Friday, April 30, 2010


Okay, it's FRIDAY!! Woo-Hoo!

Okay, I don't have a major earthshattering post today. Sorry, meant to, but the week kinda got away from me and . . . NOTHING!

So, I'll give you a little bit a this, a bit of that, and then that's about it!

Progress - still doing a lot of thinking and note taking on my urban fantasy. I wrote the opening paragraph and section one of Chapter One. I've sent it off to Lady Glamis for a quick read because I knew she was excited about the concept. Other than that, not much done on that.

Reading - currently reading The Help. Love it. Very good book, not too far into it yet, but this weekend is going to be filled with rain so I have a feeling I'll be spending time on the couch with The Help. Ha!

Movies - just signed up for Netflix and can download movies through the Wii, so plan on catching up on a movie or two at some point this weekend.

Social Activities - margaritas tonight, it is Friday after all, plus another social obligation as well. Dinner Club tomorrow night. Nothing Sunday. Life goes on no matter how much time I want to spend at home writing. I do have to make occasional social appearances just to let people know I'm still alive. It's my duty, after all. Ha.

Garden - well, it's raining this weekend, so I won't get to work in my garden, but it is flourishing. All six tomato plants are growing and have blossoms on them. Yummy tomatoes in my future. The basil has doubled in size and the zucchini and squash plants are bursting out everywhere. I've also planted nasturium which is an edible plant - both flowers and leaves - that keeps away the squash bugs. It's called companion planting. Marigolds have also been planted in the garden since they keep away these little pesky things that like to feed on tomato roots, and the basil keeps away flies and mosquitoes. See, dropping by my blog today wasn't totally useless. I passed on some interesting tidbits of knowledge that might help you win a trivia contest one day.

Writing - I hope to complete Chapter One of the urban fantasy this weekend and get back to the word elimination of the other project, which I also need to depersonalize a bit. What do I mean about depersonalization? Well, I'm glad you asked. Okay, you didn't ask, but . . . There are certain scenes that are too specific to a certain period of time. Those scenes need to go MIA or at least become neutral enough that they could occur in any time period, and not the year I wrote the rough draft for the project. Yeah, I could leave those passages in and have some editor tell me to remove them at some later date. But, I have this fear that some agent, after requesting a full, of course, might pass on the project because of the time period specific scenes. So, while I'm eliminating words, I might as well tone up a few other things in the project.

How about you? What are your weekend plans? Anything exciting? Comment away.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Terms

The other day I was responding to a comment left by Lady Glamis and wrote the following:

Lady Glamis – maybe you and I are more in tune with our writing than we were before. I know I’ve grown with my writing over the last few years since I started writing about things (i.e., themes, I guess) that mattered to me. It’s when I quit caring about an audience, a hot genre, and just began to write for myself that my writing took off. Yeah, I know, I’m considering urban fantasy. Go figure!! Still, I’m writing the urban fantasy on my terms . . . and I think, for me at least, that’s the most important thing of all.

Now, as is often the case, my responses to someone's blog post or comment often inspires me to write a blog post . . . or two, or three, or whatever. This time it wasn't any different.

I know I've grown with my writing over the last few years since I started writing about things (i.e., themes, I guess) that mattered to me.

Margarita Nights began as writing about something that was important to me and that I wanted to read. I wanted something I could relate to on both a personal and intellectual level that hadn't been written before. Okay, it's probably been written before, but I haven't read it . . . so there!! So, I set fingers to keyboard and typed away. I wrote the rough draft of the first half in 2 weeks, and the rough of the second half in about 4 weeks.

It’s when I quit caring about an audience, a hot genre, and just began to write for myself that my writing took off.

You see, I wasn't thinking about a major audience, I was only thinking about me when I began the project. I kept thinking about me, me, me, and me some more through the entire writing process. There wasn't an imaginary audience - i.e., people this book would specifically apply to - in the back of my mind, or the forefront for that matter, as I wrote this book. Then again, there was, because I was writing for others like myself, others in my community. The point is: the others in my community weren't the specific audience I had in mind. I was the specific audience.

It was freeing to write just for me. It was freeing to write solely for my own enjoyment without giving a flying hoot about anybody else but me, me, me and more me!

