Notebook or Computer?

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Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, and a number of other authors talk about writing in notebooks.

Blume says she fills it up from start to finish. I have to admit, a have a number of half empty notebooks. I keep them in various places, the car, the bedroom, dining room table, my desk. Then, I move them around, put them elsewhere and begin a new one before I rediscover the one I previously used.

I used to use big composition notebooks. These days I use smaller journal types.

Studies show that writing by long hand in a notebook uses a different part of the brain.

I wrote Grandma’s Last Secret by long hand in a notebook.  I wrote the whole of West End in a notebook before I ever thought of touching the laptop. I feel like there’s a difference for me. And sometimes, the notebook is easier on the eyes, easier on the brain. I don’t feel as much pressure from a pen and paper that I do when I sit in front of the computer.

But I do write on the computer sometimes too. I sit down and I’ll write a story, sometimes, from start to finish on the computer without considering a notebook.

Do you use notebooks? Or computers? or Both?  Feel free to share in our facebook group.

Friday Motivation

poe.jpgIn the morning, when I’m writing, I have a cup of tea sitting next to the computer as I write. It starts steaming hot and I sip. I set it down and if I get moving on my writing, it slowly grows cold.

My cup sees me in the morning the way no one else does, hair up, sweats on, staring at the screen with the cup pressed between my hands, sometimes next to my lips. What else does my coffee cup see?

What would your coffee cup say about you?

Imagine a story about you or your family from your coffee cup’s point of view.

Found Poems

This being poetry month, I thought I’d talk about poetry and share some poems with you.

When I was first introduced to the “found poem,” it seemed like plagiarism. My mentor suggested, I cite the original author or write “after….” and the name of the author the original text came from.

The Found Poem is just that – found. Take another’s work, words, phrases, or other, and rephrase or reframe forming it into your own fresh and original poem.

My found poem, “The Friendly Isle,” was originally published in DayBreak many years ago.

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While I don’t have any books of poetry out – yet – I do have a number of poems published. Check out my list of publications, and check out the books I do have on Amazon.

Try one of your own and feel free to share here in our facebook group!

The Secret to Successful Short Stories

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I spent much of my time in grad school trying to please a certain teacher and understand the secret formula for a short story.

Up until that time, I’d only written novels (or novellas), longer pieces of work in which I developed the characters and followed a plot. These felt full and complete.

Writing one small selection vexed me.

So I read and read and researched and attempted one time after another to create a successful short piece.

I suppose there is no formula and  no one right answer, which is what I was looking for – the correct answer.

Of the things written in grad school, the one instructor I attempted to satisfy deemed them mostly unworthy.

It wasn’t until near the end of graduation that an instructor said “half of that story was the best he’d ever read.”

He didn’t tell me which half.

However, almost all those stories have been pulled out, dusted off, and accepted with few edits. Hence – dear teachers – they were good! I had learned something; I had accomplished something.  (I must be doing something right, over 30 published in the last few years!)

There may not be one right answer, and there’s no secret, nor is there a hidden formula. Short stories need to get to a point, need to have conflict, need to show a budding of growth – perhaps.

 

 

Study the Masters….

faulkner“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

 

 

Some people feel they should not read others or study the masters because it will influence their voice; however, experts recommend that is where you begin in order to develop your voice. Finding your voice takes time and it takes writing, regardless of who you read.  But you do, without a doubt, need to read far and wide.

What Do the Flowers Mean?

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Sometimes a flower is just a flower, but sometimes the flower is a tell tale sign, a foreshadowing of what is to come. That’s for the writer to decide.

However, I think the writer must stay consistent. If you’re using flowers in the story and use a lily to insinuate death or disaster, then you can’t just throw a carnation in later without thinking what that might mean.

Good stories have that layering that critical readers can spot and will enjoy. However, I think, too much can kill a story. As I said, if you’re using flowers as symbols stick with that. If you add flowers, the alignment of the stars, the colors of the curtains, and grandma’s foretelling – that might be too much. It’s like hitting the reader over the head with the symbolism and it’ll detract from the storytelling.

Go to Sleep

sleeping-babyIf you’ve reached a point in your story where you’re stuck, or perhaps some small thing is niggling at you, tell yourself what it is before you go to sleep.

There’s a number of things I’ve done in order to enhance or forward my writing – and the above is one of the things. Margaret Atwood recommends the same.

But I’ve gone further. I was writing a poem and I knew one line wasn’t quite right. I kept going over it and over it and could not seem to find the right words in the right order to bring the poem together. As I went to bed that night – I told myself to dream about it.

At 4am, I woke up with the line! I scribbled it in the notebook (which sits next to my bed) and turned over to go back to sleep.

Not only do I tell myself the problem I’m dealing with in my writing before I go to sleep, but I also think about different story lines for my characters. This keeps me juiced, so to speak, with inspiration. The next morning, I’m ready to hop out of bed and write.

Sometimes, of course, this backfires and I want to write then and there – which I do. But most of it can and does wait for that dreaded blank page the next morning.