"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thought for the Day
"The best moments in reading are when you come across something- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things--that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours."
The History Boys

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Quick Take: pardon my wee rant
Every time I run across the word "locks" on the page in a manuscript or published work  I pause. In my life I've never used locks to describe my hair or another person's hair. Neither have I ever heard the word spoken by a real person in a real conversation. It's a dated, distracting, and pretentious word. Color it purple. And don't get me started on tresses. Hair is a fine word. It is adequate, convenient and concrete. Sometimes language needs to be unadorned.

Can I hear an amen?

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."  Nora Ephron From Wellesley Commencement address, 1996
"Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”~ Nora Ephron

Monday, June 25, 2012

Here's a writing prompt for you: Write about the aftermath of an event. Some scenes in fiction or memoir require aftermath or sequel scenes, especially when trauma or emotional blistering have happened. And aftermaths are often when decisions are made, alliances forged, goals chosen.

I'm thinking about this today especially because I just babysat my three granddaughters for the past five days and nights while their parents were in Costa Rica enjoying a much-deserved vacation. This morning it feels as quiet as ghost town here--toys still stacked in the family room, the high chair not yet tucked away in the garage, posies made by Paige adorning tabletops.

My youngest granddaughter, Georgia, just turned one, so much of our attention was focused on keeping her content. She's a child who is ready to explore and perhaps conquer the world. So we visited parks and spent time in the back yard, ate a picnic at another park where we fed ducks, and visited an indoor play ground at the local mall.

This last excursion was more difficult than thrilling since she was the youngest  in the midst of the little kid world and my exhortations of "Watch out for the baby" were useless. So I was constantly springing into action to rescue and supervise and pull her down the tree slide. She could climb the four steps to the top, but then was happy to just sit there, amazed, as the line of kids behind her formed. And did I mention that a kid train was circling the area, a whistle shrilling, the noise a cacophony that was sort of an inverse of the ocean?

Their parents returned home late last night, weary from plane travel, but still stunned at how relaxing it had been to be away, with room service and free time and new vistas. This morning my house is so still it's eerie without the giggles and squabbles and racing up and down the stairs, the warm baby pressed against me.No more bottles and M&Ms and juice cups.
An aftermath.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quick Take: Subtext

What is left unsaid is often more potent than what is expressed, and subtext can also create layers of tension, symbolism, and meaning in any story or scene. In fact, subtext is perhaps your most useful tool for subtlety. Subtext is the meaning behind the words, the emotions within the conversation. Just like in real life a character should rarely say what he or she really means, instead it should be subtly hidden, perhaps in actions or evasions.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thought for the Day

"At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, training himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance--that is to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is to be--curiosity--to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does, and if you have that, then I don't think the talent makes much difference, whether you've got it or not. " - William Faulkner

Monday, June 18, 2012

Beware of self-indulgence. The romance surrounding the writing profession carries several myths: that one must suffer in order to be creative; that one must be cantankerous and objectionable in order to be bright; that ego is paramount over skill; that one can rise to a level from which one can tell the reader to go to hell. These myths, if believed, can ruin you.
If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego.
- David Brin

Monday, June 11, 2012

I'm on live radio. Now. 
8 am PT, All Women's Radio
iving the Writing Life
In Case You Missed It
a small round up of stories and tidbits from the Net, since it moves at lightening speed and we don't...

10 Musical Works Inspired by Ray Bradbury at the LA Times blog
"It's common knowledge that science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who died Tuesday at age 91, was an inspiration to writers and filmmakers, both of whom used his remarkable ideas as rocket boosters to propel their imaginations. Less obvious, but no less numerous, are the musicians who've drawn on Bradbury's work to fuel songs and concept albums. Like the space travelers invited to play "white xylophones" -- the ribcages of dead Martians -- during "The Martian Chronicles," musicians can't resist cosmic inspiration."

One of the most thought-provoking pieces I've read on self-publishing was at Indie Reader: How Amazon Saved My Life written by novelist  Jessica Park. She writes:
"I am an author.

I still can’t get used to that title, but I suppose after having written seven books–five of them traditionally published–that’s what you’d call me.  The funny thing is that I feel more like a real author now that I self-publish than when I had the (supposed) support of a publisher behind me.

How did I end up on my own?  It began when I couldn’t get my first YA book, Relatively Famous, published, despite getting stellar feedback from editors and nearly selling the film rights to a teen pop star. I was at a loss for what to do. I couldn’t keep writing books without selling them. What if the next thing I wrote flopped? I took a risk, in many ways, and wrote Flat-Out Love. It was the first book that completely came from my heart, and it was a book that ignored all the industry rules. I knew in the back of my head that I could self-publish it, but at the time it seemed like that would have been an admission of defeat."

