Maintaining Focus on Long-Term Goals

Writing a novel takes a long time. Although NaNoWriMo has proven to me – and many others – that 30 days is more than enough time to write 50,000 words, this is only the very beginning of the journey on the road to a finished novel.

For one thing, most novels are at least 70,000 words.

For another thing, this first rush of writing only produces the first draft. Sometimes the first draft is shitty, and sometimes it is very shitty – plot holes, meandering story lines, amorphous settings, flat characters, and stilted prose – the list can… Continue reading

UnBlock Us!

I’ve done some thinking recently about writer’s block, the self-inflicted wound that almost all wordsmiths endure at least once in our careers. So much has been written about the subject that it almost seems presumptuous to add anything more. Indeed a Writer’s Block cottage industry has sprung up, complete with books, audio tapes, even counselors who specialize in the phenomenon. Nonetheless, I’ll throw in a few more paragraphs in the hopes that they might be of help to anyone battling the wretched affliction. For, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there can never be too… Continue reading

My Voice

the pastThis month our blog is taking a walk down memory lane and writing about anecdotes that influenced us as writers. Several of those memories come to mind, but one in particular stands out because it was the first time I ever thought about being a writer.

And it came from a teacher.

It’s no secret that I began publishing with a memoir rather than a novel. Now I’ve moved on to fiction, but anyone reading both books will probably say my “voice” sounds very much the same. Perhaps it… Continue reading

Using Backstory

Backstory is one of those topics that we hear a lot about.  Too much backstory or an info dump can slow your story – or worse, the reader gets bored and stops reading altogether.   Not enough backstory and the reader isn’t grounded in the world and invested in your characters.  Lots of articles and advice on that.

We generally love our characters – and we want everyone else to love them too.    So the dilemma is what to do with all this great information we have that can’t make it into the novel.  And sometimes there’s a really interesting… Continue reading

Let Them Speak!

I must have at least thirty books on writing, some about mysteries, some about romance, some about horror, but most are on the art of writing. My latest acquisition is called Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror edited by Laurie Lamson.  It‘s one of a series of Now Write anthologies filled with pages of excellent writing tips from successful writers and writing teachers. One of the things I love about it is the length of each author’s contribution, only a few pages including an easy exercise at the end. My attention span for How-To books tanks after about ten… Continue reading

Say what?

The first books to make me aware of how effective dialogue could be were Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels.  In some parts of the stories, the dialogue goes on for pages and you can forget who is talking if you aren’t paying full attention to the story.  But despite this, or perhaps because of it, the characters become real and the story seems to flow seamlessly.  I know that, as a reader, I prefer character-driven stories and I find that dialogue is one of the most effective ways to reveal character.

Every story I have written has started with… Continue reading

Pixie Dust

Back in December, when the world was all golden light here in Panama, when the bougainvillea were pouring over rooftops and spilling down hillsides, and the coffee plants were bursting with fat crimson cherries everywhere you turned, it seemed that nothing could go wrong. How could it when the next month brought rainbows — three, four, five every day — and when the skies were so clear the glinting Pacific beckoned in the distance?

Oh, be wary of decisions made when the world is wonderful!

In a moment of stupendously unfounded optimism, I made the decision to attend… Continue reading

The Writer’s Lament: Where Did I Put That?

This month we’re exploring events from our pasts that have influenced us as writers. I have an anecdote or two, but I think I will save those for later in the month. Instead, I’d like to mention a quality that has affected me, not only as a teacher, but also as a writer.

Before writing novels, I taught high school English in a small town in Illinois. For many of those thirty-four years I was a single mother of three children. This meant that besides teaching English—including countless nights and early mornings of grading papers—I was also packing lunches… Continue reading

Publishing Choices

This weekend I attended a workshop on “Paths to Publication” that focused on Traditional, Indie, and Self Publishing. The day-long workshop, put on by New England Sisters in Crime, featured panels on each of the publishing options, hybrid authors who use more than one type of publishing, and an author-editor connection between Hank Phillippi Ryan and her editor, Francesca Coltrera. The panel authors included Sheila Connolly, Jessie Crockett, Ray Daniel, Kate George, Rosemary Harris, Marian Lanouette, Edith Maxwell, P.M. Steffen, and Kevin Symmons. Moderators were Sharon Daynard, Michele Dorsey, Julie Hennrikus, Arlene Kay, and Liz Mugavero.

The following is… Continue reading