On my bookshelf

I’ve finished my Tana French detective series and didn’t want to go to bed without another book in hand. (Nevermind there are three on my bedside table).

bookshelf.pngI began browsing my bookshelf, which is semi-organized: books I’ve read and loved. Books I want to read. School books. Writing books. and, of course, Poe books

I also have something mixed in that would seem, at first glance, not to belong. Books on psychology, the law, philosophy. I assume many writer’s bookshelves are this way.

A writer needs a wide variety of knowledge.

I know we have google at our disposal; however, I find reading books about, for example, the Psychology of Marketing allows me to get an in depth look that a wikipage or a few short articles are not going to give me. This allows me to create a more realistic character or more thorough background to make the story more believable.

For West End, I needed to understand two things, the idea of an absent or unloving mother, and the different forms depression can take. Anxiety runs throughout my work from Of Strays and Exes to Life of Clouds – which features children affected in different ways by the disappearance of their father.

I’ve heard handymen say they are the jack of all trades. I think writers are akin to that. We need to learn many things in order to live many lives.

 

 

 

 

Not writing scares me….

ghostly.pngWrite what scares you…..

This is a poetry prompt given to me in one of my graduate level classes.

I don’t think it has to be just for poetry.

Experts tell us we should do something that scares us every day. I don’t know. I’ve done quite a lot of things that scare me – crossing the highest bridge in North America, swimming with sharks, – but those are kinds of scary that gives you a rush. Still valid to write about.

But in that assignment and poem, I wrote about a missing girl. Because those are the types of things that do scare me – when children go missing.

I wrote:

Have you seen her pass this way?

Shoe found, white.

Blood on the laces….

 

Write about what scares you….

 

Feel free to share!

 

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.

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.

Critique Partners

critiqueisnotscary.jpgThere’s nothing more helpful than having someone read your work and give you the fresh perspective needed to improve.

Recently, my writing partner found a tiny mistake, despite having others read it, reading it aloud, and checking, rechecking, and re-editing it a thousand times. So helpful! I would have been embarrassed had it gone out with that small spelling errors that even spellcheck didn’t catch.

HOWEVER, there’s one thing that’s troublesome about critique groups or partners. The one who does not actually want the advice. I’ve worked with people who, every time I commented on their work, responded by explaining what they’d planned, meant, thought they wrote. They felt they accomplished what they wanted to do and didn’t plan on changing a thing. In other words, they’re weren’t listening. Why they even brought the story to the group, I have no idea. Perhaps they thought the story would be endlessly praised.

Ladies and gentlemen, some praise is necessary and warranted. You may have heard the sandwich method of response. First, say something positive about the work. Next, suggest and improvement. Finally, end with a positive.

In my classes, I actually students to say at least three positive things about any piece of work before we launch into the “room for improvement.”

Showing others their work is exceptionally hard for some people.And there are always good things to be said about any attempt.

But a good critique is learning to be open to hearing what is being said. Respond not with denial and deflection, but consideration of the comments received.

When I’m reading or editing, I ask the writer’s purpose and hopes for the piece. This helps me focus the response a little better. I also discuss the critique so I can be more specific with their desired outcome. Therefore, I do try hard to take into consideration the writer’s ideas.

After the last group with the writer who spent the whole time denying and explaining rather than listening, I avoided responding to that writer. A good critique is work. Not listing to other’s ideas will not win you friends and improve your work.

 

Visualization for Success

Superego

We tell our students to do this – visualize what you want to happen.

Take your visualization a step further, especially if you’ve lost hope or are having a hard time finishing a work:

Create the cover for your book. Maybe slap an award on that cover.

Write a famous person’s review for that book then add quotes to the back cover.

Write the copy for the inside jacket cover.

Hang it or place it on your desk where you will see it every day.

Science says, visualization can help us get to where we want to be!

Hours Vs Pages – Writer’s Choice?

timeIn writing groups, the question often floats around the room, do you do hours or pages? Then there’s always some friendly disagreement over which is better.

I, personally, do hours. I get up and sit at my computer and write for a certain amount of time.

I’ve heard arguments that if I force myself to write at least a page or a certain number of words, I would be more motivated. But, see, I don’t have a problem with motivation. Many days, I get up with an idea ready to flesh out. Other days, I struggle. Like all writers.

One writer told me to do pages or word count, so when I’m done I’ll know I’ve accomplished something.

However, I recently heard an argument that made complete sense to me and might to you as well.

The writer said – do hours. That way, if you have a bad day, you know you can get up and Yellowed pages from a dictionaryleave when your work day is over. If you have a bad day when you’re doing pages – then you’ve struggled with a single page for however many hours and you’re less likely to want to come back the next day, and when you do come back, you’ll realize the page you struggled with has to be deleted anyway.

I imagine some people who chose pages to rush through on some days so they can get on to other things or give up when the page doesn’t come. One woman shared she writes pages so she can get on to other things.

I guess, I feel, I’m not in a hurry to “get on with other things.” Whereas it she sounded happy to get up and get on with her life, I’d sometimes like to sit and write longer than I’m normally free to do.

Perhaps the best choice for each individual is based on their personality. But I vote for hours. I still know I’ve accomplished something – stuck with my commitment and ritual – whether I have a page or a finished short story.