Words Per Minute from the New York Times  Sunday Book Review about the pace of writing and the narrative physics of novels. Find the piece here.
Graham Swift begins:
"I share my name with an aerobatic bird that can whiz across a whole summer sky in seconds. A swift is so equipped for speed that it can scarcely cope with being stationary. I once came across an unlucky young specimen that had somehow grounded itself on a lawn and, with its minuscule legs and long encumbering wings, couldn’t regain the air. I lifted it on the perch of my finger and it was gone in a flash.

But I am a novelist, so I also know about slowness. Novels, in my experience, are slow in coming, and once I’ve begun them I know I have years rather than months of work ahead of me. This doesn’t worry me. I like the slow pace of novel writing, the feeling that I have employment for a long period. I don’t crave the quick result that would only leave me with the problem of what to do next." (By the way, I heartily  recommend his book Last Orders. )

And a petition to save the University of Missouri Press. You can sign here. It's been around for 54 years. We need our university presses. Every one of them.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart
In science there is a dictum: don't add an experiment to an experiment. Don't make things unnecessarily complicated. In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don't ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story. ~ Ben Bova

Friday, June 08, 2012

Ray Bradury
1920  - 2012

A lot is being said about Ray Bradbury since his death this week. About  his innovations and prolific career, The Martian Chronicles and Farenheit 451.  After all, his influence is huge and spread wide.
Accounts are even reporting that he was a descendent of  Mary Bradbury who was hung as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s.

But I want to remind you about his lovely little book, Zen and the Art of Writing. In it he describes his origins and inspirations as a writer. In it we find the boy from Waukegan, Illinois who grew up before radio and television. In it his devotion and his love of writing is etched with simplicity and elegance. In it he reminded writers to hold on to their childhood memories and passions.

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Ray Bradbury

Here's an excerpt: “We never sit anything out.
We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A reminder for writers creating bad guys

A fox is a wolf who sends flowers.
Ruth Weston

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Still accepting registrations for Summer in Words
Writing Conference through June 12th.

Join us.
Thought for the Day

"Open a book this minute and start reading. Don't move until you've reached page fifty. Until you've buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve." ~ Carol Shields

Monday, June 04, 2012

Quick Take:
"Drummers are my style guide. I always want to think about rhythm. If you listen to a drum solo that repeats the same beat, it's dull. You want something that surprises you, with some variation, snappy ending. Consciously try to the put the most important word of a sentence at the end--it's a punch word, like a punch line." ~Jon Pareles

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Quick Take:
Rising action means that as your story moves along the conflict escalates, motivations deepen, and challenges become more dangerous or taxing. Most scenes also need to rise to a climax or point of explosion, capitulation, negotiation, or inner turmoil. This means as the characters' emotions rise, then so do the readers. One way to achieve this  is to ask yourself what is the worst or most surprising outcome that you can write. Then determine if it will fit in at this point in the story.  Great examples of how scenes escalate to a fever pitch are found in the new Hatfield and McCoys series on the History Channel. 

Thought for the Day
 “Character is too deep to catch in a single storyline. What really moves us - what makes the great stories, and there aren't so many of them - is the inevitability of character. The destiny. All we see is the arc. We'll never penetrate the secrets of the living, let alone the dead. I've spent my whole life trying to understand people, and all I've learned is that the deeper we look, the greater the mystery. At the core, each person is unknowable. Maybe that's the soul? I have to respect that. The mystery, in fact, is what I've loved the most, in people and in stories as well.” ~  Sandra Scofield, Plain Seeing: A Novel

In Case You Missed It
Where I add links to online advice and tidbits that are easy to miss.
With the warmer weather my favorite way to start the day is down in the den with the patio door open so I can hear the twitters and sounds of the birds, watch them come to the feeders. And last night, after hours of clouds towering overhead, a storm broke out and I fell asleep with the window open to the luxuriant tune of rainfall. Hope the sounds in your part of the world inspire.

Kelly James Enger will be critiquing query letters this week over at her Dollars and Deadlines site. 

Jane Friedman strikes again with Facebook Strategies for Authors. As always, such good advice.

The Amazon Effect as told by The Nation. Amazon has been controversial since it's inception. Here's why and what writers need to know.  Steve Wasserman, former editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review is the writer.

6 Ways To Never Run Out of Ideas by guest blogger Ed Cyweski Practical. Doable. Here is the link

Friday, June 01, 2012

Quick Take:
Choose wisely, especially when writing dialogue scenes. Most dialogue is a power struggle or somehow under laid with tension.  Does one of the character's emotions change or escalate during the dialogue exchange? Is there a capitulation, explanation, or challenge?

Be wary of chronicling every sigh, breath and heartbeat. At the same time, dialogue or scenes without emotional cues are empty.