We hear endless reports about the drought in California, the potential extinction of the Northern White Rhino, and the disappearing rain forests. But does anyone care about a certain type of human being whose numbers are dwindling at such a rate they should be added to the endangered species list? This creature is disappearing faster than pay-phones and pop-tarts (for anyone who has never heard of a pop-tart, it is a toaster pastry that is delicious but not particularly healthful that we ate in the car on the way to school when I was a kid). What kind of human is this, you may ask?
A PEEK INTO A WRITER’S LIFE
When readers read a wonderful story or book, the words flow seamlessly. The plot unfolds, the characters come to life, and the sequence of events makes perfect sense. Readers should never stop and think “Wait, this makes no sense,” or “Hold on, why am I just finding this out now?” or “Geez! I’m completely lost!” It’s the kiss of death when readers get frustrated – that’s when they put down the book and move on to something else. So, in a quest to please, thrill, and delight readers, good writers go to painstaking effort to write well, to captivate, to give their readers an experience that takes them into another world, place, or time. It’s daunting, to say the least, and sometimes leads the writer on the fast track to a severe case of WRITER’S BLOCK.
Nothing freaks writers out more than the inability to write. Panic sets in upon the realization that their story or novel has lost direction and is sinking into an abyss of confusion faster than my dogs eat treats. There are countless reasons why writers stumble, lose focus, and end up suffering the paralyzing effects of writer’s block. Here are three ways to get past it – if you are writer, take note. If you are reader – enjoy this little peek into “A Writer’s Life.”
GET MORE INFORMATION: You’re trying to write a disaster scene but don’t know what disaster to choose. Earthquake? Fire? Disease? You need your character to murder somebody and hide the body, but you know nothing about murder and body-disposal (at least I hope not). Your character is about to embark upon a journey into the rainforest but you don’t know how to describe the environment. Don’t panic! Do some research. Go online and study natural disasters; read books about real life murders; watch a documentary about (or take a trip to) the rainforest. Information gathering revives inspiration, increases creativity, and helps you put your characters in believable settings, situations, and predicaments.
GET TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS: One of my favorite exercises is interviewing. Ask your characters questions such as: “What’s really troubling you? Why do you hate your sister? Why do you always have to be in charge? What do you hope to achieve by confronting your enemy?” YOU (the creator of your characters) must know their wants and needs and, more importantly, understand the difference.
GET BACK ON TRACK: “To be (an outliner) or not to be . . .” If you don’t have an outline, there’s a good chance you’ll go off track. Even with an outline you may wander into the netherworld of tangents and storylines that take you nowhere and end up in the “deleted material file.” Regardless of how you lost direction, you must figure out where you made a wrong turn. It might be a quick fix or a complete rewrite. Either way, the earlier you cure it the better, because the problem will not fix itself and in all likelihood will only get worse. If you have an outline, go back to it. If you don’t have one, try writing one or, at the very least, make a list of plot points: first this happened then that happened then something else happened.
Bottom line: Writing is hard work. Reading shouldn’t have to be.
(previously published on ShelfPleasure.com)
I am four years old. My mother has taken me grocery shopping, one of my favorite outings. As we roam the aisles, I traipse behind her, watching her read labels, check prices, and place items in the cart. I ask for cookies and treats, but she says no. I am distracted and don’t notice her rounding the corner. When I look up, she’s gone.
“More sex,” he said.
I was having coffee with an old friend, a publicist, who had offered advice on book promotion. I hadn’t expected “sex” to be on the agenda, but he was the expert, so I went with it. And he was, after all, doing me a favor. He even paid for my double-shot, low-fat, half-caff latte.
I took a sip and licked some foam off my upper lip. “Go on.” Continue reading
A short short story that will take you back to those awkward teen years:
“Come on, it’ll be fun. Besides, you’ve had a crush on Patrick since third grade.”
“No I haven’t.”
“It’s not a big deal, everyone knows.”
“He doesn’t,” I argued.
“Oh, I think he does.”
And with that, Ally convinced me to go to the new James Bond movie with Patrick and Steve, two boys from school. It was 1973. We were thirteen, and Ally desperately wanted a boyfriend. Continue reading
You would think that working from home is a writer’s dream. Going into the “office” any time of day, wearing pajamas or sweats (or whatever), sipping coffee or tea (or whatever), locating your workspace anywhere you want, ideally in front of a picture window that looks out over a forest thick with trees and birds and romping deer, as the sun rises (or sets) and one’s imagination runs free and stories spring forth and flow like a river of melting snow . . .
Yeah, right . . . Continue reading
Whenever I speak to a book club or at an event, somebody usually asks me about my favorite books and authors. Here are a few:
First book that comes to mind is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon. I almost never read a book more than once, because there are so many great books to read. This one – three times!
Anything by Philippa Gregory – I love historical fiction and the British Royals. Gregory does it like nobody else.
The Girl with Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – her words flow like beautiful music.
Sara’s Key and The Book Thief – both captivating stories written for YA but crossed over into the adult market because they are compelling and well-written.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – I just loved this book.
When I was a kid:
Nancy Drew – could not get enough of those great mysteries!
One of my favorite series was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. And I LOVED the TV series with Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert based on Wilder’s life.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I’ve never stopped dreaming about secret doors in the backs of closets . . .