"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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Writers Talking

I'm wondering if, like me, you love reading authors interviewed. I especially appreciate the history of the book they've written, hearing about obsessions and glimpses that started the story.

Here's an interview at Kirkus Reviews with Claudio Magris and Jessa Crispin of Bookslut. The link is here.  "When now you try not to discuss the political problem but to tell the story of how a man had lived in his or her experience of this problem, you must plunge in this abyss of disorder where the rational thread is already lost. Trying to find it without any coquetry with the disorder but remain with the disorder of the life. This great Italian writer La Capria has written the greatest novels of the 20th century are failed novels. He doesn’t mean that as a negative, but novels that must assume within themselves the necessity of shipwreck, the impossibility of representing a harmonious relationship between the individual and the disaster of the disorder of the world."

And here's a fascinating behind-the-scenes peep into the writing process of  Louise Penny, author of  A Beautiful Mystery at Jungle Red Writers   Penny is talking about music and writing and how she uses music as she plans her stories. Brilliant. Her mystery is set in a monastery where the monks take a vow of silence.
She says:  "Music seems to open a channel to come creative place I can’t normally get to.  At the same time, a piece of music can transport us to another place and time, and not just evoke that memory, but the emotion.  It can inspire great courage, and reduce us to tears.  I was fascinated by it – and all this led me to look into the very first western music – plain chant.  If music is a drug, then plain chant is uncut heroin for many."

Quick Take:

Villains are the chess masters of the fiction world.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Most people read fiction not so much for plot as for company.” – Josip Novakovich
Quick Take: Scenes
Scenes are the building blocks of storytelling, the places where readers participate as if in real time. We write in scenes because readers lean in to listen and worry.  Scenes always introduce change. Scenes begin with the protagonist's (antagonist's) goal and end with a goal. In between is the obstacle to that goal. Scenes begin with a certain emotional tone and end on another emotion that is the reverse of  the beginning emotion. That's it.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thought for the day:

"Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules; rebellious, unschooled writers break rules; an artist masters the form. " ~ Robert McKee

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quick Take:  Write for Potency

A problem that I notice most often when editing is that writers  fail to write for potency. The symptoms are weak or colorless verbs, cliches and trite expressions we've all heard before, and language that never soars. Good writing is visceral. One of the simplest cures is onomatopoeia --words with potency and  meaning in their sound. Think Good Night Moon and the old lady whispering hush.  Examples are: thrash, hammer, shush, kerplunk, simmer, plop, roar, whoosh, shimmer, clatter,  glimmer, moan, ramble, sizzle, gush, chime, toll, groan, simper,clank,  mush, droop, sprinkle, trill, chatter, babble, soothing, babble, blurt......

Here is a handy list for you. Sound creates meaning and emotion in the reader.

And in case you missed it, wordmeister Constance Hale talks about The Sound Of A Sentence   here.
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thought for the day:

"The fact is that we are living in a time when the decision to be an artist, to continue to create in spite of everything that's happening around us, IS a radical political act. This is, I feel, quite a dark time, potentially destructive to the best and most noble aspects of the human spirit. And that's precisely why it is terribly important for artists in all disciplines to continue to create, even when it feels like there's little market and little appreciation for our work. Just doing it, and making the difficult decision to continue to do it - to live creative lives that celebrate what life is and can be - is both defiant and affirming, and it's crucially important. People need to know that someone they know - a neighbor, a friend, a cousin - is committed to the arts. Young people particularly need to know this." ~ Beth Adams

Sunday, August 19, 2012

First grafs

Blessedly cooler air from the Pacific has swooshed into Portland. Not a moment too soon.
Your story --no matter what type--lives and dies on your first paragraph. Here's a resource via Media Bistro where you can hear and submit first paragraphs.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” ~ Anais Nin

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bruce Holland Rogers interview

at Summer in Words 2012

In Case You Missed It.....

Portland is in the middle of a heart wave. Which explains why I'm up in the middle of the night, wondering how much it might cost to install central air conditioning. Meanwhile, here is information gathered from around the Internet.

From Writer's Digest the 21 key traits of best-selling fiction excerpted from The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr.can be found here.

