Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On the . . . Bunch of Other Days Before Christmas

Writing is a solitary way to spend my time. For the most part, any collaboration is between the disciplined Peg and the goof-off Peg. The grown-up Peg has had to settle some nasty disputes.

So this gift is for gentleness. Feel the excitement of the trip and let the ride happen. Gentleness helps to keep eye twinkles twinkling.

It's also for companionship. If you don't belong to a writers group, find one. Find more than one if you can. For me, these groups are my little trips to the water cooler. A place to retreat to talk to others who are on the same path and willing to share.

Wrap it all up with someone who believes in me. Someone outside of me who thinks I can do this. Someone who encourages and affirms me. That's a hard job because I need it daily and the words need to be sincere.

I hope that each of us can create some writing gifts for ourselves this season. Gifts that will carry-over and not wear out.

Remember, when you drop a dream, it breaks.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.

Finished reading: Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron
Starting: The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

It's all better with friends.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the Eighth Day, Seventh Day . . .

What is one of the most ethereal qualities for a writer to grasp?

Sheesh! The candle on my desk almost blew out with the collective shout-out. Or maybe it was just me.


It's that thing about writing that makes what I write different than what John Sandford, or Karin Slaughter, or (heaven forbid) Dean Koontz writes.

A couple of unoriginal thoughts on voice that have come across my desk in the last year or so:

Style and voice are virtually the same.

Each innovation in style must be intentional.

The goal of finding your voice is better expressed as shedding the Novice Writers Voice.

And then shed all the false voices that take the place of the Novice Writers Voice.

And then these were added from The Sisters in Crime Newsletter in an article written by John Morgan Wilson:

Voice is your fictional prose persona, and it may differ with each non-series book you write. and

Developing our voice is like raising children—we need to accept natural predilections. - Naomi Hirahara

It's like a muscle: The more you write, the stronger it gets. The less you write, the weaker it gets. - John Morgan Wilson

So, with the gift of voice, we're back to . . . what else? Writing.

And that brings me to the next gift . . . a quiet place to write.

It might be at a kitchen table (where Mary Higgins Clark got her start) with some earplugs from at Wal-Mart. Or parked on the side of a street in a quiet neighborhood. Or maybe a cozy chair in front of a roaring fire.

A moment with no distractions, no errands or chores to do. Just the words and a vehicle to transport them.

Just finished reading A Whole New Life by Betsy Thornton.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the Ninth Day of Christmas . . .

Okay, so this is gonna sound weird . . . the gift of goal setting?


I have to remember not to confuse goal setting with New Year's Resolutions. The latter are the things I break, the former the things I don't achieve.

Oops. Time for a mindset change, don't you think?

Actually, as I look back on my goals for 2008, I didn't do too bad. Definitely not great, but considering I'd hidden them out of sight sometime during the course of the year, I accidentally accomplished the spirit of a couple of them.

Does that count?

I went back and read what I'd posted last year about goal setting. Maybe I was smarter then, but I think it's possible I'm wiser now.

I think one of the purposes of goals is to inspire. Framed positively, they lift me up and help me believe things are possible.

Goals are dreams that are written down.

The trick comes with planning the action steps to realize those dreams. And you know what they say about getting a laugh out of God . . . tell Him your plans.

When I put my goals together last year, they were inspirational and even seemed reasonable. Then my mother went into the hospital on January 2nd and died on April 5th. What would have worked at one point in my life needed serious tweaking to work for the next point in my life.

I will set goals again. But I also plan on putting a reminder on my calendar every three months or so, to pull them out and review. I'll gauge my progress and see if any tweaking needs to be done. I want to keep me working toward my goals as long as my goals are working for me, and we're not going in disparate directions.

Still reading the Betsy Thornton.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Eleventh and Tenth Day's of Christmas: A Gift for Writers

Okay, so I think maybe I was a day behind when I started. What else is new?

These two gifts go hand-in-hand anyway.


There is a school of thought that writers should not read in the genre in which they write, because they'll start sounding like the book they're reading.


Somewhere in Stephen King's On Writing he talks about new writers kind of copying the styles of other writers. (If I had this book in Kindle, I could find it, but I don't, so phooey. Trust me, it's in there.) And King says that's just fine. The more we write (see the first gift), the more we develop our own voice. Our own style. He also says somewhere to beware the tag line "In the manner of so-and-so" or something to that effect. As a writer or a reader, it can only lead to disappointment. I guess, being Stephen King, he can afford to take that position. (I almost wrote "stand" but that would've been a bit much, don't you think?)

Read fiction. What a wonderful gift.

I may not always dissect what I'm reading, but I know subconsciously good stuff is seeping in through the cracks in my brain, of which there are plenty. There's no danger of my head getting plugged up with too much knowledge.

Here's the Tenth Day gift: Be a student.

