Monthly Archives: March 2011

You know you’re a writer when….


That sentence can be finished off a thousand different ways. When did you figure out you were a writer?

For me, it happened early. Once I started reading, my imagination wanted to create its own stories and I found these stories took me beyond the small town where I grew up and allowed me think what could be possible.

I had a magical playground with a beach that appeared and disappeared on command, unsolvable mysteries that only my heroine could crack, then the next day travel to distant galaxies. I was never without a journal, paper or pencils. I collected bookmarks. I took my stories and bound them between cut out cardboard and illustrated the covers.

Once you become a writer you’re changed forever. It’s a mindset really, you’re going along and BAM, there’s two ancient ladies walking along a busy stretch of road, arm in arm and your mind has to give them a story. You crave learning because you can use the experience and knowledge for your characters. You get 2 hours alone and instead of taking a nap, you write blog posts about writing.

A few years ago, I picked up a cute book titled You Know You’re a Writer When… by Adair Lara. Inside are truisms for the writer’s life and it lets me know I’m not alone. That’s the thing with writing; for the most part it is not a group activity. You’re all by yourself with only your characters to talk to.

I know I’m a writer when I’m writing, but also when I quiz people on their life stories or jot notes about strangers and what they’re wearing. Some time back, while driving from Charlotte to Raleigh, NC I noticed a man jogging the paved paths in a cemetery. That was too good not to work into a story.

Here are a few ways I can finish the sentence:

You know you’re a writer when….

• You stalk people in public and use them for character descriptions.

• You rewrite EVERYTHING you read including the cereal box.

• Your genealogy research turns into a plot line.

• You read Beowulf for real (unlike high school) and discover the movie Alien was a complete rip-off.

• You have sentimental attachment to old pencils.

