Thursday, January 31, 2008

When Words Aren't Written~or~When Words Dry Out

There are a lot of reasons to take a break from writing. Some chosen, some not. Recently, life has thrown a few curves in my direction and I've been grateful (for once) not to have a deadline.

When I don't write every day, fear and insecurity find it easier to wedge themselves into my psyche. It becomes harder and harder to work, and easier and easier to find some excuse not to.

If you don't use it, you lose it. My sister shared a wonderful term with me: bichok. Butt in chair, hands on keys. Bichoking is what will get you back on track.

Ideas to Nudge You Toward Brilliant Bichoking

~ Pinpoint any issues that may be keeping you from writing. This can be patently obvious, or require some deeper reflection.

~ Writer's block? Ignore it. Successful writers are the ones that show up and just do it. Try journaling as a way to break through this one. Or write something completely outside of your norm. For example, I just finished working on a short article called "Blonde on Steroids" reflecting the ditzy stuff I seem to be doing more of now that I'm getting gray hair.

~ Set a minimum daily word requirement. One that isn't too scary. Say, 100 words. That's equivelent to a paragraph. You'll probably do way more.

~ Set a timer. Fifteen minutes. Go with some freestyle thoughts. Indulge. Don't worry if it isn't worth keeping. Usually fifteen minutes is what it takes to really get in the groove.

~ Change your surroundings. Of course, it's easier to do this with a laptop, but no one said you couldn't take a notepad and pen to a favorite spot.

~ Go back and read what you've written. This is especially important if you tend to write by the seat of your pants (a pantser) as opposed to a detailed plotter.

~ Light a candle on your desk--or something else that can become a trigger for you to open your work-in-progess and bichok.

~ Read something. A writing mag usually creates a huge need in me to get to it.
~ Write when you first wake up in the morning, before life kicks in.

~ Take a walk and think about what horrible thing you can do to your characters you hadn't considered before.

Yesterday I ordered the Writer's Mind CD based on a review I read on Absolute Write. The theory is listening to this CD can increase my mind's performance by fiddling with my brainwaves through audio technology. Hmmm . . . I'll let you know.

"I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." - Peter De Vries

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Review: ABOMINATION by Colleen Coble

A blonde woman is found on the side of the road. She's bleeding, bewildered, and holding a small child--a child she doesn't know.

A man, believing he is righteous in his quest, is killing women who share physical characteristics. Characteristics that are strikingly similar to the woman on the side of the road.

Michigan State Police Captain Nikos "Nick" Andreakos works violent crimes. It's his passion. But one afternoon, when he arrives to pick up his daughter from his estranged wife for a visit, he finds blood instead.

Passion becomes personal.

Coble explodes and extends her craft in this new stand-alone, providing us with a sideline education into geocaching, swans, twisted minds, and Greek and Scandinavian cuisine. Her research into these areas as well as various theological viewpoints create pinpoint detail that rivet.

And to my delight, Abomination brings back characters from Coble's Rock Harbor series I love.

Highly recommended.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Show vs. Tell, Part 2

Several people who read my earlier post on this subject have asked for examples of showing and telling to see the difference--no pun intended. I'm happy to oblige.

Telling: Two happy dogs are running down the street.

Showing: Feet not touching terra firma, smiling faces turned to the sun, a blur of black and white fur tore past my eyes.

Showing: She took the child by the hand as they stepped of the curb.

Telling: She was a good mother.

Telling: He fidgeted.

Showing: Fingers beating on the countertop, punctuated by kicking feet, his gaze travelled between the door and the clock on the wall.

With showing, the picture is painted by you on a movie screen, action occurs, and the reader gets to draw their own conclusions. There are no voiceovers instructing the reader. They see it. Obviously, you hope they draw the conclusions and see the qualities you're going for. It's harder work than just telling, but more often than not, the result is worth it.

Bear in mind however, that just as all telling can be bland and non-interactive, all showing can be tedious. Pick and choose which method is going to propel your story forward. More often than not, showing will be the best option simply because it involves your reader more.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Learning From the Masters

I have a loyalty gene that I've finally kicked to the gutter. Back in November, I blogged a bit about eight little words that Dean Koontz used that made my big toes punch through my socks before they blew off.

I found Stephen King before I'd ever heard of Dean Koontz. Someone told me that Koontz was way too far out there and way too scary. I believed them. I stuck with King. Until he started to seem way too far out there and way too scary. But the only Koontz book I ever read was one he co-wrote with King and I'm thinking whatever it was didn't leave a big impression.

What's a girl to do?