Yeah, I know, I’m considering urban fantasy. Go figure!! Still, I’m writing the urban fantasy on my terms . . . and I think, for me at least, that’s the most important thing of all.

Yes, an audience is important. Yes, paying attention to audience is important. But what do we, as writers, sacrifice to write for a specific audience versus writing for ourselves first, and an audience second?

What's hot today, might not be hot by the time we get ready to search for an agent. What then? Do we give up that project, spend a few years on writing what's hot and then . . . find out it's no longer hot? Hmmmm . . .

I think we all need to write on our terms . . . every single time. Genres come and go. Audiences come and go. In the end, I think we need to be true to ourselves first and foremost. We need to write what we are passionate about, and not what a fickle audience - thought they might well pay our bills one day - wants to read today, because we ain't getting published today. We're getting published sometime in the - hopefully near - future.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Process

So, I’ve been – somewhat – working on this urban fantasy idea. Okay, it didn’t start out as an urban fantasy idea, but somehow morphed into an urban fantasy idea, and so I’m now working on an urban fantasy idea. Whew! Anyhow, the process with this project – first few chapters written, a very bare and basic outline composed – has been a bit different than normal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this project. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking some more, and some more, and some more, and some more.

First – there was the whole magical object idea. What was the object? What did it do? How did it do it? And all that jazz. I thought I had it all figured out . . . well, at least what it was, and then the other day I changed my whole game plan. Go figure. I’m crazy like that sometimes. I finally came up with the perfect magical object. Woo-hoo.

Then, there were other issues to deal with before immersing myself in the actual writing project.

One of those issues somehow became the protagonist’s last name. I don’t know why this became an issue. In many instances, I don’t give my characters last names. Last names are just trifling details that – in a lot of cases – are unnecessary. Sometimes, they’re needed. Sometimes, they’re not. In this instance, this project, I needed a last name. I finally figured one out. It was very clever or me. Yeah, I’m patting myself on the back. The name ties into the mythology behind this story, or rather the fairy tale basis for the inspiration of this story. Woo-hoo.

Another one of those issues was the antagonist. I mean, why in the heck was he the only one capable of committing this one act that would break a spell centuries old? Why couldn’t some of his family members and/or other members of his community do the same thing? Wouldn’t the effect be the same? Why him?

So, I had to work through those questions. I’ve pretty much done so. Pretty much. Yeah, there’s a few questions still to answer, but I’ve figured out the big answers . . . all without writing something down. Nothing. Nada. Okay, I wrote stuff down, but it wasn’t until I worked out all the issues in my mind first. I’m a rebel like that sometimes. Ha!

So, I’m gearing up to begin writing on this project. I’ve already written the first few chapters, and I’ve written an important chapter close to the end of the story as well. So, I know where I need to go with my writing from what I’ve written – beginning and almost the end. Now I just have to write all the in between stuff. Crap!

Now for the requisite question(s): how much writing do you do in your head in prepping for a new project? Is your process in any way similar to what I’ve gone through? So abstractly different to be mind boggling? C’mon, spill your secrets.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Quiet Little Theme

There is an underlying theme to all my writing lately . . . well, for the past few years ever since I sat down to write Margarita Nights. I didn't set out to have this underlying theme. There wasn't intent - at least not consciously - on my part. There was only the desire to write a story that I wanted to tell. Beginning. Middle. End.

Now, a few years later, me a bit older and maybe a bit wiser, I realize that everything I've written since that point contains the same, underlying theme.

It is not a loud, boisterous theme that beats the reader over the head and shouts yoo-hoo, look at me, I'm the theme. Rather, it is quiet and a bit meek, and probably not that noticeable at all. Heck, it took me until just recently to realize the underlying theme was there at all.

Now, some might say - once I'm published and famous beyond words - that the theme should have been louder, more boisterous, and should have shouted yoo-hoo, look at me, I'm the the theme. I mean, the underlying theme is important to me and to my community. The theme is one of inequality, oppression, and discrimination. The theme probably should be shouted from the rooftops.

It's not shouted from the rooftops. It is not shouted out by the characters I create or the compelling stories I have chosen to write about.

The theme is understated, maybe a bit - though not intentionally - undervalued, and just there, lurking in the background, a constant presence that becomes obvious to me (and to potential readers, I hope) with each scene and chapter from beginning, middle to end.

