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Showing posts from July, 2012

The Books We Went To

Last time I talked about unpacking boxes of childhood relic books and being somewhat struck that, if you based what I would be writing now off of what I read then, you'd be way off.  Then I started thinking about the books that really informed my writing style and how I feel about writing, if not necessarily the subject matter.  You know what?  Many of those books came from long ago in my reading past--many were high school finds--but they weren't in boxes.  Nope, they're on my shelf.

They were the books I was so thrilled to discover and read that I couldn't leave them behind through my moves, and they came with me.

A few of them:

All Quiet on the Western Front.  Even before Downton Abbey I had a soft spot for World War I, and perhaps some of it comes from this book.  Yes, it's a war book with a pretty specific theme and message, and a lot of the scenes are pretty graphic.  But here's the thing--it's also the book that taught me that any prose can also be po…

The Books We Came From

It's a time-honored maxim:  With moving into your first house comes moving crap out of your parents' basement.

For a few years my parents been kind enough to store a few things in their house as my husband and I bounced from apartment to Very Nifty 1835 Rental House to, finally, Rather Old 1874 House We Bought.  They're all mine now (yay?) including several boxes of books that had been packed up years ago.

Unpacking those boxes was kind of like a family reunion--I was excited to see some books I'd missed, surprised to find some that I'd forgotten I'd loved, and there were even some books that I'd forgotten completely and didn't recognize.

What was in the boxes?  Lots of historical fiction and quite a bit of fantasy, too.  The historical fiction didn't surprise me--I remembered reading it a lot as a kid, and since I loved history, it was always a "safe" choice.  There were the American Girl books (of course...didn't most of us read th…

Things Not to Name a Character

One of my favorite parts of developing a new story is naming the characters.  I have noticed, however, that there are a few "rules" of names to avoid that keep things from getting off-track.

1) Created names that are too evocative of real words.  Now, sometimes this can work--you want to hint at a trait or plot point through a name.  Think Greek myths--we know that the story of Arachne is going to relate to spiders because, well, her name basically means spider.  And the storyteller wants us to be aware of this, and it's not a bad thing that we "get it" right away. Often it's either too obvious or unintentional.  When it's too obvious, it can ruin a great plot twist--if, say, it's a giant twist that your character Atalante is actually a reincarnation of the Greek mythological character Atalanta...well, you kinda gave it away too soon.  (PS Wouldn't a contemporary YA based on that myth be kinda fun?  Maybe sparring cross-country runners end up ro…

How Naming Characters Is Not At All Like Naming A Baby

In case I haven't mentioned, I'm expecting.  This post makes a lot more sense with that info in hand.

To the point--naming babies is harder than naming characters.  I never considered I'd have such a tricky time pinpointing potential names for The Little Stranger, but here I am, a couple months out from zero hour, still dithering on the name front.  Completely unexpected--because character names are never an issue for me.

Our temporary placeholder name, to avoid calling the baby "It" or "The Uterine Parasite" (for some reason that bothered my husband), is "The Bean."  This was easy to come up with, probably because it's not permanent.  We aren't stuck with calling another human being "Bean" for the rest of our lives (nor is the Bean stuck with being The Bean).  Plus I had just looked at one of those food-chart-fetal-growth comparisons and the Bean was, at that point, the size of a bean and I joked about it until it stuck.  (C…

Claiming Time

We're all busy--with jobs, families, school, kids, volunteering, laundry...so how do you find time to write?

I say it's all about claiming time.

Obviously, there's the time you devote to writing--either hitting your goal word count or sitting butt-in-chair for a set time each day.  But that isn't what I'm talking about.  It's the other time--the time when you're doing other stuff--that I'm saying you can claim.

Wait a second, you say--I have to be at work from 9 to 5.  Or I'm home working my tail off chasing kids around.  Or even But this laundry HAS to get done.


Yeah, that laundry does need to get done.  Believe me, I hear you, and so does my overflowing hamper.  Here's the thing--you can still claim that time.

I've been painting a lot lately.  The 1870s house that is our new home is beautiful--and covered with kitschy wallpaper and questionable paint choices from the previous owners.  A lot of my time lately has been stripping wallpaper, …

Best-Laid Plans: Outlining

Every writer has answered the question at least once--panster or plotter?

I'm sure there is no right way--maybe there are more efficient ways, or ways that produce more creative twists, or, most likely, ways that are the most right for each individual.  In college I had a roommate who literally outlined every paper down to the paragraph.  Beautiful, typed, complete outlines, and they took forever to create--but the actual paper-writing part was shortened because she already knew what she was going to say.  Me?  I never outlined more than what was in my head already.  Even my thesis outline was pretty much section titles and quick notes.  (I think that drove my advisor batty.)

Still, a novel isn't a five-page essay, a twenty-page paper, or even a thesis.  Despite that, I pantsed at first.  It was what I knew, and what worked for me.  You know what?  It worked for writing novels, too.  Just not very well.

That is, I doubled back a lot.  I struggled to figure out what was missi…