Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Can Your Characters Save Your Plot?

June 10, 2019

Author, instructor, and former agent Nathan Bransford suggests journaling about your plot from your characters’ points of view when the words stop flowing (read his blog post here). When I read this, my first thought was, “Brilliant!” When my second thought was equally positive, I knew this was advice I could use.

That isn’t always the case – not in writing, quilting, or home decorating. I watched too many home improvement shows where my first reaction was, “Who the heck is going to clean a [room of your choice] with all that stuff in it?” I even worked up an idea for an anti-improvement show called “Like You’re Really Going To Do That.”

I’ve nodded appreciatively when writing friends share their spreadsheets for character development, or their flip charts for braiding plot lines. That’s not for me. I can’t even manage to keep a simple filing system going, so how am I supposed to keep programs and charts in order? For me, the best solution is one I can keep on scraps of paper, because I can always find a scrap of paper and a pen.

Luck and wisdom!

Memoir, Turning Points, and Character Development

June 3, 2019

Linda Joy Myers has a lot of good advice for memoirists. The most useful (in my opinion) is to note the turning points in your timeline. We moved around when I was young, so those were both anchor and turning points in my list. Times when I said yes to a new challenge went in, as well as times when I ran for cover and thanked my lucky stars I got out before the (metaphorical) bullets started flying. Then I put in when I met those special people who befriended me and changed my life. That’s when I realized I was missing something.

My brother, mother, father, Dennis Franklin, and Hal Franklin (taken by me in 1966)

The man on the far right is Hal Franklin, who befriended my father and changed his life by teaching Dad about photography. Dad dabbled with photography, but having a mentor made all the difference in the world. It made all the difference in the world to me as well, since Dad introduced me to the camera. Because Dad and Hal explored creating art with their pictures, I learned – without really noticing it – that everyone can be an artist. Put in enough time to learn technique, train your eye to really see, and you can create beauty.

While I may not write a memoir with this epiphany, I will keep it in mind when I am writing backstories for my characters. Who they are doesn’t depend solely on the turning points in their own lives, but also on the turning points of those who have influenced them. Whether those influencers appear in the book or not isn’t the point. They may deserve a book of their own sometime. Can you say prequel?

Luck and wisdom!

Gifts of Inspiration

May 27, 2019

Last week I was at Art Quilt Santa Fe, reveling in fabric and paint, when the Chenille series came up in conversation. I gave a brief synopsis of the first novel – quilters saving the world from space aliens who disguise themselves as as bolts of beige fabric – and my co-author Ann Anastasio added, “They kill the aliens with chenille, thus the title Death By Chenille.” One of the group then gave us the title of our yet-to-be-written fifth book – The Chenille Bearer.

This is why you need to talk about your writing whenever you can. I don’t mean hustling sales at every opportunity, or blathering on about your book even when people are clearly bolting for the nearest exit. I mean using your 30-word synopsis and ending with a hook. If the audience isn’t interested, someone will change the topic of conversation and all will be well. If you are lucky, the audience will ask more questions, maybe even ask where they can buy a copy of the book. If you are very lucky, someone will give you a nugget of inspiration. Take the gift, be grateful, and keep writing.

Luck and wisdom!

Marketing Advice I Can Use

May 20, 2019

Like all independently published authors, I am entirely responsible for marketing my novels. While I am more than willing to talk your ear off about my books should I corner you at a party, I’m not so great at finding bigger venues. I’ve organized a couple of book launches, but they turned out to be more tea party, less launch. I read as much about marketing as I can, but most of the advice I’ve found applies to younger, wealthier people living smack dab in the middle of New York, the kind who don’t have to factor in grocery shopping and the laundry between sessions on social media and schmoozing with influencers and trend-setters.

Still, the universe does provide if you wait long enough. My quilt guild is planning a holiday boutique. Since the key to all marketing advice is always ask if you can join in, I asked if I could participate. As far as I could tell, the only requirement for vendors was that all the items for sale must be handmade.

“Could I sell my books?” I asked. “Ann Anastasio and I wrote them ourselves, so that’s kinda sorta maybe handmade.”

The committee agreed that my books qualify as a handmade item, and I slapped the table fee down before they changed their minds. This boutique might not appear on the international book festival calendar, but I’m grateful for any chance to meet potential readers.

Luck and wisdom!

Permission to Let Go

May 13, 2019

I picked up a novel from one of my unread book piles and settled in for a rare afternoon of reading for fun, only to discover it wasn’t. The story didn’t appeal to me anymore. I tried to soldier on, but the pages fought me. “Self,” I said, “let go. This isn’t the story you want to read now, and you may never want to read it.”

Learning to let go is never easy, especially as it seems I have to relearn it on a regular basis. I spent the last year relearning how to let go with my quilting projects, and now with my reading projects. The hardest part of the relearning process will be with my writing projects. The next time the words fight me, I will remind myself to listen to my characters more carefully. Perhaps they are telling me the story I want to write isn’t the story they want to tell.

Luck and wisdom!

Photo-haiku and the Reason to Take Classes

May 6, 2019

I took a photo-haiku workshop at a Treasures of Japan Festival because someone whose writing I admire sent me a flyer. Although I haven’t done much work with poetry since college, the program fee was low and the workshop sounded like fun. Best decision I made all weekend. The teachers – a poet and photographer/poet – were fabulous, the other students were delightful, and I liked what I wrote. Best of all, we got to do some collaborative work. Seriously, when someone offers to teach you something and it isn’t immoral or illegal, say yes.

Luck and wisdom!

The Lure of Journals

April 29, 2019

I am a conscientious student. When a teacher tells me to do something, I comply to the best of my ability. So, when the experts talk about the value of journaling, I listen. Trouble is, I’m also a pack rat. The variety (to say nothing of the availability) of journals is more than I can resist. I have enough journals to last several lifetimes. Add the notecards that I also can’t resist to the pile and I probably have sufficient inventory to open my own stationery store. What I don’t have is time to fill all the journals and still get some writing done on my novel. Yes, it’s a common complaint, and there is no easy solution. I keep hoping for one, because even the most diligent student is always looking for the shortcut to enlightenment.

Luck and wisdom!

Disaster and Character Development

April 22, 2019

I noticed a plane flying low into the local airport and, as I am wont to do, started thinking of the disaster story I could weave around that plane. That got me thinking about how any characters in my story might respond, and that got me thinking about whether I really need a disaster to fully develop my characters. It occurred to me that a poke is as good as a punch to get my characters to change, learn, and grow if I write it correctly. I suddenly realized why some novels and movies bore me – it isn’t despite any pyrotechnics in the plot, it’s because of them. If the plot is pushed along so quickly that the character doesn’t have time to respond, if the disasters are piled one on top of the other and the character seems to skate effortlessly through them, then I feel less tension, not more. So, on my next pass through my stories, I intend to look for evidence that the character is adapting to this particular situation in a way that will make the final resolution satisfying to the reader. I’ll write a disaster scene if that’s what’s needed, but I’ll look for simpler obstacles – on the order of a paper cut – if I can make that work.

Luck and wisdom!

Breakthroughs

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.

Check out the bottom left corner

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!