Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing Workshop – Downtime: Best thing since...

Spending time away from your story is as important as writing until your knuckles cramp. With the holiday season tumbling upon us, it is easy to not write as much as you wish. Gift shopping alone can distract the most focused of writers.

But, as we go about our business, our stories are on our minds. I often think about my characters, scenes or work out how I am going to get from plot point to plot point without losing continuity. Being pen and paperless can do wonders for a sticky situation. My mind can go over and over the scene changing details without wasting ink scratching out entire sentences or cramming words in-between my already close lines.

Sometimes though, we need to not only keep our fingers away from our manuscripts but our minds as well. A clean break can revitalize our brains. Distractions can sweep away the clutter that may be dragging down our writing.

Reading a book or watching tv or movies can work. Until you think about how you would have done it. Or you think about how something is similar in your story. The best option is to read or watch a genre in which you are not writing.

Doing a hobby can also work. Unfortunately as writers, writing is our main hobby. Other creative outlets can move your mind off of your characters and plot for a spell.

Surfing the internet is a great way to spend countless hours not thinking of anything. For me though, I use my internet time to either research for my books, check my email, or do other book related stuff.

I have found that my best downtime distractions come in the form of select computer games. Playing a word game such as Text Twist helps me muddle through the barrage of words that can swarm around in my head at times. This works great when I need a break from editing my manuscript.

Another game I have recently found to refreshingly entertain my mind is Skyrim. I can spend a few hours actively bashing baddies in a variety of ways. One of the best qualities of a game like Skyrim is that I can do more than mindless point and shoot. The quests and random activities help keep my mind occupied so that when I do return to my manuscript, I have fresh eyes.

Non-book related downtime allows you to keep your story from getting stale. Staleness is often seen in word or scene repetition and cliche use. Stagnation can be a writer’s worst nightmare but, with some well placed downtime it can be eradicated.

Spend some time this holiday season with your family, friends, or your lonesome. Sing carols; go shopping. Decorate until your surroundings burst with cheer. Your manuscript will thank you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dark and Light

Thanksgiving has passed. I hope everyone had a great holiday. Mine was a delicious blend of golden roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, sautéed green beans with bacon, cranberry mold, and cranberry relish.

In the week that followed, I got some shopping done. Leftovers morphed into green bean and stuffing frittata and turkey chowder (even using the leftover gravy). The Christmas decorations have emerged from their slumber.

Slowly but surely, the outside of my house gets greener. Small trees adorn my wrap around porch and my stained glass door. A large green wreath contrasts beautifully with the plain red brick of the 70s style addition. This year we added gold bows and ribbon to the lighted wreath.

Soon, a wreath and matching garland will join the pot of white silk poinsettias at the front door. Along with the lighted old yew hedges, they will brighten the dark night as well as our spirits.

Brightening our spirits in the dark times is what all the lights and decorations do for us. December in my northern climate promises cold days and even colder dark nights. My neighbors’ and my month long lights remind us that even though cold and dark days lie ahead, warmth and radiance can be found if we just know where to look.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Writing Workshop – Character Development: The makings of a man or woman

Many cultures celebrate the rite of passage when a person transitions into adulthood. Sometimes, it is as elaborate as a Bar Mitzvah or Quinceanera. Sometimes, it is as simple as graduation. While those ceremonies or celebrations mark milestones in a person’s life, does the person actually transition into adulthood?

We walk through life going through milestones. At any milestone in my life, I did not say afterwards, “Now, I am an adult.” A series of choices and life experiences as I age rounds maturity. But fiction is different. Or is it?

Regardless of genre, fiction mirrors life. A character, like a person, needs a reason to develop. The passing of time does not automatically denote maturation. When developing maturity in a character, especially a younger character, an internal switch must flip.

The internal switch is integral to how the character reacts to his or her surroundings. This must go beyond normal development when maturing a character. While any character can have self discovery throughout the story, turning a child into an adult requires that extra step. The extra step is also required for a child-like adult character.

I think the question we have to ask ourselves, especially as writers, is what constitutes the dusk of childhood and the dawn of adulthood?

For me, it all has to do with a character’s maturity.

Maturity begins with a single choice. That single choice can be accepting responsibility for actions taken or mistakes made. Or, it can be the character chooses to make a personal sacrifice. How the character reacts to love and loss propels maturity too. However, the final step is when the character realizes that his or her choice is different from all of those made prior.