I love online groups of writers who share information. I love critique partners who are honest and tough and loving all at the same time. I love reading books on craft. I love reading magazine articles about writing.

I remember (it wasn't too long ago) when a certain aspect of writing came up in one of my groups, and I smugly thought it didn't apply to me. Two months later, I realized it did. Always be a student.

I'm not looking for a profession where I can know everything at some point, and perfect my skills. If I were, it would not be writing. There is no such thing as knowing it all.

CR: A Whole New Life by Betsy Thornton.

Working on: I need a good winter picture for my blog banner. Any ideas?

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Twelfth Day of Christmas: A Gift for Writers

Okay. So don't come knocking on my door if I don't get all twelve days done. Deal?

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, the knowledge I must Write Every Day.

My writing, my own words, my own mistakes, are how I learn. Usually it takes the eyes of someone I trust (a critique partner; an editor) to see the mistakes I make that I catch easily in someone else's work, but never my own.

But first, I must write.

Write my heart out. Write my guts out. Don't take my normal route and say, "Well, I need to clean this, or I need to cook dinner, or I need to run errands." Just don't.

Just Do It. Just Write.

Let's make this a battle cry for 2009.


Every single day, I will string some words together. (Emails and thank-you notes don't count any more than my grocery list.) Every single day, I will pour some of my poor, sad soul into words I can edit and use as a base for something better.

Every single day, I will write.

It doesn't matter where I am in the learning curve. Writing will make me a better writer. Stringing words together will show me how to apply what I've been shown. (Show vs. Tell works in more than one way.)

I will listen to the guidance from those I trust and I will apply it to my WRITING. If it feels right, it stays. If not, it's outtahere.

But regardless, I will write every day.

CR: Picking something new tonight . . . but I totally enjoyed the Robert Crais, The Two Minute Rule. The plot was tight, the characterization developed, and the writing, next to brilliant.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deep POV

Writers who are learning craft figure out fairly early the meaning of "POV."

When my friend, Lauren, told me the letters stood for Point of View, my initial reaction was, "Yeah, so? Of course it's all in my point of view. I'm writing the silly thing."


For those just beginning to peel the onion, POV represents the eyes through which you're framing your scene, or your entire story. You choose a character (ideally the one who has the most to lose at the moment) and let events unfold through their viewpoint; their emotions; their eyes.

It can be harder than it sounds. Most of us want to turn "omniscient" from time to time.

Then, there's Deep POV.

Deep POV, truth be told, is at once the hardest place for me to get, and the easiest place to write from once I'm there.

Deep POV requires me to gird my psyche. I need to prepare myself for what's to come, because what's to come is likely to blow a few emotional gaskets I may have been subconsciously working on maintaining for quite a while. My protective barriers have to fall open to write in Deep POV. I must be vulnerable. I must cut open an artery and let my blood flow.

From The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner, describing what he calls "psychic distance":

1. It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
2. Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
3. Henry hated snowstorms.
4. God, how he hated these damn snowstorms.
5. Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul.

Deep POV should be used to intensify and highlight. A story with nothing but this kind of depth would exhaust a reader before it got going. "Moderation in all things." Although attributed (probably correctly) to Andria Terence, a Roman dramatist, my frame of reference says Julia Child. But whoever, it's a truism worth noting.

As much as I love Deep POV, it can leave me drained, for obvious reasons. It's often the best of what I have to offer and because it can be intensely personal, the risk is that much greater. Deep POV means I have to dig into Peg. I have to feel what my character is feeling.

And it has to be real.

Real, fictionally speaking. But guess what? If I try to evade or side-step? To soften the impact or protect my own emotions? It shows. Rather than a natural diamond, it slides straight past Zircon to plastic. An ugly thing no one wants to waste their time reading.

Deep POV connects both me and my reader to our core's. It's a God-thing, a human thing, an In-The-Moment event that is rare and wonderful and powerful. Not something to fear, but to embrace.

Even when it's the scariest (especially when it's the scariest) moment in your character's life.

CR: The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais.

Working on: Our part in a neighborhood progressive dinner party tomorrow night (we're the appetizers) and finishing up my Christmas shopping. I'm woefully behind.

And, important to me, finishing a new scene in my story.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Books as Gifts

Have you bought some books for gifts this year? Please say you have!

I'm the Book Giving Grandma in our family, and I'm thrilled when the Wish Lists I get are titles and not brands. I've wrapped, in one form or another, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (gotta support the local authors, plus it sounds like it might be good), The Snowball (a Warren Buffett biography for my brother-in-law), two Stephanie Meyers books for a granddaughter (actually three, but that was a mistake), several Delta Sigma Theta books for another granddaughter, a couple more non-fiction business oriented books for my brother-in-law, another "legal" book by Jerry Spence for the DST granddaughter, two signed (and personalized) Robert Liparulo books for the Stephanie Meyers reader, The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing for a new family addition, and Lost Futures (out of print so I got it used from Powell's) for his sister who has an interest in child advocacy. Plus I've managed to sneak in a book or two on craft for me.

