Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coming Up for Air

Greetings! First I have to thank all the new folks and familiar faces who have dropped by this blog recently. A special thanks to "Inky Elbows" the brilliant cartoonist and Twitterista for linking me up!

You don't have to be a cyber-forensics expert to see it's been pretty quiet here for a while. I've been traveling and am heading off soon for a big trip to Turkey. What do I do when I have big trips planned? I set impossible writing goals for myself! What else??? So that's where I've been, head down, fingers flying, trying to get a handle on the new beast.

Before I throw myself back into the fray, I have to give a shout out and a shout up to the universe in thanks to my writer friends, both in real life and online. One thing I have learned, sometimes the hard way, is that for all the fun and creative freedom that come with writing, the path can be lonely, rocky and full of deadly doubt. Without fellow writers, other souls who recognize that thousand-yard stare that comes from mangled plots and difficult characters, I don't know if I would have the fortitude to continue. Even though I know I write because I have to, I know I can write and remain relatively functional (I won't use the word 'sane') because I'm lucky enough to have solid writer peeps. If nothing else, you all make me look normal by comparison! *grins*

Sunday, April 17, 2011

500 First

I told myself when I returned from my trip to Italy, I would get my act together. As you may know, I am presently unemployed or, as I like to say, "Job Free." You might think this absence of a labor schedule would avail itself to plenty of writing time. On the other hand, you might actually live on this planet and know that quite the opposite is happening.

Nature abhors a vacuum and the vacuum created by free time is being devoured by any number of annoyances, not the least of which is the staggering amount of paperwork involved in being unemployed. (Couldn't they make a job out of that? Paper sorter?)

To counter this, I have undertaken a new writing model I call 500 First.

First thing in the morning, before the phone calls, before my letter carrier mutters obscenities for having to lug reams of mail with the WorkForce logo, before Facebook and Twitter can bewitch me, I write no less than 500 words on my WIP. This isn't free writing; this is creative composition. It's no-editing, forward-only blurry eyed typing that is surprising me with its effectiveness. Remember, this is even BEFORE COFFEE!

Best case scenario: it primes my creative pump so that, after all the chaos of the day descends upon me, I can still feel the pulse of my story. Worst case: I can't fight the tide but I can finish my day knowing I got at least five hundreds words farther into my story.

So far, so good. Have you had success with a plan like this?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Blog Link!

Labor shared is labor halved and I am lucky enough to pass this week's blog to my brother-in-ink Daniel Grafton.

Here's the site:

Thanks Daniel!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Most Overlooked Writing Accessory Ever

Every writer knows there are must-haves: a good dictionary, Strunk and White's Elements of Style, reliable research material. The necessity of these and many others goes without saying. Then there are the less formal accessories that vary by writer: the proper pen, the stress ball, the bowl of peanut M&M's. Talking recently with a fellow writer, I was surprised to find that one of my hands-down, deal-breaking must-haves she has never used: the Dump Pad.


What is it? It's simply the greatest low-tech anti-distraction device ever created. Tell me if this sounds familiar to you. You sit down to write. Your cat bites your foot. You remember you need to buy more cat food or tomorrow she will not stop with a simple bite; she will devour you. You get up and make a shopping list. While standing at the counter, you see in the morning sunlight the ghastly shade of your dishtowels and berate yourself for not doing your laundry. The mail arrives and you remember you forgot to send out the cable bill. Without cable you can't watch the NOVA episode on the Eastern Cougar (or the Bachelor. I don't judge.) It's on tonight, right? Is today Thursday? You were supposed to call your friend about going out tonight…

Sound familiar? Enter the Dump Pad.

I keep it next to my writing station with a working pen. As my brain labors to kick into fiction mode, I stumble across dozens of fleeting thoughts, chores, mental dings that could derail me if I address them at that moment. Instead, I jot them down. They're not forgotten; they're not left behind. They will be dealt with afterwards. Knowing I have a record of them frees my imagination from my responsible mind's grip and creativity can commence.

Don’t lose your dictionaries or character bibles and, in the name of all things holy, don't lose the M&M's. But do yourself a favor – get a Dump Pad. You'll thank me later.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Busted! Now the world knows who the real writer is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good vs Evil - Getting Unstuck

Sometimes you get stuck. You like the story. You know it's one you can write but every time you tackle it, you seem to get a little more stuck. It's as if the story is on the other side of a thick glass door – you can see it but you're not getting through.

What to do? Should you bail on the whole project? I say only as a last resort. For one thing, throwing out ideas is kind of like breaking promises to yourself. Do it enough and your creativity will become suspicious of your intentions. Stories come to those who welcome them. Turn too many away and they will know you can't be trusted.

Try this instead. If you really believe the story is there and you just can't get a handle on it, try writing out a list of Good and Evil.

On the Good side, list all of the things you want to see in the book. Don't censor yourself. Don't be afraid of being too specific, too general or too juvenile. For example, for my current work-in-progress, my list includes such mastermind desires as "cool con man tricks" and "a really nefarious plot for the bad guys." I know what you're thinking – that's probably exactly what Faulkner and Dostoevsky aimed for too. Hey, this isn't the finished product. It's what you would really love to see in your story. (I have a few things on the list about my main character's inner journey as well, don't worry. I'm not a total mental four year old.)

The wisdom of being broad and optimistic on the Good side reveals itself when you start writing the Evil side. The Evil list contains all the fears, concerns and dreads you worry are keeping your story in the shadows. Don't include any "real world" stuff, like your boss commandeering your time or the prohibitive price of printer ink. This is just story time. My Evil list includes fears that my main character won't prove she has the chops to fight the bad guys; that the aforementioned nefarious plot will be obvious or threadbare; that I won't adequately express the coolness of the con man tricks.

The end result? By specifically listing the desired elements, I could focus on the fun I want to have writing this story. The Evils were all just fears of "not doing," easily conquered by, well, doing. My story felt stuck because I was holding back on the Good things, doling them out with a stingy hand as if too much of a Good thing would be dangerous.

Good vs Evil – If you're stuck in your story, try breaking it down to the basics. What would be on your list?