"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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quick Take: 

Story equals problem.

Every story is about a problem that needs to be solved, and the protagonist is the only one who can do it. In short stories the problem is often the inciting incident. In longer fiction, the inciting incident typically leads to the problem. The inciting incident upsets the order of the fictional world and leads the protagonist toward the problem. No matter when the problem begins in the story (and it’s always in Act One) the problem needs to be weighty and vexing. It should also be personal, often creating a bond between the protagonist and antagonist.  So a handy definition of plot is the constant struggle of the protagonist to solve an intolerable problem and reestablish order.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thought for the Day:

“No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be, a vaudeville show, the six o’clock news, the mumblings of wild men saddled by demons.” ~ Ishmael Reed

Thursday, December 27, 2012

In Case You Missed It

A few items to get you thinking.
I'm still cleaning up after the holiday and alas, eating Christmas cookies for breakfast. Looking forward to a winter of productivity and quiet. I've missed blogging, but the previous weeks involved a flurry of gift buying and wrapping, baking,cooking, and decorating. One more dinner party to host on Sunday for my book club, then on to the new. I love the week between Christmas and New Years because I can enjoy the Christmas trees (we put up two this year and now that I'm not baking when I walk downstairs in the morning the house smells like the trees) and slow down and think ahead to what I want to accomplish next year.

Here are a few posts to nudge us all to ponder our writing goals and publishing plans. And then more to help us look back at the successes, trends, and good things of 2012.

From the all-around smart guy  Nathan Bradsford, go to this link for knock-out advice on doubts and pain that come with the writing life. He calls it Living on Edge of Confidence and Self-Doubt. He writes: "Terror and joy. Confidence and self-doubt. The best artists live right in that uncomfortable middle."
Doubt and terror are indeed normal--it's all about how you handle those bedeviling emotions.

Agent Rachel Gardner is a font of sound advice. Here she answers the question about querying an agent twice. 
The digital world is hard to keep up with.  For those of you who plan to self publish, it's not only about good writing, but also discoverability. Here's some helpful information on the state of ebooks and self publishing: Discovery Landscape Becomes More Complicated as Reader Behavior Fractures

As for looking back: There was, of course, The New Times list of 100 Notable Books for 2012. Find the list here in case you haven't seen it.

From The Virginia Quarterly The Media Consumption List for 2012 Edition. Not a "best of" list, but this one is comprehensive and original.

Time Magazine has a lollapalooza of compilation of top ten lists here called The Top Ten of Everything. You will not be disappointed.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, step forward

Friday, December 21, 2012

A lovely Solstice to All

And if like me, you've been heavy hearted in the past week from the terrible violence and carnage in this country, please remember that writers are the lights in the world. Never before has this planet so needed our songs, stories, poems, and truths and what it means to me human and alive and compassionate and real.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"If you don't torture your characters with hardship and suffering, you're torturing your reader with boredom." ThinkBannedThoughts

Monday, December 10, 2012

Making it in Changing Times Conference

January 26th

Portland, Oregon

the complete schedule is here

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Simple Way to Create Suspense

Lee Child has the answer here. And I agree with every word.
He writes: Readers are human, and humans seem programmed to wait for answers to questions they witness being asked. I learned that fact in my first job. I worked in television production from 1977 until 1995, and the business changed radically during that time, mainly because of one particular invention. It was something that almost no one had in 1980, and that almost everyone had in 1990, and it changed the game forever. We had to cope with it. We had to invent a solution to the serious problem it posed.
For more on creating suspense and tension you can find chapters on both subjects in my book Between the Lines, Mastering the Subtle Elements of Fiction. Which is on sale here and here. And from me.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Quick Take: plot points

When writing  fiction , it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a plot point and an event. Events or actions stand alone; they build scenes and flesh out the story. The best actions have consequences. If your action doesn't have consequences, then you need to ask yourself why it's part of your story.