You see, I'm not one to beat people over the head - okay, I do with my other blog - with my anger and fire about injustice, inequality, oppression, and discrimination. I don't want what I write to be diatribes against those things. Rather, I want the importance of those things to shine through by the thoughts and actions of the characters I create. I want their outrage and disappointment to be evident without the theme having to shout y00-hoo, look at me, I'm the theme.

How about you? Do you insert the same theme into your writing time after time? Is it evident? Does it lurk more in the shadows? Do different themes appear in your writing? Is there a theme at all? Did the Glee cast do justice to Madonna?


p.s. And, yes, this same theme has worked its way into the urban fantasy that I've begun to write. Go figure!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Blog is Carbon Neutral

carbon neutral coupons and shopping with

"my blog is carbon neutral” is an initiative, originally started in Germany by the “Make it Green” programme, that has the goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We plant a tree for your blog and thereby neutralise your blog’s carbon footprint for the next 50 years! Everyone can make a small contribution to the environment. Every tree counts!

To offset the CO2 impact, German Make it Green (Mach GrĂ¼n) has partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to help reforest Northern California's devastated Plumas National Forest. Beginning in spring 2010, the Arbor Day Foundation will aid in replanting 5,500 acres of the 88,000 acres of the forest that burned 2007. And you can help.

For each participating blog (participating means spreading the word as I'm doing here), the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree. How will a tree make a difference to your blog's carbon footprint? Glad you asked. A single tree can absorb the CO2 emissions of one blog for fifty years!

Every tree counts. To participate, and please participate, visit Make it Green's Carbon Neutral Program site.


note: click here and check out V R Barkowski's blog since that's where I found out about this, and where I got the wording from below the picture! Sorry, V R but copy/paste was the easiest thing this morning!

Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling!!!!

I wasn't going to post today, but . . . had to share this! It is very appropriate for us writerly people, and for the not so writerly who don't want to appear as completely ignorant! So, check it out, have a good laugh and share, share, share. Oh, and check this one out about apostrophes!!Have a great day.


So I shared the link with our VP of Operations at work. She's a stickler about misspelled words. Her response to my email:

I like this alot! Its informative. Weather or not it has any effect on you or not, its definately a good tool, win or loose. Some people are wierd or there slow to learn. Your not one of them. But than, your smarter than the average panda (bear).

HA :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Writerly Ghosts

So, last night, lying in bed after watching Glee (fabulous Madonna episode, btw) and I can't sleep. I'm tossing and turning, and turning and tossing, and tossing and turning . . . and Squeaky (my cat) is not happy at all about this tossing and turning, and turning and tossing, and . . . I just can't seem to settle down for the night.

My mind kept wandering to my writing - what I've done, what I need to do, and what I want to do. I guess the Writing Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future were whispering in my ear and preventing me from settling down for a long winter's nap. Ooops, how'd that happen? Anyhow, after much thought, conversations with myself (yes, I have conversations with myself - no, not nuts, just helps me work things out), I realized there are certain things I need to do with my writing - Past, Present, and Future.

Past - the project I want to query. It's Past because it's been pretty much finished for a while, I just haven't bothered to query the dang thing. This is the project where words must go, must go, must go. It's too dang long. It's probably in auto reject category for most agents. So, eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. This project is now - should have been there sooner - moving up on my list so that . . .

Present - finish the word elimination of the project I want to query. See how easy that was. Yeah, try being in my head last night while I was working all of this out. Not pretty, not pretty at all!

Future - revision of next project to query, and next project to query, and write urban fantasy. So, that's on my to-do list, along with a few other story ideas I've been mulling over for the last six months or so.

Present - yes, diving back in time from the Future to the Present because that urban fantasy is calling out for me to work on it. I can hear the howl of the wolves . . . or maybe its the neighborhood coyotes just trying to trick me . . . and know the project needs to be worked on in the Present rather than some undetermined date in the future.

So, what the heck does all this mean and why in the heck am I rambling on and on about it in this blog post? It means, in the chaos of my mind, I prioritized quite a few things - I believe Madonna was singing in the background Express Yourself - last night before sleep finally claimed me. I have a set order of things to do - eliminate words and write that urban fantasy (yes, Lady Glamis, I'm moving the project to the forefront).