The timing of that realization can vary. Perhaps the character does not realize the maturity of the decision until after a number of chapters. This gives the reader an inside edge while he or she wonders when the character will come around. Perhaps the character mulls over the decision finally making the “right” choice. The reader, in turn, journeys with the character, discovering when the character discovers.

Character maturation is a great tool for allowing the reader to root for the character. Often seen in main “hero” characters, I like to allow other characters to mature as well. It gives supporting characters depth and can make not-so-good characters likable.

When it comes to maturation, we must remember that it cannot be forced. Characters should be allowed to develop maturity naturally as the plot progresses. Anything less will seem off to the reader. Trust your instincts. If the characters or situation feels forced to you, then it will to the reader. Readers often notice more than we writers intend seeing deeper into our stories which gives them lasting enjoyment.

As I write my next novel, I ask myself if I want the transition to be gradual throughout the story or in an all-of-a-sudden moment. I have decided to let the characters tell me when they are ready to take that next big step into becoming their own men and women.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where the Heart Resides

November conjures the autumnal finale. The last of the multicolored show cascades to the earth, poised to reinvigorate the cooling soil. Northerly winds promise to bring blustery billows of white. This is the perfect time to savor the fruits of this year’s harvest. Around the dining room table, we will gather with our loved ones before winter finally settles in.

My turkey is ordered from a local farm. I anticipate oyster stew, sweet potato casserole, mashed rutabaga, brussel sprouts sautéed with chestnuts, cranberry mold, pumpkin and pecan pies, and lots of elation in the kitchen with my family.

Thanksgiving is filled with fun, laughter and enough food to last us until Christmas. In the spirit of giving thanks, I want to share part of the Thanksgiving scene in The World In-between.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Read The First Chapter

You can read the first chapter of my novel, The World In-between, at First Chap.  It's entirely free.  No signing up for anything.  No downloading anything.  Just click and read.

The World In-between at First Chap

Read more books' first chapters at First Chap

Friday, October 14, 2011

Smashing Pumpkins

No, not the band. Actual pumpkins being smashed. Pumpkins that neighbors have set on their front porches. Smashed into itty bitty pieces on the streets and alleys.

I live in a typical small town. We have a Main Street with a round about. Every holiday a parade marches down Main Street. Veterans are celebrated and memorialized. Music in the park melodizes the summer. An annual street fair kicks off fall.

Before winter ushers in a lighted gazebo and wreaths on every streetlight running along Main Street, pumpkin guts riddle the streets.

Every October pumpkins are sold at the grocery stores, home improvement centers, farmers’ markets and of course, at the farms themselves. Those pumpkins are carved, skillfully or unskillfully, with faces and designs by adults and children alike. Candles are placed inside to eerily illuminate the ever-lengthening nighttime.

At some point, those decorative pumpkins become fodder for someone’s (or more than one’s) destructive enjoyment. Each year.

As a writer, I try to understand the human condition—the drives, the passions, the whys behind the actions and emotions. I still have yet to fathom why a person finds pleasure in the destruction of someone else’s property. Perhaps when people mention mysteries that will always go unsolved, this is one to which they point.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Falling for Autumn

Day length shortens. The mercury drops. The urge for a steaming bowl of soup overwhelms you. Pumpkins. Cider. Red and yellow leaves. It all means one thing—Autumn is well on its way.

Fall truly is one of my favorite times of year. When you begin to smell the drying leaves, split log fires, and house warming meals, you start to believe in all things magical. My sweaters and jackets come out of storage. I polish my fall boots. Driving through the rural countryside, haystacks dot the fields and signs advertise hayrides and cornfield mazes.

I wait with anticipation for the rolling hills of trees to display their multitude of colors. With a mug of hot mulled cider, I cherish sitting around the firepit with my family and friends. We laugh while the fire spits and crackles. The night sky gets so clear you feel as though you can reach up and touch the stars.

Capturing the beauty of an autumnal day on the page allows me to experience the magic of fall during any season. When I picture the scene in my mind, I can revisit all the feelings of my warm family home no matter where I wander.

Wrap a throw blanket around your shoulders. Dust off the slow cooker. And get ready to relish in the quiet, soothing warmth that encompasses Autumn.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The World In-between Has Arrived at Last

Through the stained glass door, your destiny awaits.  Enter a magical world where the subjects of our fairytales took refuge. Live amongst the trees.  Fall in love.  Watch your back.  Battle for magic.

The first in my new Fantasy series.
Find the ebook at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Smashwords