Monday, October 29, 2012

GIFTS OF TIME

After a four day weekend away at a wedding with no time to write I received a gift. It's an odd gift with a real demon side. Hurricane Sandy is pounding up the eastern coastline and preparing to slam into the New Jersey and New York shorelines. Due to Sandy we have two days off from work. Of course it would be better if there wasn't a natural disaster at the helm of this unplanned vacation but here it is in my lap.

So far I have completed revisions on my flash fiction chapbook in preparations for submitting it to a contest next month. I'm also working on queries for my short story collection so I can send them to publishers. I'm going to target some small publishers and see how it goes.

Next it's back to my novel. I would love to finish a first draft before my retreat in three weeks so I can begin revisions, or put it away and turn to poetry and flash fiction again. I need the quick results of short forms. But at odd times the characters and plot lines of my novel come back to haunt me. I can't shake it. It clings to me like wet sand. Its grains rub and abrade until I respond. Go to the keyboard and get down a new chapter. So I am hoping there isn't too much storm damage and that everyone stays safe and dry. In the meantime I am using the next two days to drive some more tension into the story and get my characters up a tree as they say.

Here's to the gift of writing time. May the next present come with nicer weather.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

TEN THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF WRITING

Saturday was spent out at the wineries with friends and we had a grand time. Sunday bloomed crisp and sunny and free. A good spread of hours in which to write. But as much as writers love to write, we also seem adept at finding other ways to occupy our free time.

Here are ten things to do instead of writing. Some fun and some not so much fun, but they supply the coward's way out of attacking that plot twist, that end rhyme, that perfect tie up to an essay.

  1. clean out your closet
  2. take photos of your shoes to glue on the boxes so you know what's inside
  3. bake a batch of brownies
  4. read a good novel
  5. make lists of ideas for new novels and stories
  6. walk in the woods
  7. do laundry
  8. take a nap
  9. chat on facebook
  10. enter writing contests (well okay at least this one is related to writing)
After all that is done it's time to tackle that new chapter and figure out exactly why Meghan's twin sister committed suicide on her sixteenth birthday. Or was it really suicide?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SHORT FORM OR LONG

I just read an article in last month's "The Writer Magazine" that presented writing advice from the inimitable Edgar Allan Poe who died at the ripe age of 40. He lived an addictive and tortured life but managed to create some of the best crafted prose and poetry of his century. Indeed, he treaded the first steps in the genres of mystery and horror. A writer to be reckoned with for sure.

Poe scribed essays about writing for a variety of magazines in between penning his poems and short stories. In one of those essays he talks about the value of writing short. His claim was that a reader needed to be able to consume a poem or story in one sitting so as not to disrupt the mood and tone of the piece. In this way the reader was able to keep the "whole" of the story in his head. He claimed that when reading a novel, where the reader is forced to put down the book in between reading sessions, he loses the thread of the plot and the mood of the fictive world created by the writer.

It brought to mind why I like writing poetry and flash fiction over writing novels. Yes, I enjoy getting deep into the plot and characters of my novels, the same way I enjoy going that deep while reading them. But for me there is something special about the short forms. Not only is the intensity of what you are writing increased by the concision of words and emotions, but I can keep the whole piece in my head at one time. I don't have to keep reverting to previous novel chapters to remember the color of the protagonist's car or whether or not the antagonist had salt and pepper hair or slender streaks of white in his black mane. Writng a short story I have the entire plot in mind as I string words to the end. I like that intensity and the ability to hold it all in my hand at once.

I'll continue to write novels in between the short forms, but now at least I know that the great Poe agreed with me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

RAINSTORMS AND BRAINSTORMS

There's nothing like a rainy Sunday for writing when you are in the flow. Although I was greeted by the sun this morning, the clouds are now drifting in and I smell rain in the air. I'd already planned to spend today working on my novel but now I am even more motivated and revved up.

At my Tapestries' meeting yesterday, one of the women in our group came up with an idea that has blown my plot out into the open. I am so excited to start writing with this new character goal in mind. It makes the plot stronger, the stakes higher, the conflict more suspenseful. I love it.

I spent the early morning writing pages of notes on this new plot idea and listing modifications to some of the characters to make it work. Now I can get to the keyboard and write. I love sharing this novel writing process with my blog readers and hope it motivates you writers out there to pick up a pen and get to work. Once the fire ignites in the brain there is no stopping us.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

WRITING GROUPS

It's Saturday and the sky outside my writing room window is mottled gray. A moist autumn breeze flickers the pages piling up on my desk. And a chorus of sparrows and cardinals offer background music to the click of keyboard keys. Words flow-- ribbons of ideas onto the white screen. But this isn't just any Saturday morning. This is the special Saturday that occurs each month when my writing group meets.

We were born ten years ago when a small group of women writers responded to an ad in The Network--the journal of the the International Women's Writing Guild. We met in one woman's kitchen, over coffee and cake, to read our stories and share comments and critique. A few months later we named our group Tapestries, referring to the intricate weave of our varied fabrics. We have been meeting monthly ever since then although there have been some women who left the group while others have joined us to add new texture.

It was and remains amazing that our writing abilities, interests, and dedication to the pursuit, as well as our personalities have woven together so nicely. We get along so well and are so determined to succeed at writing that we have been going on weekend writing retreats for the past three years.

There is power in this group. We are connected to each other personally as well as through our writing. We offer considerate yet direct critiques of what each woman brings to read each month. We are here to help each other but we don't retreat from candid comments that push each other to write better, stronger, and more often and to pursue the reward of publication by sending out our work even when we are less than confident. When a writer is ready to submit to a publisher, agent or contest, we help that writer make the work the best it can be.

We are a group of five now and frequently we look to add a new member or two to bring more talent and diversity to our group. That's hard. Finding new writers who click with us is a challenge. But over the past ten years we have been lucky to have women come and go who bring their special gifts to the group, adding to the brilliant colorful patchwork of Tapestries.

So as a rosy glow blooms around those mottled gray clouds, I look forward to this afternoon and three hours of sharing and critiquing and being with these marvelous  women writers. We have shared so much and come so far in our writing and we have also become the best of friends. No matter how much someone cares for you, no one understands this writing passion, the dreams for success and the struggles to get there, like another writer. And no one can relate to a woman's particular passions and struggles like another woman.

Monday, October 1, 2012

BIAM

So what in the world is BIAM? It's a book and a program called Book in a Month and it guides you to creating a simple first draft of your novel in one month. I've decided to take on the challenge and hope I'm not crazy. For me it's not essential that this gets done in a thirty day period, although that would be nice. What's helpful is all the charts and questions and tracking that help you to lay out plot and keep track of characters and scenes. If offers a way to record changes you make mid-novel so you don't have to go back and change all the previous chapters before you finish the first draft.

This coincides with my taking an online class call Writing Your Novel from the Ground Up which also pushes you to answer a lot of questions about the plot and the characters before you begin writing so you go in knowing which paths you are writing down as you go.

Writing is a mystery, even to writers, but I am off to solve yet another mystery of story and see if I can craft a novel people will want to read.