Now, for the normally questions that appear in writerly blogs. What are your current priorities? Do the Writerly Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future ever visit you? Do you heed their eerie presence or just roll over and go to sleep? If the later, how in the heck do you do it?? What are your current projects? What do you think of the current state of publishing? E-Books? Was Wiley Coyote unfairly maligned in every Looney Toons cartoon?


Monday, April 19, 2010


So, the work in progress I began a few months ago – rough draft, people, not manuscript as a whole – is finally finished. Now, I wrote the final chapter a few months ago, but still had one chapter to finish to tie into that chapter that I wrote out of order. Part of this WiP can be found here – single chapter. Below are excerpts from the third to last chapter. For some reason, these brief passages resonate with me. Perhaps because, in many ways, they mirror real life more so than I might want to admit.

Life is never easy. Families – relationships – aren’t perfect. We move forward, ignoring the, well as my sister put it big gay elephant in the room. We don’t talk about things that make us uncomfortable. We move forward, but we don’t grow.

This work in progress has been about confronting the big gay elephant in the room and accepting – for the characters, maybe a bit for me – responsibility for actions taken and not taken.

It’s easy to write happily ever after in a book. It’s easy to make everything work out. Well, in this WiP everything doesn’t work out and fit in a neat little package. The end is the end, but not the end . . . for the characters still have to grow, to move forward past the point where they stopped moving forward, so to speak, twenty years earlier.

So, as you read the work of fiction below, understand that fact and fiction merged together into something . . . unique. At least I think so!

“I never, hell, I still don’t, knew what to say to you.” Derek gripped the rail. “When I knocked on your apartment door . . . hell, I was praying you wouldn’t answer. I mean, what the fuck was I supposed to say? I didn’t have a clue. Hell, I still don’t.”

“You were supposed to say I love you.” Seamus continued to look up at the sky. His family never said I love you to each other. They avoided those words like vampires – those of legend, not modern telling – avoided the sun. To say those words meant the world might come to an end and, like the vampires of old, they might explode on the spot. None of them were willing to take that chance . . . not even now, twenty years later.

“Well, some things never change.”

“No, they don’t.” He had changed, Derek had changed, their mother had changed, and yet Seamus didn’t feel any of them were that different from the people they had been before his big announcement. They – he – never gave themselves time to adapt and move forward from that one moment in time, the people they were before his announcement. He ran. They stayed behind. They didn’t work through his gayness. They stayed, so it seemed to him, frozen in time, unable to move or heal, unable to deal with the past so they could truly live in the present.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yep, you are a writer!

The title of this blog post are the words a friend of mine included in an email. The full quote is:

This is how I know you are a writer. I work in the yard. One sentence. I worked in the yard this weekend. You work in the yard. Several paragraphs of the toils creating a visual of what you actually did that probably broke your back but created the result that ends up on facebook. Yep, you are a writer.

The above paragraph is a response to this:

We about killed ourselves with yardwork yesterday. We, or should I say "I" expanded the flower beds along the sidewalk leading up to the house. Then, Frank decided to take the evergreens in the pots by the front porch and plant them near the street, next to the sidewalk. So, between the two of us, we dug the holes and planted the trees. Did I mention we did all of this while waiting for 80 bags of mulch to arrive. Yes, 80. Then, we hauled 67 bags of mulch from the end of the driveway to the backyard and then spread out the mulch. Oh, wait, that leaves 13 bags of mulch still left. So, we then did some areas in the main, fenced in part of the backyard. Oh, did I mention that on Saturday I tilled my garden area by hand, moved some lilies, composted the garden, retilled, added fresh dirt, and then tilled it one last time - just me and a shovel. So, by the time we finished the last of the mulch . . . I hurt in the entirety of my body, from my head to my toes. I still hurt. But, my car needed washing, so, after a bit of rest, I washed the car then decided I had just enough energy to plant my tomatoes and basil. Yes, I'm daring Mother Nature to send a freeze our way. Yeah, it might happen. Then again, it might not. You just never know what the Fickle Finger of Fate has in store, do you???