How do you know you’re a writer? Just know that you’re not alone, there are a lot of us out here talking to ourselves and making up words.

~~~

You Know You’re a Writer When… by Adair Lara  |  2007  Chronicle Books, San Francisco, USA

Recommended reading for writers feeling lonely; especially pages 16, 54,  #4 on p 21, oh heck, just read the whole thing, it’s really entertaining.


“Having Her Say” a guest post by Jade Weekes of Wired


“Third person point of view can be subjective,” considered Jade Weeks. She was in the process of casing the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.  The near axis of sun to earth felt like a suffocating heat wave after the cool mornings in Paris. However, the geometric, yet flowing, organic feel of the building set her at ease and she began to notice patrons standing in shadows, fleeing unconsciously from the solar outburst.

“My point of view is private and public,” she had told Morrell. He had cornered her in their hotel lobby, intent upon discerning her intent. She didn’t care for his bragging tones as he tried to out-exploit her exploits.

“Preferably, she story should unfold to the observer without your intervention. Unless you are genuinely engaging, do you think readers really want to know your deepest secrets?” She was prodding his ego. She could tell it injured him.

“Those who follow me,” she continued, “hear my thoughts, see my reactions and make up their own minds as to whether I’m interesting.”

Morrell, red-faced, had tried to justify his first person point of view. Jade had walked away.

Now, as she reflected on the conversation, she decided maybe her words were too harsh. Everyone is entitled to their own point of view: objective, subjective or even first person.

She found a bench outside the café. Settling in with an iced latte and travel-worn paperback, she deliberated over which selection would grace her wall. Dali’s Paranonia would be most fitting.  A smile was the barest hint to her pleasure.  The novel in her hands bordered Dali’s profound genius: “Time Machine” by H.G. Wells, a shifty POV if she ever read one.


“What’s Your Point of View?” guest post by Simon Morrell of WIRED


While on a recent excursion to Chicago, I ran into Jade Weekes. She had the audacity to claim that I am self-centered. Granted, I like to talk about myself and at times write about my brilliant exploits. I can’t help it; my story is told in the first person narrative. It’s MY story.

As the first person in a first person narrative, I have no choice but to reveal my thoughts, fears and deep longings. It’s also my curse; I can have no secrets from you.

I try to maintain my privacy, but still, you were there as I slipped a razor blade through paper and peeled the dry, paint flecked images from their frames, again and again until six master pieces lined a cardboard tube.

Less than two minutes later, you watched me drop it into the wooden crate, latch it shut, and affix a shipping label to the outside. In the next and most clever plot twist, I added a forged manifest to the clipboard for the morning outgoing stock and opened the door. Alarms rang instantly.

Running through the deserted streets, I looked for a Peugeot idling in the dark. A car swerved, blocking the road, lights flashed too quickly to be luck, and then hands threw me against the car almost before it stopped. I was flung face down on the hot wet metal.

I twisted my head to look; it was not the Paris police, but the Gendarme.

Did you help as you watched my story through the words on the page? Sadly, non. You can tell many stories in first person, letting you, the voyeur, tag along inside the hero’s head. If only my story were a romance rather than a mystery, my secrets would be less incriminating.

Chronically in love with himself, Simon Morrell makes his living acquiring art and artifacts for his employer. On occasion, he simply steals for fun. Although he resides in Paris, his frequent international travel is often monitored by authorities.


In Your Dreams


I had planned to write about Narrative POV this morning, but it’s 6am and I haven’t had my coffee. My head is still foggy with images and plot twists from my dreams.

I remember distinctly, at age 5, thinking dreams were like movies. The nights always sped by too quickly and I wanted to stay in the story. It is still like that for me. My dreams have involved plots with mystery, conflict and at times, a touch of the bizarre. They are my feeding ground for writing. Nightmares give me intense, first-hand knowledge of terror that I can use with my characters. Stress dreams translate as puzzles to be solved and then there are the truly bizarre dreams full of whimsy and fantasy.

The un-censoring mind you have when you first awake knows exactly what to do with this gift. Write. A psychologist would best be able to explain the connection, but I’ve found that the same part of my brain that generates these image-rich dreams also generates fluid prose. For a brief time, the inner critic stays at bay and words spill in an organic motion across my screen.

Great thinkers of our time have credited dreams with problem solving and discovery. The mind really is an incredible place to explore, but it seems we have access to more of its computational prowess at night and mere moments to hold on to it in the morning.

Last night was a murder mystery that took place in a pre-school and for some reason Dr. House was on the case. He was not nice to the children. As a writing prompt, I’m going to go with it and warm up my fingers and brain.

I’ll be back later to talk POV and the role it plays in genre; until then sweet dreams.


Hoarding Time


It was a dark and stormy night.

It was a dark and stormy night...

It’s inky and wet outside, the pink and steel-blue sunset is hours gone and stacks of clean laundry abound, awaiting the wee faeries that will arrive after midnight to fold and distribute the crumpled mass to the appropriate dressers and closets. Yes, my imagination is running wild. It must be after dark, and I must be writing.

In a busy house with responsibilities and a full-time job awaiting me in 8 hours, all I can think about is writing. Found moments are like diamonds wrapped in chocolate. An hour in the morning or a few extra minutes after everyone is asleep is priceless. I can write without worry, edit endlessly, and firmly plant my feet on a forward path in regard to my writing goals.

I’ve become a collector of sorts, I hoard found moments. I learned years ago, that unless you put your goals on your daily “To Do” list, they just won’t happen. I make lunch dates with myself to write. One favorite nook is the General Aviation Terminal at the airport. I am not kidding. It has a small cafe, a great view of the runway, sleek private planes and is nearly silent. If I have writers block, I can look out at the small jets with red carpets and expensively outfitted passengers and imagine a fresh scene for my story. Actually, any place that’s quiet and serves coffee works for me. All it takes is one or two lunch dates a week to add significant word count or give the push for a final copy-edit.

At night, I sit with my daughter as she falls asleep and in addition to having the bonus snuggle time, I use my iPad to write, research and catch up on Twitter. Then when I manage to head off to bed, I set my alarm for 5:30am. Sometimes I get up. Sometimes it’s my snooze button. Even 20 or 30 foggy minutes of writing keeps me motivated.

I use my drive time to construct scenes and play out plot turns until I know which one I’ll write down….once I find the moment. I watch people all around me, piecing together an imaginary back story and wonder if any of the revelations might work for my characters.

So often writers say they can’t find time to write. All things are possible. You may have to plan it, schedule it, take a vacation day to claim it, but the time is always there. As writers, we are sometimes too creative in what we let get in the way.

Years ago, in my broadcast days, a co-worker with several small girls and a budding music career gave me candid parenting advice. (Note-I was not married at the time nor had children.) She told me to “Just go in the bathroom, lock the door and turn on the fan. No one will ever ask to come in or when you’re coming out.”

Writing is hard, but for some reason we keep going at it like an addiction. The more we write, the more we MUST write. The more we write, the better we write. The more we write, the easier it becomes and then all those moments build up to a finished manuscript. That is worth the extra effort and persistence.

I’m sure you have your tricks to reclaiming time. I’d love to learn from you.


Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Lessons Learned from Dr. Seuss


This past week marked the 107th birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka. Dr. Seuss. My daughter celebrated with a canned tuna food drive at her school and immersing herself in all things Seuss. She’s just five and becoming a great little reader. Each night, her homework involves reading and then writing about the story. Thursday night she curled up in her favorite armchair with Green Eggs and Ham and read aloud while I prepped dinner. Every so often she would pause and yell, “I’m stuck on a word!” I’m not sure why she had to yell since I was only a few feet away, but……

Here’s where she got stuck: “I do not like them here or there. I do not like them….”

I said, “Is the word spelled a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e?” Her head popped up over the back of the chair, eyes wide. “How did you know!” My all-knowing Mother power shot up 2 notches.

How many of you heard “anywhere” in your head with that line? Aside from being fantastical tales of imagination with catchy rhythms, his stories stay with us forever.

Image Courtesy of http://www.highsmith.com

We have a collection of favorite Dr. Seuss books and a wonderful neighborhood library to supply the rest. As I look at the iconic images on the covers, I am reminded of the lessons we learn from Dr. Seuss:

Green Eggs and Ham: Persistence (Sam) and Open Mindedness (The character never named)

The Cat in the Hat: Responsibility

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet: Self Esteem

Horton Hears A Who: Compassion

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!: I think this one is self-explanatory and a wonderful book to read whenever you feel stuck. If you’re a writer, you should probably read it weekly.

I really could go on and on, but that would delay you from contemplating the lessons taught in your favorite Dr. Seuss book.

Just remember….

“Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!”


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