Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


April 15, 2019

After wallowing in despair over not writing, I finally parked my fanny in the chair and said, “Self, you will complete the revised outline today.” Okay, so I didn’t actually complete it, but I did make a breakthrough that will allow me to get back to The Captain and Chenille. I also revised the first three chapters, and hope to get through a few more in the coming week (if I’m not called for jury duty).

That’s the good news. The better news is I did this work before the CWC Tri-Valley Branch Writers Conference. It was a full day of presentations on craft, publishing, and marketing. I would have felt guilty as all get-out if I hadn’t worked on my outline, because I knew at least half of the people I talked to would ask, “So, how’s the writing coming?” Instead of hanging my head and justifying my presence at the conference when the keyboard was calling, I could say, “Well, after a long dry spell I’m back at work on my novel.” My friends were happy for me, and I could be happy for them when they told me about their work, or at least sympathize if they were still in the middle of their own dry spell. I also had a grand time at the conference, because I could concentrate on the information being presented, not the work I wasn’t doing.

The best news is the biggest breakthrough. I realized I could use this episode to keep my fingers on the keyboard. My writing club meets monthly, and if I make a habit of asking at least one person at the meeting about their writing, then I will want to make sure I’ll have good news to report when they ask about my progress in return. Yes, I am in critique groups, but they know I have had a lot going on lately and have cut me some slack. Other people won’t. Accountability is a great motivator, and I plan to use every opportunity to keep me in the writing habit.

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Luck and wisdom!

Remembering Backwards and the Writer’s Life

April 8, 2019

This is what happens when I walk and think at the same time

The latest issue of the Harvard Women’s Heath Watch has an article about boosting your memory by walking backwards. Given my record of not being able to think and walk at the same time, I’m not sure I want to try this (my ankle is healing well, by the way). Still, I remember being taught to memorize poetry by reciting it to myself while walking, so perhaps there is something to this. My big question is how can walking backwards possibly help me remember where I wanted to go in my novel when a subplot threatens to take over the book?

Luck and wisdom!

Hearing My Own Advice

April 1, 2019

My husband is writing an article he hopes to publish soon, but it is fighting him. The basic information is mostly there, but he isn’t happy. I assured him that once he got the bones in order, everything else would fit, or be recognized as irrelevant. His face lit up, and he thanked me for telling him what he needed to hear. I went about my morning, when suddenly I heard my own words. My outline for The Captain and Chenille is fighting me because I don’t have all the bones in order.

I have known for a long time that I have to wrestle with all the subplots that are popping out, lest this one book turn into a three-volume novel, but I haven’t had the energy to start the weeding process. I told myself it was because I needed time to think. While that is true, and while I recognize I’ve been using my lack of time as an excuse, for the first time I realized I don’t have all the bones of the novel in place. There is still more information I need to put in the outline. This requires far less energy than taking out story lines that I’m finding interesting, and once I do that there is a better than average chance the subplots that don’t work will fall away of their own accord and become short stories, poems, or perhaps a series of quilts. That’s the wonderful thing about the stories in your head – they really don’t care how they’re expressed, as long as they get a chance to come out and play.

Luck and wisdom!

Finding Your Feet

March 25, 2019

It has been six months since I wrenched my ankle, and for the very first time I was able to extend my leg behind me, then push off with the injured foot to return to standing. This means I may be able to return to my regular yoga practice soon. Reaching this milestone won’t win me any prizes, but it does bring me joy to feel I’ve found my foot again.

Finding one’s feet is as essential in writing as it is in exercise. If you aren’t grounded, balanced, and steady you will never complete your project to your satisfaction. At best, you will bring it far enough along to fall out of love with it, and leave the manuscript as a dusty file on your desktop (physically or digitally). So, take some time to find your feet, and rejoice when you do.

Luck and wisdom!

Celebrations and Character Development

March 18, 2019

The middle of March is a huge celebration time for me. It starts on 3.14, Pi Day. The next day is the Ides of March, and although I don’t often commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar, I do make note of it. March 16 is St. Urho’s Day, in honor of the made-up saint who chased either the grasshoppers or the frogs out of Finland (depending on which fictional hagiography you read). I’m Irish enough to get a kick out of St. Patrick’s Day. The week ends off today, March 18, which is my father’s birthday.

George Longshore

My dad would have been 86 today. It is also what would have been my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary. Dad always said he got married on his birthday so he would never forget his anniversary. Knowing my father, I’m pretty sure the sun would go cold before he would forget that date because he was devoted to my mother. Although Dad passed away in 2000, he is still an important figure in my life.

That brings me to the prompt I gave to a group of writers. I told them to create their own holiday as an exercise in world-building. As I watched them scribble away, it suddenly dawned on me that how we observe our holidays creates the world we carry with us. I mark my father’s birthday with joy for the time we had him. As a person, this realization is empowering; as a writer, it’s a tool. How do your characters approach the holidays? Do they create their own celebrations for the fun of it, or as a coping mechanism to get them through dark days? Do they refuse to celebrate anything at all, and why? Asking these questions might open a whole new understanding of who your characters are, and why they fight you on the page.

