Monday, January 30, 2012

Keeping to the Path


Everyone needs to make a path through the woods so that they can come out the other side; I know my Hansel and Gretel. Hansel's breadcrumbs weren't the best idea of course, but his thinking was sound. How do writers keep themselves on track...on their particular path through the woods? Here are my breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumb #1: Know your ending.
It's impossible (for me, anyway) to start moving if I don't know where I'm going to end up. I know the ending of my books before I know the beginnings.

Breadcrumb #2: Know who is with you on the journey.
Know your characters, or at least know your main characters.  Others may join you for a while, but they have to leave before the end of the journey. If they insist on staying (maybe they have a fail-proof method for getting everyone out of the forest) then they may deserve to stay and someone else may have to leave. Be brutal. There're only so many breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumb #3: Ignore the side paths.
I realize this is easier said than done, but side paths aren't shortcuts, they're just interesting diversions that keep you away from the main path and end up nowhere.

Breadcrumb #4: Make sure you don't throw down the same breadcrumb every time.
This is my way of saying don't forget red herrings or sub-plots.

Breadcrumb #5: Ignore the witch's house.
The witch's house is the greatest problem of all and for this metaphor it's whatever is calling your attention away from the path. It could be self-doubt. It could be fear of an approaching deadline. Just keep going along the path and soon you'll leave the witch's house far behind and reach the other side of the forest. That is the time for candy.

How do you make it through the woods? What are your breadcrumbs?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fun Friday

More trivia for this week's Fun Friday. Will you use these facts? Did you already know some of these facts? Will these facts help you on Jeopardy? Or...maybe they're just fun. Whatever. It's Friday.

If you are right handed, you will tend to chew your food on the right side of your mouth. If you are left handed, you will tend to chew your food on the left side of your mouth.

To make half a kilo of honey, bees must collect nectar from over 2 million individual flowers.

Tourists visiting Iceland should know that tipping at a restaurant is considered an insult!

Albert Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952, but he declined.

Ancient Roman, Chinese and German societies often used urine as mouthwash.

The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. In the Renaissance era, it was fashion to shave them off.

Because of the speed at which Earth moves around the Sun, it is impossible for a solar eclipse to last more than 7 minutes and 58 seconds.

Google is actually the common name for a number with a million zeros

It takes glass one million years to decompose, which means it never wears out and can be recycled an infinite amount of times.

Gold is the only metal that doesn't rust, even if it's buried in the ground for thousands of years.

Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end.

Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals

Kites were used in the American Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers.

Drinking water after eating reduces the acid in your mouth by 61 percent

Peanut oil is used for cooking in submarines because it doesn't smoke unless it's heated above 450°F

Nine out of every ten living things live in the ocean

The banana cannot reproduce itself. It can be propagated only by the hand of man

Airports at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air density

The University of Alaska spans four time zones

The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot heal itself.

Warner Communications paid $28 million for the copyright to the song Happy Birthday. (this trivial fact just made all Sorkinites smile) 

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

A comet's tail always points away from the sun

The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when knights in armor raised their visors to reveal their identity.

These facts may seem familiar because this post is a rerun. Why, you ask? Because I just got a email from an agent asking for my entire manuscript and I'm frantically giving it a last look-over. Yes, it was ready. Yes, I'm sick of it. But I'm looking it over because this is what I do.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gadzooks! A Hole!

You're busy editing...

when suddenly...

without warning...

You find this...
in your plot.


Don't do this...

Just take a breath and do this...

If you do this...

You may discover where you did this...


If you do this...

You just may discover your this...

is really more a this...

or this...

Of course...

If it really is this...

You're going to have to build a this...

Or get your hands on a really big this...


The most important thing is to do this...

or maybe this...

Hey, whatever works.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Leaping with Sheep

Sheep #1: Ahem.

Sheep #2: It's us.

Many Sheep: We're back.

Writer: (groans) Of course you are.

Sheep #1: Excuse me.

Sheep #2: Did you just groan?

Writer: No.

Sheep #1: Don't lie to us.

Sheep #2: It's hurtful.

Sheep #1: And dishonest.

Sheep #2: We might spit.

Writer: You're not llamas.

Sheep #1: You don't know that. We could be llamas.

Sheep #2: In disguise.

Sheep #3: You never know.

Writer: Anyway... (runs hand through hair) why are you here?

Sheep #1: We're here to give you courage.

Sheep #2: To bolster you, so to speak.

Writer: I do need courage.

Sheep #1: You're standing there - on the precipice.

Writer: I know. It's scary.

Sheep #2: Of course it's scary. If it wasn't scary, everyone would do it.

