Getting to know your Characters

Characters.  A necessity for every story.  When I starting writing, I tried to learn about the characters as I went along.  I also thought I was more of a plotter – so the plot was where I started.  That all changed as I grew as a writer and figured out that I was really more of a pantser.   At that point, the details of my protagonist’s and antagonist’s lives and personalities became much more important to know earlier. 

        Like most authors, I strive for an engaging and sympathetic protagonist.  One my readers will identify with… Continue reading

Yard Sale Books

The other day I picked up a book I’d bought at a yard sale.  It had a yard sale price, a dollar or two, and it was of yard sale quality. It went on a stack of books—my “death stack”—never to be thought of again.

My finds aren’t always that way. Down here in Panama we have an annual Amigos de Animales “patio” sale fundraiser.  I’m Queen of the sale, which basically means my garage (fortunately a very large one originally built to house a big boat) is ground zero for several months before the sale.

For some… Continue reading

Plotter or Pantser?

The other day I had a conversation with an author who outlines to the nth degree. He’s written his first book and has a narrative arc that stretches through the next two — a very dramatic arc and one I hope to read someday. I was in awe that he’s thought so far ahead, giving his characters deep psychological motives. I have trouble even scheduling my life out two weeks ahead!

unanswered questions - brainstorming conceptMystery writer Hallie Ephron is another one who carefully plots. But she says in her… Continue reading

And behind door number three

… is the way you should write your novel.

Just kidding.

There are many ways to write a novel. In her book Bird by Bird Anne Lamott advocates writing Shitty First Drafts – getting that first draft down on paper without worrying, no matter how bad it seems. She also suggests that you write a novel scene by scene without thinking too far ahead, quoting EL Doctorow as saying “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip this way”. This… Continue reading

Of the Gutenberg Bible and other things

I was supposed to attend a book club meeting this week. My thriller, MESSAGE FROM PANAMA, had been scheduled as the topic. The date has been postponed until July, a welcome relief as I’ve never spoken before a book club and have absolutely no idea what I’ll be asked, what I’ll say, and if I’ll throw up beforehand.

Book clubs always seem to read “important” works that have gold foil stickers on the front cover proclaiming some highly sought after but little known award.  My book was a finalist in two mystery competitions but I have that in very… Continue reading

My Favorite Writing Workshop/Retreat

              Wisdom House labyrinth   Every year in April, I travel to Litchfield, Connecticut for a  writing workshop/retreat.  It’s held at Wisdom House which has great food, a wonderful labyrinth, and plenty of paths to walk.   I find it comfortable and affordable.  Generally, the participants are all women.   The group is usually less than 20 and I find that I enjoy a group between 10-15 more than the larger group.  That allows for more time to read our work and talk about craft issues. 

                Why do I… Continue reading

Dash it all!

punctuation-marks-dashes-hyphensOne of the more common mistakes I see with writers is the use (or misuse) of dashes and ellipsis. When do you use ellipsis? And when do you use hyphens or the longer em dashes?

Here are the rules, as followed by The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and most publishers:

Use the longer em dash to indicate faltering or interrupted speech. Here are some examples from CMS:

“Will he—can he—obtain the necessary signatures?” asked Mill.

“Well, I don’t know,” I began tentatively. “I thought… Continue reading

These are a few of my favorite things

I love the rain – soft and gentle, hard and pounding, monkeys wedding, or day’s long on-again off-again rains. I even enjoy the thunder crashing, lightning lashing, cloud roiling, sky-darkening downpours. . The movement, the sound, the smell, the sight – everything about it makes my soul sing. I feel an inner connectedness, a sense of renewal and, at the core of being, the nourishment of my creativity. When I was a child I used to run outside without shoes on and splash through the puddles, enjoying the rain on my bare head and arms. … Continue reading

Where did the time go?

I’ve just returned from a trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Savannah. Since I live in Panama it was a fairly big deal. I always have trepidations – completely founded – about going through the Atlanta airport. That’s enough to knock anyone off their game for a while, as it did me this time.

Anyway, this was one of those “bustling” trips, where every minute was filled with important activities that somehow also managed to be mundane. Doctors’ appointments, escorting the kidlet from her North Carolina college into her Savannah real life, touching base with family, trying… Continue reading

Aides, Helpers, and Support

This is a bit of a question with no easy answer.  Who do I speak with?  I have no one person with whom I hash everything out.

I email my cousin if I have ideas or a short story.  I do not expect expert critique from my cousin – usually she will ask a question if she does not understand everything or she will say that she likes it … in a worst case scenario she will just forget that she received that particular short story!  Sometimes I will send her two beginnings of stories (NaNoWriMo that never reached… Continue reading