I never really thought about the fact that, in emails, I go into a bit more detail than necessary. Yeah, I could have written five words: We worked in the yard. Those five words would have told whoever that Frank and I worked in the yard on Sunday. But, those five words wouldn't have told the whole story. They would have only given a bare, minimal glimpse of the full story, and . . . what the heck is the point of a bare minimal glimpse? I mean, I want the whole story, all the gory details, and what led up to happily ever after.

But, I digress . . . the thing is, I wrote the long paragraph instinctively. I told the story I needed to tell, using the words I needed to use because . . . well, I'm a writer. Go figure.

Question: do you do the same/similar thing(s) when telling people about your day, whether in an email or in a face-to-face or phone-to-phone conversation? Do you elaborate beyond five simple words? Do you paint a picture with your words - instinctively - because, you are a writer?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quit Writing

Over at The Plot Whisperer blog you can find an excellent post about writing. Click here!

The best bit of advice I gleaned from that post is . . .

Quit writing before you begin to lose energy for what you are doing, before you begin to trash talking your work, before you despair. Quit while you’re still in the flow, feeling good about yourself and the process of creating something out of nothing on the page.

How often have you written past the point of energy, stamina, desire? How often have you dragged yourself away from your writing - not in a good way - and then looked back the next day and thought: Holy Crap, Batman, this sucks?? Oh, c'mon, admit it, it's happened a time or two. It has for me and I know, just know, I can't be the only one out there who this has happened to at some point in the writing process.

So, you're in the flow the words are pouring out faster than your brain or fingers can keep up. Page after page is miraculously unfolding before your very eyes. You keep writing, writing, writing, revved up by the passion for the story exploding in your mind. You keep writing, writing, writing and suddenly fatigue sets in. Your eyes begin to burn. Your body - your mind possibly - is telling you to STOP! You keep writing, writing, writing . . . and all the brilliance disappears leaving you with a load of crapola!

Yeah, been there, done that, have multiple t-shirts . . . and rewrites to prove it! Ha!

So, heed the advice of the plot whisperer . . . stop while you are ahead. Stop with that last, brilliant sentence, paragraph, or chapter. STOP!

The flame of our writing inspiration is fickle enough as it is, without us burning it to a crisp by overworking ourselves.

There comes a time when we must, for the sake of sanity (if not the safety of the Universe at large) step away from our writing and journey back into the world of house, and kids, and animals, and obligations, and bills to pay . . . and all the mundane jazz that makes delving into our imaginations so much dang fun. We must stop every now and then, come up for air, and recharge our batteries.

The advice from the Plot Whisperer, or so it seems to me, is golden. So much so that . . .

Quit writing before you begin to lose energy for what you are doing, before you begin to trash talking your work, before you despair. Quit while you’re still in the flow, feeling good about yourself and the process of creating something out of nothing on the page.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Out of Order

No, not this blog! No, not the soda machine! I wrote a chapter for my upcoming WiP - you know, the urban fantasy one I talked about the other day on this blog - out of order. This chapter will occur somewhere toward the end of the second third of the book. This is an important chapter that results in the climax of the main conflict, but does not end the story.

What did I learn by doing this?

Well, I learned that if I don't carefully lead up to this chapter, set all the pieces in place, it will come across as contrived. You know how I hate contrived. Blech!

Out of context, the events of this chapter seem contrived.

Out of context, the events of this chapter are going to make the reader go what the heck??!!!

Yeah, I know, my future readers aren't going to read the chapter out of order. The possibility still exists, if I'm not careful, for the chapter to come across as contrived. I don't want that.

In a way, by writing out of order, this one simple chapter, I have outlined . . . in my own crazy way. I now know what stones I need to set to create the path through the enchanted forest to get my characters to the point of this out of order chapter.

So, my point is: writing out of order isn't a bad thing . . . at least not in this instance. I know what I have to work toward so an allegedly spontaneous, pivotal, moment doesn't appear as, well, an allegedly spontaneous moment. This is definitely a good thing.

What about you? Have you ever written chapters out of order? Does this give you a pathway, so to speak, of where you need to go with your writing? Does this create more chaos than order for you, the writer? Comment away!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Backstory - Again

Last night, I worked on backstory for a WiP that's somewhat in progress, but not totally. Huge, large, infinite chunks of backstory that I'm going to throw into something called a Prologue!!


