Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hopefully Helpful Hints

10. Give yourself permission to "write ugly". Remember the story of the ugly duckling.

9. Don't ask for criticism unless you're ready to receive it.

8. If an idea is keeping you up at night, or knocking on the door of your imagination while you're busy doing other things, it's an idea worth paying attention to.

7. Never forget the funny.

6. Remember some days will be more productive than others.

5. Never assume your characters are finished surprising you.

4. There is such a thing as a too-complicated plot.

3. Love your characters' flaws - perfection can be really boring.

2. Your third chapter might be your first chapter in disguise.

1. Be aware of your facial expressions when you're writing. If you're smiling, you're onto a good thing.

K.M. Weiland, the author of the wonderful blog Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and an author of historical and speculative fiction, is releasing an instructional CD entitled Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration on October 1st. I'll be posting my review of the CD on Monday, October 4th.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Room, Many Views

One character is eager to sit down and enjoy a delicious meal.

Another is annoyed because they're not sitting in the place of honour next to the host at the head of the table.

One character is judging the quality of the china and crystal.

Another is focused only on the artwork on the walls.

One character is allergic to the flowers in the arrangement and is worried they'll sneeze throughout the meal.

One has never been to a dinner like this before and is afraid of embarrassing themselves by using the wrong fork.

I try to remember that every character sees the same scene through their own eyes and through the maze of their own prejudices and priorities.

Every experience is unique.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm Back!

My apologies for my failure to post yesterday. Sometimes, life has other plans. However, moving on to what I learned while on my writing retreat...

10. Setting a daily goal keeps you sane. Sometimes, it's a word count, sometimes it's reaching a certain place in editing - but you need a goal.

9. Concentration is key. This can be harder than it seems when the view out your window is worthy of a postcard.

8. You can't win a staring contest with a deer.

7. It's best to restrict your muttering to when you're alone - not walking around town.

6. Coffee is always good.

5. However, having someone else preparing your meals is even better.

4. My brain fries after hitting 5,000 words. Seriously. You could smell the smoke. It wasn't pretty.

3. The feeling of accomplishment each evening was enormous. In fact, it was knowing I would get that feeling of accomplishment that carried me through each morning.

2. Rainy weather is good for writing.

1. I need to schedule this type of retreat again. It forced me to take my writing seriously.

Here are a few pictures of where I was - Bowen Island, BC.

The approach on the ferry.

This is the deck where I stayed.

This was my view.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Off to Write

I'm off today and tomorrow. Writing. Writing my little heart out. Not literally, of course, because writing would then be impossible since I'd be dead. However, since I write mysteries, I'll be writing some character's heart out. They'll plead their case. I'll ignore it. Sometimes, you have to be cruel.

See you Monday when I'll let you know how it went.

Think of me...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Waiting for Inspiration

You're ready to do this...

You've got this...

and a full bowl of this...

You put your fingers like this...

But you've got this...

All you can think about is whether a this...

could hold a this...

in his this...

Which is (let's face it) a fairly odd thing to be thinking about.

You're supposed to be writing a scene where your this...

is stuck somewhere like this....

or hears a ticking this...

or is facing down a tiny this...

(to raise the stakes even higher)

has discovered there's only one piece of this...

But've still got this...

You're about to despair, when suddenly you're hit with this....

and you decide to write about a this...

who teams up with his partner this....

to become amateur this...

solving the case of who ate the rest of this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Skippy's 10 Things

A rerun today as the cold has boomeranged back and I'm scheduled to leave on my writing retreat in two days. I refuse to be ill in a place I paid money for. Since Skippy seems to be in control of my life, I'm offering you another look at my post from back in June.

Other writing blogs will give you tips on how to improve your writing. How to develop your characters. How to muscle on through to the end. How to be productive.


Today, your evil twin Skippy brings you 10 things to do instead of writing.

10. When was the last time you looked at your high school yearbook? Find it. This will either be a fond nostalgic trip down memory lane or a reason to go buy boxes of liquor.

9. Realize your house will never be as clean as the one you grew up in. Get comfortable with this thought while lying on the couch and watching the dust motes surf the air.

8. Reach into the back of your refrigerator and open that plastic container. You get 10 guesses on what it used to be. Bonus points if it has developed a pulse.

7. Go outside and marvel at how fast the weeds are growing in your garden. Consider how much easier your life would be if it was socially acceptable to just grow weeds instead of flowers.

6. Can you guess how many stairs there are in your house? Try. This might be important knowledge some day.

5. Think about how many writing projects you are presently working on. Although you are not actually writing at the moment, this will make you feel productive. Celebrate this productivity with a cookie for each project.

4. Start composing the thank you speech for the many awards you will receive one day. Practice your winning smile in front of a mirror while holding a shampoo bottle.

3. Turn on the TV and cruise up and down the channels. Remember when you were a teenager and there was always a good show on? When did this change?

2. Find out how many odd socks are sitting where ever you keep odd socks. Notice how the pile has grown since the last time you looked. Nope. Still no matches.

1. Wonder what your pet is thinking. Really wonder. Now, get a bit nervous and slowly leave the room.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Six Stages of Writing

"I see dead people."
Since I write mysteries, this is the beginning of every writing project. I always start with the victim, who seem to appear unannounced and inconveniently in my brain. This arrival starts all the brainstorming - who are they? Why did they die? And I'm off to the races.

