No doubt I'll come up with more basics, but that's it for today.

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