Writer: What if it's no good?

Sheep #1: Then you'll try again.

Writer: Easy for you to say.

Sheep #1: I know. (winks sheepishly)

Sheep #2: Wait. Did that last direction actually say 'winks sheepishly'?

Writer: Yes. Yes it did.

Sheep #2: Cheap shot.

Sheep #1: I hope that novel is better than this dialogue.

Writer: Hey.

Sheep #1: You had it coming. (mutters) Winks sheepishly, indeed.

Sheep #2: You need to be brave. Leap off the cliff.

Sheep #1: Start that second novel.

Writer: But, I'm afraid of heights. And I've written one novel. Now I know how high that cliff is.

Sheep #2: That's why we think it takes more courage to write the second one than the first.

Sheep #1: It's time.

Writer: I know. (grins sheepishly)

Sheep #1: (sighs) Really? (turns to other sheep) This is going to be fun.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fun Friday

I've collected 12 odd and fun facts for today's post. Read. Wonder. Be amazed. Have a great weekend!

1. Virginia Woolf wrote all her books standing.

2. The symbol on the "pound" key (#) is called an octothorpe.

3. Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously. (Look, mystery writers! A new method!)

4. An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

5. Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

6. Donald Duck's middle name is Fauntleroy.

7. A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.

8. Dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors.

9. The characters Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street were named after Bert the cop and Ernie the taxi driver in Frank Capra's "Its A Wonderful Life".

10. The giant squid has the largest eyes in the world.

11. The name for Oz in the "Wizard of Oz" was thought up when the creator, Frank Baum, looked at his filing cabinet and saw A-N, and O-Z, hence "Oz."

12. A group of unicorns is called a blessing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Your Mark...

You've had a this...

Do this!

The next step looks like this...

You'll need plenty of these before you're done...

But for now, let's just start with one...

Does he look out his window and see this?

Or this?

And what is he looking for when he looks out that window?

Is it this?


Or maybe this?


Does he have a habit of finding this?


Is he more interested in finding this?

Well, whatever his quest

(and yours, of course)

Lace up your this...

and pick up your this...
Because we all know it's not a this...

But more of a this...

That awaits.



Monday, January 16, 2012

And Then There Were...

Writer: The time has come.

Characters: What does that mean?

Writer: One of you has to go.

Characters: GROUP SCREAM

Writer: Oh, calm down. Look at it this way, I'm not killing you off, it'll just be as if you didn't exist.

Supporting Character: How is that supposed to make us feel better? (looks around) It's me, isn't it? It's going to be me!

Main Character: (looking for dirt under his fingernails) Perhaps.

Another Supporting Character: No, it's me. I haven't been pulling my weight. I've been stuck in the same place for chapters. No change. No growth. (points at writer) Actually...that's your fault, not mine.

Writer: Sorry.

Yet Another Supporting Character: I don't see why we should take the brunt of this. At one point there was a reason for all of us.

Supporting Character: We were loved.

Another Supporting Character: We were cherished.

Yet Another Supporting Character: We had biographies. I knew where I went to school. I knew I was afraid of spiders.

Main Character: I knew that too.

Supporting Character: Oh be quiet. You think you're sooo special.

Main Character: (smiles)

Writer: I'm sorry.

Supporting Character: You're SORRY? That's all we get? Where are the flowers? Where is the thoughtful tribute?

Another Supporting Character: Even a song would help.

Supporting Character: Yeah. Hum for us, writer-girl.

Writer: Hum?

Supporting Character: Don't make us force you.

Writer: Wow.

Supporting Character: Well, what did you expect? Did you think we'd go down without a fight?

Another Supporting Character: We're feisty.

Supporting Character: And resourceful.

Writer: That's true...

Yet Another Supporting Character: We know our rights!

Characters: (chanting) Save our arcs! Save our arcs!

Main Character: I can tell you what's going to happen...

Writer: Really?

Main Character: Who ever you pick will just come back. You'll realize you need them for a subplot development. For instance, what about...(whispers in writer's ear)

Writer: You're right.

Main Character: (shrugs) Of course.

Writer: Okay, listen up. You're all still alive. For now. But I'm editing one more time. If you don't pull your weight, you're voted off the island.

Supporting Character: But we're not on an island.

Yet Another Supporting Character: It's a metaphor.

Main Character: Strike one.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fun Friday

To quote Dr. Seuss: "From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere."

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Writer's Day

When you do this...

You learn some days it feels like this...

and some days it feels like this.

Some days are like this...

and some (let's be honest) are like this.

But what makes writing this...

is never knowing this.