Since this next project, partially started, slumbering for now, is urban fantasy, well, there's a bit of backstory necessary. I mean, I have magical objects after all, a race of protectors, among other things . . . and these things aren't self-explanatory.

Backstory is necessary.

But, as I've mentioned before, I'm more likely to intersperse bits and pieces of backstory throughout the first few chapters rather than have a Prologue or weigh down the first chapter.

Such will be the case with this urban fantasy WiP. There will be a bit here, a piece there, but just not everywhere!

Oh, and there'll be some great flashbacks, perhaps whole chapters. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding about the flashback chapter thingy. It's, well, necessary.

Yeah, I know, flashbacks and backstory go hand-in-hand as definite things not to do in excess when writing. Oh, well, such is life. I'm a rebel like that at times.

So, last night, I wrote a few pages of backstory about one aspect of this urban fantasy I'm somewhat working on right now, but will work on more in-depth later. The backstory will then be broken into pieces to fit throughout the first few chapters, or even stretched so far throughout the first half, maybe entire, manuscript.

The interesting thing about this project, at least for me, is the basic premise for the project. Nope, not telling you that, though Lady Glamis knows. The inspiration created a retelling of sorts that morphed into something else. This was one of the projects I posted about earlier in the year when I had three projects coming at me from all sides and couldn't decide which one to work on. Well, one project took precedent and I wrote it from start to finish while the other two projects slumbered fitfully in the recesses of my mind.

Well, this one project is beginning to stir, more and more each day, and I know that soon it will awaken fully and I'll have to write the story, from beginning to end. Woo-hoo!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Breaking the Rules

This one's for you, Lady Glamis!

As aspiring, or even published writers, we all know there are tons of rules out there! Tons, people, tons.

No adverbs.

No adjectives.

No repetition.

No this . . .

No that . . .

No this or that . . .

And so on and so on and so on . . . ad nauseum! Arrrrrrrrrrrghhhh.

Then, there's the old saying rules are made to be broken! I love that rule. In fact, that's pretty much my motto.

Now, the folks over at Write It Sideways have an excellent post about breaking rules. Check it out here. Some very famous and successful authors have broken the rules and . . .

. . . the world as they, or we for that matter, know it did not end.

Agents heads did not explode upon reading the prose from these talented individuals.

The main question asked in the post (please tell me you've clicked over and read it) is: how did these authors get away with breaking the rules?

Well, to simplify things, I'm posting here . . . but . . . go read the post here:

There are a number of reasons why these authors managed to achieve success regardless of breaking the rules.

1.There are exceptions to every rule. Not every rule applies to every book. It takes experience and discernment to know when to follow them, and when to throw them out the window.

2.Story trumps all. The storytelling in each of these books is good enough to cancel out any rule-breaking annoyances.

3.The rules change. What was publishable 50, 100, 200 years ago, might not be publishable today.

4.Selective breaking. Getting away with breaking one or two of these rules isn’t difficult, but too many at once becomes a problem.

Now, pay close attention to #3: rules change. Still, the best advice I can probably give is don't go nilly-willy breaking the rules. A bit here, a bit there, just not everywhere is probably the best advice I can give any writer, aspiring or published. Or, in the words of Timm Gunn from Project Runway: make it work!

I make it work for my writing. Sometimes, I use adverbs. Sometimes, people laugh softly and my characters are going to laugh softly or loudly, for that matter. Sometimes, I end a sentence with the word it. Yes, I do! I have started projects with dialogue. I love dialogue, so why shouldn't I start a project with dialogue? I write lengthy novels . . . sometimes. I'm in the process of eliminating words to get down to a more workable format so I can start querying. Should I have to? Well, probably not, but I'm doing it anyhow just to give myself a better chance of not getting auto-rejected because my brilliance is 130,000 words versus an acceptable 100,000 words. Le Sigh!

What rules do you love to break? Why do you break them? Are you like Elana who puts tons of backstory in her first chapter? Ha! Do you amply (sorry, couldn't resist a little adverb humor) use flashbacks in your story? Start with dialogue? Write in first person present tense? Write backwards? C'mon, people, give me some rule breaking in the comments section.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Name Game

No, I'm not talking about Robyn, bobbin' bo bobbin, fee fi fo Robyn! but rather the naming of a character.