"... life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you're gonna get."
This is the story of my first draft - I always think I know where I'm going and I never do. Characters that I thought would be friendly turn out to have nasty sides to their personalities, while others I'd thought were evil turn out to be just misunderstood.

"Fasten your seat-belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
Here's an explanation of my second, third (and countless other) drafts as I add more description, more character depth, more twists and turns to my plot. Actually 'bumpy' is putting it mildly.

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
There is a time when this sums up my attitude towards my WIP. I'm sick of it. Sick of the characters. Sick of the plot. I'm convinced its the worst drivel that ever has been put on a page. This stage isn't pretty.

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory."
Then comes the wonderful stage when I see the finish line just inches ahead of me and I know I'm going to actually complete the project. This feeling almost makes up for the agony of some of the others. Not quite, mind you, but it's close.

"May the force be with you."
The final step is sending that project out into the world and out of my control. It's a scary time, but one I worked hard to achieve. I usually try to pat myself on the back, but instead...

"I see dead people".
Here we go again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fun Friday

Yes, I've still got my cold. I'm feeling blue. And stuffy. And sorry for myself. I decided, therefore, that today's Fun Friday post will be headstones. Funny headstones. Sometimes, my humour is very dry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

10 Activities for the Writer with a Cold

10. Invent adventurous ways of torturing the person who gave you the cold.

9. Try writing. Observe even though you're typing slowly, you are still able to make typos. Decide this is a sign of your exceptional talent. Then sneeze.

8. Celebrate that brief shining moment of being able to breathe through your nose when the stuffiness switches from one nostril to the other.

7. Try writing again. As you stare at the keyboard try to discern whether your head is spinning clockwise or back and forth.

6. Stop expecting your cat to care. Cats don't care. Cats just want to be worshiped.

5. Turn on the television. Watch a few minutes of daytime programming. If you're me, this is rapidly followed by inserting a DVD.

4. Drink gallons of warm liquids. Feel sorry for yourself that no one is making the soup, tea, etc. for you. Decide this is wrong.

3. Wander through your home (trying not to drop tissues behind you a la Hansel and Gretel) and renovate it in your mind.

2. The terrifying cost of #3 will drive you back to your computer. Try to write.

1. Decide to give one of your characters a cold. That'll show 'em who's boss.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Writing Road

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the writing road was like this?

But we know it's far more likely to be like this...

or this...

or even this...

You don't get a sign like this...

So you're likely to feel like this...

But don't ever do this...

Even on days when you're feeling like this...

You'll come to enjoy this...

and even this...

Because you know you will eventually see this.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

10 Questions to Ask Your Characters

Before I make that first keystroke on any first draft, my heart afire with hope while my brain is screaming "Seriously? You're doing this again?", I get to know my characters. My logic is the better I know them, the better I can write them. Of course, there are always surprises along the way, but having some basic knowledge of each of them makes the journey a great deal smoother.

Here are some examples of questions:

10. How old are you?

9. Where do you live?

8. Are you shy?

7. What are you most afraid of? (this is wonderful information)

6. Are you good with people?

5. What do you do for a living?

4. How observant are you?

3. Do other people's opinions matter to you?

And the two most important...

2. What do you want?

1. How is that different from what you need?

Bonus question:

Why won't you say or do what I want you to do?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Playing to Your Strengths

First drafts are tricky beasts. They always take longer than I think, and they're always rougher than I want. Every writer seems to attack them in their own way, but the biggest lesson seems to be: no matter how you do it, just finish the gosh-darned thing. Write it in a way that's easiest for you.

For me, it's dialogue. As a result, parts of any of my first drafts read almost like a play. That's fine. All the details get added in future drafts. After all, I want my manuscript to be a lush portrait of the events, not a black and white sketch.

Since I write mysteries, I have to know my plot before I begin. I know who died and why. I know who did it. I know most of my sub-plots. You'd think I'd be fine, wouldn't you? HA! I'm always amazed at how the story winds off in unexpected directions or how characters show colours I wasn't expecting.

Perhaps other writers, far more talented than I, can write better first drafts. I'll stick to what works for me. After all, in that marathon of writing the first draft, it's crossing the finish line that counts, not how pretty you looked getting there.

Now, if someone could just tell me how do get these characters to shut-up....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fun Friday

Welcome, once again, to Fun Friday. Today's edition is from an email I received this week. It made me giggle, I hope it does the same for you. Enjoy your weekend!

12 Ways To Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity

1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.

2. Page yourself on the intercom. Don't disguise your voice!

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.

4. Put decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to expresso.

5. In the memo field of all your cheques write 'for marijuana'.

6. Skip down the hall rather than walk and see how many looks you get.

7. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat.

8. Specify that your drive-through order is 'to go'.

9. Sing Along At The Opera. 9. Sing along at the opera.

10. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can't attend their party because you have a headache.

11. When the money comes out of the ATM, scream "I won! I won!"

And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity (men only - although it would even be more fun for women)

12. Pick up a box of condoms at the pharmacy and go to the counter and ask where the fitting room is.