I'm about half-way through my very first Dean Koontz in its entirety. False Memory seemed to start a bit slow (as opposed to the beginnings I'd read of The Darkest Evening of the Year, or The Husband) but when it grabbed me, there was no going back.

Dean Koontz is a master. Plain and simple. He's got all the goods and is the real deal.

What I've Learned in 300 Pages:

*** His setting is as much a character as his characters. FM is in a moody, stormy Southern California. It's big. It's bad. But is it as bad as the characters' are imagining? Or is it worse?

*** He spends time developing that character of scene and setting. He takes out his paintbrush, and because the character is so vivid, the brush strokes so firm, you are NOT taken out of the story. If anything, you're pulled deeper into the danged thing.

*** Every scene grounds the reader in the location almost immediately. You don't have to play catch-up to the words. You get to start where the next piece starts. (I've decided that's just having good manners.)

*** He's not afraid of backstory. And when I recognized it and began to prepare myself to do a bit of skimming, I still got caught up in his writing. The backstory he shared was packed with meaning and emotion. It truly filled out the characters and the circumstance. It was never an author's need to dump parts of their fabulously drawn, in-depth character sketches.

*** God is in the details. To me, almost to a distraction . . . until I read a bit further and than appreciate him for not making me feel stupid. Because by golly, I now know exactly what he means by lacrimal ducts and why the creepy character is infatuated with them.

*** He puts energy and description and detail into EVERY scene, building EVERY character to their maximum story viability. He doesn't walk away just letting the reader "get it" or not.

When I grow up, I want to write like Dean Koontz.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a prologue to, um, explain this picture.

Here's the basic outline of the story (after all, a prologue is supposed to be a vital SUPPORT to the story and be RELATIVE, right?):

Carl and Mary Paddington recently moved their family to Ridgeview Hills.

Carl is the new sales manager for Custom King Bakery, responsible for a six-state region. It's the third job he's had in the last two years.

Mary pretends she has more money than she knows what to do with, but of course, she doesn't. She works part-time for a local dentist and tells everyone it's to "keep busy."

Mark, their oldest, is not adjusting to the move at all and is depressed and outwardly cruel.

Cecelia (known as Cissy) is wildly popular with tons of friends and a full social schedule.

And that leaves us with Carmichael. Carmy has been a member of the family for the last six years. He has a favorite, but he would never tell because he loves the attention he gets from every member of the family.

This morning, one of them (obviously not Carmy) was brutally murdered.

Contest Rules: Maximum length 500 words (please indicate your word count at the beginning). Entry is made through the Comments section--one entry per person, so make it your best. In the event of cyber-space fistfights between the judges (who are my critique partners and my friends) I will be the determining judge. Only one person to feel vitriolic toward, ;-). Deadline: January 15th.

But seriously, this is all in fun. So let's have it!

What You Will NOT Receive: A line edit or critique. What your three judges will be evaluating is simply the sizzle and draw of your prologue--in addition to making sure it's valid.

What The Winner WILL Receive: The winner (and this is very, very special) will receive my very own personal copy of Without A Trace, Book One in Colleen Coble's Rock Harbor Series. This popular series featured another dog, Samson. Unlike (well, I think unlike) Carmy, Samson is a Search and Rescue dog.

Please feel free to invite your friends to participate. I've told my crit partners we'll probably have twenty-five to choose from. They laughed at me.

It' all better with friends.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Sometimes it's very easy to see how we got to the beginning of a story. It couldn't get much more clear, and any lengthy explanation would be boring.

Other times, however, a little information is a good thing--an igniting past or present event--an exposé on something happening concurrent with our story. If this little bit of information mightily feeds that story, it has validity.

If it's just a bunch of backstory or an information dump it's worthless and as a reader, I'm ready to walk.

I'm amazed at the number of people who skip prologues. Puh-lease. Are you kidding me? I have a passion for prologues. IF THEY SERVE THE STORY.

As a writer, I have a prologue in the current ms I'm working on. It's not backstory. It's a murder. Would you skip a murder scene? Sheeshkabobalino.

But here's the real truth. If you write a prologue, it better be important. I mean, MAJORLY important. Not just "good information." That prologue better pull the reader in and give them satisfaction--both initially and how it relates to the story. And Chapter One? That first sentence better do the same thing. Don't be a wuss. NEVER think that you've done your job by hauling someone in to the story with an amazing prologue, and then spending the next gazillion words writing a different book.

I'm convinced that some readers skip prologues because they've read so many unnecessary ones. Don't add yours to that pile. Make it vital--or take it out.

It's all better with friends.