Friday, November 30, 2007

One way to add realism to our fiction

On this day, November 30, 1959, production on the film "Psycho" began.

Now you may be wondering why I began my blog with that tidbit of information. The reason is that I discovered a new research site. If you've read my earlier blogs, you've read about my fascination with research. I'm sure you can imagine my excitement at being able to add another one to my list. : - )

I got the above information from the web site of the History Channel by clicking on "This Day in History" and choosing the Entertainment category. I checked out the Literary category first, of course : - ). I learned that on this day in 1835, writer Mark Twain was born.

But while I was browsing the site for fun trivia, it occurred to me how useful this site could be for writers. It got me thinking about how we can use "day in history" information to add realism to our fiction.

The goal in writing fiction is to suspend disbelief. Writers want readers to believe that the story they're reading and the people they're reading about could really exist. It doesn't matter when or where our story happens. If our readers don't believe what we're writing, then our fiction has failed.

Referencing people who lived during a given time period helps our readers identify with the people we've created. Including events which actually took place at the time of our story is one way of making our fictional world familiar. Maybe even a place that readers will want to go to. : - )

In case you'd like to take a look, here's a link to the site:



Saturday, November 24, 2007

A "Real" Writer

I received an e-mail from a writer who has lost heart with his writing. Since he hasn't been published, he doesn't feel like he's a writer.

His story touched me. I don't think there is a writer among us who hasn't endured the heartbreak of rejection and questioned his or her path as a result.

Though I am certainly no authority on writing and publishing, I thought I'd share with all of you something that I'd gone through several years ago when I questioned my own path. I hope, if you're reading this and struggling with your own writing goals, you will feel a little less isolated and know you are not alone.

I'd been working on a novel for a very very long time. Another novel. That current work in progress wasn't my first. I had scenes on paper, sketchy bits of dialogue, snippets of description. And nothing to string one scene to the next because I'd long since given up the project.

I'd called it writer's block that I'd stopped writing, though I winced at the term. It sounded like an excuse to me for not working and, worse, calling not writing by that label seemed pretentious to me. "Writer's Block" is something that afflicts writers like Hemingway. It's a phrase used to describe why words fail best- selling authors. I was certainly not one of those - I hadn't published one word - and so I wasn't worthy of having that same affliction.

Not worthy. Right there was the heart of my problem. I didn't think of myself as a 'real' writer. For all the effort I'd put into my writing, the world was not beating a path to my door, clamoring for my prose.

If no one wanted to read what I wrote, then why was I writing it? Clearly, my time would be better served doing things that were productive.

With my husband's loving support, I'd made a decision to write full time. Since I wasn't writing, though, what did that make me?

I struggled to find another purpose for myself. I was doing the chores in my home, things that kept my family comfortable. Okay, I was a homemaker, then. I'm a homemaker, not a writer.

I put my novel into my desk and went about my house doing what needed doing. Not just for my family's benefit. It was for my own, as well. Doing for them fulfilled a need within me. A well-cooked meal or fresh towels in the linen closet was my achievement. As caregiver to my family, I felt validated.

And that was a feeling I could no longer get when writing. A dramatic sentence or poignant description no longer made me feel the time was worth the effort.

Admitting to that, hurt. I'd lived with writing in my life for so long that I didn't know how I'd cope without it. But the pain that was coming lately from writing was as bad as from not writing.

So, along with my novel pages, I put aside all of my hopes and dreams for my work. And didn't write.

Time passed. Nothing earth shattering happened. The sky didn't fall. The world didn't mourn the loss of my prose. The world didn't change at all because of my decision, but I did. I felt a loss as if something important to me had died.

I hadn't expected to feel that way. I'd thought by not writing, I would have felt better, but I didn't. It took me a while to figure out why. Somewhere over the years, while I was pursuing publication, my writing became all about publishing, and not about writing. I'd lost the joy of writing.

But I regained it. In that time of not writing, when I realized that something was missing from my life, I also realized that I couldn't stop writing --whether I was ever published or not.

I started writing again. Did I put aside my dream of publication? No. I've since had novels, and short stories published. But I realized that it wasn't publication that made me a writer. It was the manuscript pages in my desk. A pretty tall stack, I recall. : - ) But tall or small, a word or a phrase, it didn't matter. All that mattered was that I was writing, because it isn't publication that makes me a "real" writer, writing does.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where do you write?

With an active and exuberant family in my house, it's sometimes difficult to get any writing done on weekends. I usually write Monday to Friday, but with a book I need to finish quickly, I require the additional writing time just now of Saturdays and Sundays.

I use the spare bedroom as my office, which happens to be right in the middle of all of the activity. Even a closed door, I've learned, isn't always a deterrent to the more persistent. : - )

So, out of necessity at times, I take my writing to the road - literally.

Some writers thrive on the busy atmosphere of coffee shops. Others I know listen to music, or have television or a movie playing in the background, I write in silence. The tap tap of the computer keys as I strike them is all the sound I want. For me, that tapping is a symphony or a rock song, depending on my mood. : - )

I recently discovered a great place to write that can be as quiet or loud as I prefer - my car.

Now, when the weekend comes around, and things get a little too hectic at home for writing, I take my laptop out to my car and let the words flow . . . : - )

Where do you write? : - )


Thursday, November 8, 2007


Are you participating in NANOWRIMO this month?

In case you haven't heard of it, NANOWRIMO is short for National Novel Writing Month, an annual event each November in which writers register to attempt to write 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days. The emphasis is on quantity not quality. The thinking behind NANOWRIMO is to write freely, accumulating words, without stopping to edit.

I think the concept is wonderful, particularly since, as I've blogged before, I'm obsessive about editing as I write, thinking out each sentence before it makes it to the page.

Each year I intend to sign up for NANOWRIMO, and each November I'm neck- deep in another project and unable to start something new.

Being the Type A personality that I am (I blogged about that a few weeks ago : - )), I don't know if I can take the necessary step back from the work that I'd need to in order to write without editing - but I'd love to try! I'd love to challenge myself and see if I can let go and just write.

I'd also like to see just what I'd end up with in terms of useable material. Wouldn't it be a kick to discover that I'd actually written something worthwhile?

I won't have an answer for that this year, since I didn't participate. I'm working to complete my current novel at this time. But, I have high hopes for participating next year : - )


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Where does good writing come from?

There's a writing fairy godmother who flits about the universe, visiting all writers, waving her magic wand over us so that we will all instantly produce perfect prose.

I'm sure you've met her.

You haven't?

Don't feel badly, I haven't either.

But, if I can indulge the thought for a moment, wouldn't that be wonderful?

Reluctantly letting that fantasy go, where, then does good writing come from?

I've been at this for a while and though I'm certainly not the definitive authority on the subject, I've learned that good writing comes from bad writing.

Good writing is made, not born. Often for many of us, first drafts of a piece of writing are a mess of rambling in places, with gaps you could fly a plane through in others. Reading over such a mess, it can be very difficult to believe that out of that muck, will come good writing. But the truth is, it will.

That first draft - messy as it is - is the most important writing we do because it gets the story from our heads to the page. Once there, we can go about moving words, discarding, and adding at will, turning bad writing into good. We'd never be able to do that if we didn't have something to work from.

I'm working my way through a first draft now, turning a mess of bad writing into good. I am getting there. But, if you happen to meet up with a writing fairy godmother, do send her my way : - )