Most times, I don't struggle with character names. They just sort of come to me. There are other times, when I have to really struggle with the names. I've had one character go through numerous - NUMEROUS - name changes throughout the revision period. In another instance, since the project was about here and now, and included margaritas, well, I had to make sure that not a single name in the project was that of someone I knew in this life. Trust me, that was hard, very, very hard. Not that I was writing about people I know. Surely not! Ha!

Now, I have another project in the works - basic idea, mini-outline, four to five pages of notes, and I wrote the first four chapters a few months back while the idea was burning bright in my mind. I spent an afternoon researching Celtic names for my characters. I don't know why, Celtic just seemed the right choice. I assigned a list of names to each of the three main characters. I pretty much picked out - hours later - the name of each character. I was happy with the names.

Or so I thought!

Then today, on the way home from work, I totally changed the name of one of the main characters. TOTALLY! I love, love, love the new name, and her clever, oh so clever, last name that ties into the whole inspiration of the story. In fact, her last name makes me chuckle . . . in a good way.

So, how do you go about naming your characters? Do you stick with the initial name? Do you make sure you don't name your characters after people you know? I mean, I love the name Jack, but I know quite a few Jacks, so I really don't feel comfortable naming a character, well, Jack. Same goes for Eric. I have two really good friends named Eric. Well, one is Eric, and the other Erik, but you get my point. So, Eric, and/or Erik, is out of the running. Anyhow, back to my questions . . . where do you get the inspiration for your character names? How set in stone are those names? Do they change frequently? Not so frequently? Do they remain the same from beginning to end?


Thursday, April 8, 2010


Due to popular demand . . . okay, only Lady Glamis and SJ Duval wanted to know this, but, still, what the people want . . .

Pitfall #1: Don't put extensive backstory in your first pages. This is part of the article 10 Fiction Pitfalls by Sam McCarver in the May 2010 issue of The Writer.

In his words . . .

Writer's sometimes provide extensive backgrounds on characters and situations before really beginning their stories. But long narratives can be dull openings. Instead of backstory, take the reader directly into your story. Show your main character facing a challenge in a scene with other interesting characters. Agents and editors must be intrigued by the main character, know that person's goal, and like the story's direction early - or they won't stick around. A writer may say, "It's slow at first, but wait until page 10 - that's dynamite". Put the dynamite up front.

A backstory might begin, "Harry Black inherited a law firm from his father and built it into one of the largest in Boston", then discuss family, home, etc. Instead, begin with action:

Harry Black jumped to his feet, shouting, "Objection! Not supported by fact." Judge Powell glared at Black, saying, "This courtroom has good acoustics, Counselor. So don't shout, and sit down." he gave Black a wry smile. "By the way, your objection is overruled."

Now the story has begun. (p. 26)

Okay, we all know, or should, that backstory is a no-no. Don't bore the reader with extensive backstory in the beginning. Start with action, drama, something other than all the minute details of the main character that led up to the action/drama.

As for me, I try to intersperse a bit of backstory throughout the first few chapters. A tidbit here, a tidbit there, everywhere a tidbit, but not a long narrative passage telling you all about the main character before anything happens to the main character.

I mean, how much better would The Wizard of Oz have been if it had started with the house falling on the Wicked Witch of the East? I mean, picture it, the house crushes the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy steps out into Oz and then, throughout the course of the first chapter or two we learn she had run away from home, a cyclone struck, and now she found herself in a magical land. The backstory - everything that happens before she lands in Oz - really isn't important. Yes, it's needed, but not in a huge narrative . . . well, at least not in my opinion.

How do you handle backstory? Long narrative passages? Brief bits here, there, and everywhere throughout the first chapter(s)? Do you inject backstory at all? Can a book exist without backstory? Can Dorothy crush the Wicked Witch of the West, befriend a Scarecrow, a Tinman, a Cowardly Lion and defeat the Wicked Witch of the West all without backstory? Hmmmm . . .


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dominant Narration

According to the latest edition (May 2010) of The Writer there are 10 Fiction Pitfalls. Okay, this is according to Sam McCarver who happens to be a writing instructor. I'm not going to list all 10 pitfalls, at least not today. No, today, dear lucky readers of this blog, I'm going to focus on pitfall #2! Yup, #2!