Everything is fiction posted by Keith Ridgeway at The New Yorker Page-Turner column. His post is here. He writes:"I know how to wait until the last minute before putting anything on paper. I mean the last minute before the thought leaves me forever. I know how to leave out anything that looks to me—after a while—forced, deliberate, or fake. I know that I need to put myself in the story. I don’t mean literally. I mean emotionally. I need to care about what I’m writing—whether about the characters, or about what they’re getting up to, or about the way they feel or experience their world. I know that my job is to create a perspective. And to impose it on the reader. And I know that in order to do that with any success at all I must in some mysterious way risk everything. If I don’t break my own heart in the writing of a book then I know I’ve done it wrong. I’m not entirely sure what that means. But I know what it feels like."

A dialogue between a writer and copy editor can be found in two parts at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Bottom line: copy editing is about consistency.

The always-wise Jane Friedman is at it again with her usual discerning advice on Build a Better Author Bio for twitter. It includes examples of what not to do....so helpful.

And my favorite of this roundup from Sarah Callender at Writer Unboxed is here about the need to shop at indie book stores. Take the pledge. All of us. All the time. I'm serious as a heart attack.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quick Take: Act it out.

Recently I was teaching at a conference and interacting with the people attending my workshop. Which was when a writer mentioned her ending to her novel. In it, the protagonist tosses a feather-weight object at the villain. The villain is supposedly momentarily distracted by the object and the protagonist runs away to safety. The villain had a gun, the action takes place out doors and it all pretty much sounded improbable. If one of your readers or your own instincts whispers that an action that you're creating sounds implausible, act it out. Engage a friend or two, stage your scene in a setting similar to your story, using props if needed.

Another suggestion, when writing complicated action scenes, sketch them, complete with sight lines. In some manuscripts I read, it's difficult to tell where the players are in relation to each other.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Diary of a Literary Debutante, part 1

From salon.com, find the first part of the series here
"In ways. But here’s what no one tells you about getting a book contract, or at least what no one told me, or what I wouldn’t have believed if they had: the elation you think you’ll feel, the sense that everything difficult is behind you, is, in most cases, blotted out by a thousand other, competing emotions. This is because the march toward publication is at once lengthy and alarmingly fast, very lonely and worrisomely exposing. It is guaranteed to turn even the least self-absorbed person into a gigantic bore. It practically encourages narcissism. Your friends will come to hate you (your enemies will hate you, too, although presumably it’ll be a shorter trip for them). However, you will be so sick of yourself (and, simultaneously, so consumed by yourself), that you won’t be able to blame them."

"Art is fire plus algebra.” –Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, August 11, 2012

In Case you Missed it

Whereby I collect wisdom and tidbits from the digital world.

The future of publishing and reading. All you need to know (and then some.)

And from fellow mentor Lee Lofland 10 Great Hangouts for Book Nerds.

Which versus that. This article will school you.

10 Lessons for directing and life from Terry Gilliam. I especially appreciate this one:
5. All you’ve really got in life is story.
I think the important thing is stay true to what you believe. I mean it’s much more important to make your mistakes than somebody else’s mistakes. Like too many other filmmakers have compromised because somebody advised them [that] if you change this, the film will be more successful commercially. And then the film isn’t successful commercially, and these people get so depressed and destroyed because they didn’t ever finish making their film the way they intended it. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. And you’ve got to be willing to take the consequences of whatever it is. If you succeed, fantastic. If you fail, you might have to get a proper job.

From the  Farnam Street blog: 22 Rules Pixar Uses To Create Appealing Stories can be found here.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

Monday, August 06, 2012

A few notes...

I wanted to thank the organizers of the Willamette Writers Conference for another great conference. Thanks to everyone who said hello and the writers who attended my workshops. I'm signing off for the next few days, so remember: keep dreaming, keep writing, have heart. 

"The act of writing bears something in common with the act of love. The writer, at his most productive moments, just flows. He gives of that which is uniquely himself. He makes himself naked, recording his nakedness in the written word. Herein lies some of the terror which frequently freezes a writer, preventing him from producing. Herein, too, lies some of the courage that must be entailed in letting others learn how one has experienced or is experiencing the world." ~ Sidney Jourard

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." ~ Ray Bradbury

"Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.
. . . Why wouldn't you write to escape yourself as much as you might write to express yourself."
~ Susan Sontag

Sunday, August 05, 2012

"I believe that good questions are more important than answers, and the best children's books ask questions, and make the readers ask questions. And every new question is going to disturb someone's universe."  Madeleine L'Engle

Thursday, August 02, 2012

"Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward." ~Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Quick Take:

In a good story, the events of the storyline are ballasted by deeper, universal concerns and ideas. These underlying layers are the themes and they hold the greater vision of the story. They whisper beneath the storyline and are what the story is thinking about.