Luck and wisdom!

In Honor of Our Tools

March 11, 2019

My book club is reading Thomas Cahill’s How The Irish Saved Civilization. Cahill describes how the Irish became literate, and Irish monks copied every book they could find (as well as preserving their own stories). When the monks went to Europe to evangelize, they brought their books with them. I marvel at how fragile knowledge can be, and honor the dedicated copyists and writers who saved all they could. I also honor the dedicated souls of my time who provide me with the tools I need to write – the ones who assemble reference material. Not a writing day goes by without my consulting some dictionary, thesaurus, or collection of odd but useful facts. I think we should all take a moment to honor our tools and the people who made them.

Luck and wisdom!

Avoiding Hard Work

March 4, 2019

I have been avoiding hard work lately. I tell myself I have an excuse, since I’ve been under the weather (see tissues above). I mean that literally – what I have is non-histamine rhinitis, which is triggered by changes in temperature and barometric pressure. Some people can predict rain with aching knees, I predict it with stuffed sinuses. Given that it is winter, and rain sort of goes with the season, I’m in a pickle. Either I get my fanny in gear, or I give up any hope of writing until the spring. Since I don’t want to be a fair weather writer, that means I have to stop using any handy excuse to avoid the hard work of revising the outline for my latest novel.

The problem is, avoiding hard work is easy and fun. I can switch on the computer and get lost in must-respond-now emails, or check social media to see if my friends are still okay, or even decide that the kitchen floor absolutely, positively must be washed today. I haven’t resorted to that excuse yet, but I can see it coming. The truth is, revising my outline is terra incognita for me. I’m more of a pantser (as in writing by the seat of) than a plotter, but this novel requires a different approach. So, I’m finding myself digging out my mom voice and turning it on myself. Let’s see if works better on me than it did on the kids.

Luck and wisdom!

The Fox Story

February 25, 2019

The latest photo prompt in Writers Digest has hijacked me. I am juggling so many projects now that I trip over them as they drop, but there in the latest Writers Digest issue is this wonderful picture of a fox in a tree. A backstory for this fox popped into my head and won’t let go, so I’m throwing it out to you in hopes the blasted critter will leave me alone.

The fox is from Japan. An earthquake opened a crack in the ground near the edge of the Edo Road, and the fox tumbled down. She fell into the Mad Hatter, who promised to lead the fox to safety if she agreed not to eat him. As soon as they reached the surface, the Hatter whacked the fox with his pocket watch and disappeared. The fox climbed a marvelous tree, and found the children.

That’s all I’ve got, which isn’t enough for the contest, but is more than enough to distract me from my other work. What would you have the fox do next?

Luck and wisdom!

Shorthand and Character Development

February 18, 2019

We inherited some of the family papers. Going through them is a hoot, and sometimes a howl. Trying to read handwriting from 100 years ago is the howl part. My mother is translating a ledger that her father acquired, although he did not make the entries. Whoever did write those entries wrote hurriedly, and probably used his or her own personal, private shorthand. That got me to thinking about how I could use handwriting and notes-to-self to develop my characters. What would it say about my antagonist if he consistently wrote with perfectly formed letters, and in complete paragraphs? What if my hero preferred his original emojis and doodles to real words? I generally have pretty good handwriting, but when I’m in a hurry, or making lists (like the one pictured) that I expect to be the only one reading, my letters turn into random squiggles and spiky lines. Don’t get me started on the abbreviations I use that even I can’t decipher a week or two later. Keeping my own penmanship in mind as I create my characters could give me a whole new appreciation for who these people want to be.

Luck and wisdom!

What Are The Odds – Coincidence In Life And Fiction

February 11, 2019

This past weekend I was confronted with the reality of coincidence. Both events were of limited scope, but both made me ask myself what the odds are of getting a break when I thought it was a setback.

The first was buying flowers for a friend. I picked up some lovely blooms, and called to see if I could bring them over. Turns out she was out of town, but as it happened I was having a meeting at my house so I could use them as part of the decorations. Then I went to put them in a vase and discovered I had bought almost too much even for my largest vase, and the resulting display weighed a ton. Given that I have no idea what sort of vases my friend has, but I do know she’s been having back issues lately, this was definitely a case of the universe saving my hinder.

The second event was of similar magnitude in terms of the greater scheme of life. I had brought a donation quilt to the guild meeting. I planned to show it during Sharing before turning it in to Community Quilts. A friend asked if she could examine it, and as I took it out I noticed I didn’t put the Amador Valley Quilters label on the back. We always label our donation quilts, and in fact I HAVE some of those labels at home. I simply forgot to sew it on. Luckily, Community Quilts had extra labels and a hand sewing kit, so I stitched it on before Sharing started and was able to turn the quilt in as planned.

There are times in my writing when I wonder if the coincidence I absolutely, positively must have for the plot to work is all that credible. The last weekend gave me my answer – sometimes, the universe does provide.

Luck and wisdom!