I hope there are books on your Christmas giving list. And if you're like me, one or two just for yourself.

CR: Making a choice tonight. I'm thinking about trying out my first Robert Crais.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fraudulent Thoughts

Sometimes I think I'm nothing but a phony. A fraud. I'm sure everyone can see right through me and immediately know I'm fooling myself thinking I'm a writer. Especially if I'm sitting around with real writers somewhere. They've got It. I'm just a wannabe.

Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland is my current non-fiction read. I liked this:

Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fears about yourself, and fears about your reception by others. In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your BEST work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your OWN work.

Under the caption of Pretending is this:

It's easy to imagine that REAL [writers] know what they're doing and that they—unlike you—are entitled to feel good about themselves and their [writing].

These concepts go to the fact that when the Story is in charge, and not Peg, things fly. Characters become individuals, not just people I've created on paper. When my ego steps out of the way, good things happen. Or rather, as a suspense novelist, bad things happen.

Press through self-doubts, ego, and the needs both those imposters create. Press through the fear until the story is all there is and ride the wave.

I'm only a fraud if that's what I believe myself to be. And I'm not.

I'm a writer.

Still reading Fractured. It's well done (Slaughter is a REAL writer), but I must say, I like shorter chapters.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


It's funny how one element in my life can echo another. I think it's God's way of hitting me over the head with a brick. And let me tell ya, I really try to pay attention, because the bricks only get heavier. He loves me that much. {sigh}

The 2008 NaNoWriMo is over. I failed miserably—depending on how you look at it. I did not come close to 50,000 words. But I learned a few things about me and my writing along the way.

First, I love to just sit down and write free-style. I haven't looked yet, but I bet I have some decent, salvageable stuff. There's a freedom in letting the story rule. Allowing art to flow with its agenda, not mine. Very Steven King-ish.

Second, if I do this again (and I'm seriously considering it because the coaches were so incredible), I know I need to make every attempt to crank out my 50,000 words by November 19th. That's my husband's birthday and the unofficial start to our family holidays and commitments. That means that rather than 1,667 words a day, I'll need to focus on . . . 2,778 a day. It's easy to say this now, but I think I could do that. It would be a huge stretch for me, but hey, it wouldn't be special otherwise.

One of the gurus with Nano wrote about the aftermath. What do we have now? Just a bunch of first draft drivel? Well, yeah. But that drivel could be the start of something great.

Which brings me to the echo.

In Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, I read a few corresponding ideas today:

Quitting is fundamentally different from STOPPING. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again—and art is all about starting again.

This means that the only way you can fail is if you quit. Whether it's your novel or your sales goals or your marriage. Keep showing up.

Vision is always ahead of execution—and it SHOULD be.

My first draft is not my final draft. My vision of the words and the story will get closer with each rewrite I complete.

Most artists don't daydream about making great art—they daydream about HAVING MADE great art.

Hello. Forget the pain, the beautiful words I had to delete, the days I sat here and knew deep within my soul that I was an imposter. Write? Me?

My daydream is about my fabulous breakout novel that amazes my family and makes my worst critics say, "I always knew she had it in her."

And here, more than any other place came the echoes for Nano:

I've had the wonderful opportunity of wandering through Leo Tolstoy's house in Moscow. I'll save the details for another post, but Tolstoy, before Word, re-wrote War & Peace not once, not twice, but eight times. As it was finally rolling to press he was still frantically revising. Before Word? Before an IBM Selectric even? He didn't quit. He didn't quit. Oy.

Bayles and Orland tells me: The truth is that the piece of art which seems so profoundly right in its finished state may earlier have been only inches or seconds away from total collapse.

So I've come full circle.

I will not quit.

Still reading: Fractured

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Review: FIELD OF BLOOD by Eric Wilson

Gina Lazarescu had a difficult childhood in Romania. A childhood that left her with more than scars on her body, but on her soul as well.

On her twelfth birthday, a mark appeared on her forehead. A mark not everyone could see, but one that labeled her as special—part of the Nistarim: a select group who walk the earth, immortal, protecting mankind. A mark that also made her a target.

A group of undead, known as Collectors, who feed on human blood while infecting souls, are motivated to eliminate all who have the mark. It’s an ancient battle between good and evil.

Wilson imbues Field of Blood with rich symbolism and creative, skilled storytelling that winds through both biblical and archaeological history. Although there were sections I skimmed because they seemed repetitious, the story of Gina and her destiny kept me turning the pages.

This is book one in The Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy, and it is not a stand-alone, so don’t expect any kind of wrap-up at the end. Instead, start planning for the next installment.

I know I am.

(Special Note: This title is also available as a fast download to your Kindle.

CR: Fractured by Karin Slaughter

It's all better with friends.