A plot point, on the other hand, couldn’t exist without everything that came before it, and if you remove that plot point from the story, everything that happens afterwards would fall apart. Plot points are game changers. Once the plot point happens, there is no returning to the way things were before.  Each point is a link in a chain. Break one, and the whole shebang collapses. Fiction is causal.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart
"To this day you can take me to a room with my eyes closed and my ears plugged, and I can tell at once, without the slightest doubt, if it is a room full of books.  I take in the smells of an old library not with my nostrils but through my skin, a kind of grave, pensive laden with book dust finer than any other dust, blended with the savor that emanates from old paper, mingled with the smell of glues ancient and modern, pungent thick almond scents,
sourish sweat, intoxicating weed and iodine, and undertones of the lead smell of thick printer’s ink, and a smell of rotting paper, eaten away by damp and mildew, and of cheap paper that is crumbling to dust, contrasting with the rich, exotic, dizzying aromas emanating from fine imported paper that excite the palate."
~ Amos Oz

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Short Story Contest news

Great News. The deadline for entries has been extended to December 17th.
Do you have a winning short story of 1,500 words or fewer? Would you like a shot at national recognition for your work? Imagine the effect winning or ranking in a highly respected story competition could have on your résumé and publishing career. The 13th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition is on now.
Enter your short short story today and you could:
  • Win up to $3,000 cash-Plus, more cash and prizes awarded to the top 25 entries
  • Get national exposure for your work-The winner will be featured in Writer's Digest magazine, and the top 25 entries will be published in the 2013 Writer's Digest Short Story Competition Collection
  • Win a paid trip to New York City-The first-place winner will be sent to the Writer's Digest Conference in New York City!
 Polish up your manuscript of 1,500 words or fewer and enter the Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition today.
According to the Writer's Almanac, today is the birthday of Rainer Maria Rilke. He wrote: "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue [...] Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers."

Monday, December 03, 2012

In Case You Missed It

a small compilation of writerly news.
From Media Bistro: 5 Ways to Find an Agent is here
I especially like their suggestion to follow agents on Twitter.

Simon and Schuster has now joined the self publishing industry with Archway Publishing.  The FAQ page is here.  But writers beware: this is essentially vanity publishing. The writing world is in a hubbub about this for good reason. And vanity presses have been around  a long time.

And here is Porter Anderson at Writing on the Ether weighing in on the whole controversy of Vanity Presses, back lists, social media and a slew of other topics.

Stuck? Dial 911 at webook You can find tips on setting,endings, characters....and it's fun.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

"We are so in love with our words and ideas that we forget the direct experience from which they arise. We build concept upon concept. In the end we have abstracted our contact with life into the rote regurgitation of thought-bound ideology.
We have fallen victim to the great curse of human existence of the tendency to misconstrue language (words, thoughts, ideas) for actuality. We are entombed in our brains.
We are thinking our lives, not living them.

Think about the problems all this thought is creating. We pick up a self-help book, a book of spiritual advice, a religious book, thinking it might help with our thought-bound world. We read. We think it quite interesting. We think we will read more. We are not sure where all of this is going, but we think we will read more and find out.
It is not going anywhere.

Thought has nowhere to go but its own isolated, endless fragmented repetition.

Without the obsession of thought we are the recognition and the expression of the energy of consciousness and space in which we and others coexist in such profound contact that there is nothing that definitively divides us.
We search for this relationship of profound openness, without guile or armor, vulnerable, trusting, and at the same time, intimate, intertwined, boundaryless - but this transcendental relationship constantly slips from us as we experience it and then try to institutionalize it.

When our minds are absolutely quiet, when thought is still, this relationship is the natural state of our being. Then thought, the ego-center, enters immediately to catalog, analyze, and capture the beauty of the vision.
We seek the rare butterfly. Upon glimpsing its beauty we stalk it, catch it, drive a pin through its head to mount it, and put it on our wall with its Latin name. We trade the moment of beauty for the endless stultification of a dead symbol, an artifact, a word, a concept.

We can use language to approach that which is beyond language. We can use language to amuse ourselves. We can use language as poetry, as music. But we forget that these words, any words, bring us nowhere in actuality, only somewhere in the mind, in thought. We are in a bubble. We are staring in the pond admiring the reflection of our own thoughts." ~ Steven Harrison