According to Mr. McCarver, Pitfall #2 is: don't let narration dominate your story as a whole.

In his words . . .

Many writers think a story should be largely narrated, in the manner of classic literature. But here's a good rule: Fight the urge to narrate. Entertainment today is visual - movies, television, the Internet, cell phones. To compete, fiction must also be visual, using scenes, action, description and dialogue to show a story, rather than narration to tell it. A Story should consist of one scene following another, connected by narration. Write your story as if it will become a movie. Show it visually - in scenes. (p. 26)

Whoa! First, initial thought: show don't tell! Now, haven't we all heard that somewhere before? Of course we have. It's one of the many rules of writing. SHOW - DON'T - TELL!!

Okay, now that I've gotten past my whoa moment.

This is how I write. I'm more about the snappy dialogue, short scenes that carry the reader from one moment to the next to the next to the next, with shorter passages of narration in between. This is what works for me as a writer. Who knew I was doing something right? Ha!

Now, in no way am I saying or even suggesting that writers abandon narration. Guy Gavriel Kay writes some brilliant narration. The majority of his books are narrative in nature and I wouldn't have his books any other way. I love his long passages of narration that wrap around me like a comfortable blanket and lull me into a comfortable world of narration. This is what works for him. This isn't what works for me.

My only point with this post is to talk about what works for me when I'm writing. Yeah, I have narrative passages, but normally, I have more dialogue than narration. I love me some good dialogue.

How about you? More narration than dialogue? More scenes than narration? More this instead of that? Come on, leave your answers in the comments section.


Okay, since I'm feeling generous. The #1 Pitfall: don't put extensive backstory in your first pages. There, I shared! Tune in later this week for another pitfall and my take on said pitfall!

Monday, April 5, 2010


We all write . . . differently!

Some outline.

Some don't.

Some wing it.

Some don't.

Some write snappy dialogue.

Some don't.

Some write huge passages of narration with very little dialogue interspersed between narrative passages - check out my post later in the week about narration.

Some don't.

We're not clones of each other. We're individuals - sorry Traci, generalizing again, you know how I am - and, thus, we do thing in our own individual ways.

We do things in the way that works best for us (differently) as individuals.

There are literally hundreds, possibly, thousands of blogs out there about writing.

This is one of them.

This was one of them. No, people, hold on to your knickers, I'm not closing down the blog. I mean, how in the heck would Robyn give me a hard time on a daily basis if I shut down my blog. Oh, wait, she's a friend on Facebook. Dang my generous nature. Ha!

The thing is, I can't teach any one how to write the most brilliant novel ever. I can point you in the direction of blog after blog that will offer great advice . . . that works for that particular blogger, but not necessarily me, and not necessarily you!

What I can do, is quit generalizing (Traci will be so happy) and start personalizing. I can let you know how I write. Done. Finito. The End.

Okay, I can also share other things I've learned about the writing process, and all that jazz. I mean, knowledge is power, and the more knowledge we have (about writing, etc), then the more power we have. Ooops, there I go generalizing again. It's a 12 Step program to de-generalize!

The important things to remember about writing . . .
  • do it (writing) the best way you know how
  • be adaptable, willing to learn, willing to change, to try something different, to experiment
  • know your strengths
  • know your weaknesses
  • learn from your strengths/weaknesses
  • know your limits!!!!
  • understand that what works for Lady Glamis just might not work for you
  • understand that what works for Scott Bailey just might not work for you
  • understand that what works for me just might not work for you

If you take every bit of advice out there, try to instill it into your writing routine, well . . . BAM! . . . you just might explode.

All the wonderful, awe inspiring advice in the world is great . . . as long as you take the bits and pieces that work best for you, and apply them to your capabilities.

I've tried outlining, truly I have, but it just doesn't work for me.

I know what works for me with my writing!

I can learn how others write, but, hey, some of their stuff just doesn't work for me!

So, over the course of the next few days, weeks, months, years, you may or may not notice a slight shift in the writing direction of this blog. I'm going to blog about writing, again and again and again, but the writing will focus more on my process and what works for me! I'll also be doing posts inspired by the following magazines: Writer's Digest and The Writer. These are great sources of information and I find myself mentally typing new posts as I read these magazines about writing. Again, they'll be a shift based on my personal experience, rather than an overall generalization.